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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 886


Mr PORTER —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the statement of the Minister for Health of 5 February that the Government would amend its identity card legislation to demonstrate `its willingness to accept any reasonable suggestions' to improve the identity card legislation. In light of submissions made by business and others that the existing legislation is unworkable-and I particularly refer to the submission from the Australian Bankers Association which indicates that unless changes are made to clauses 32 and 40 existing credit cards such as Bankcard, Visa and Mastercard would be unworkable and banks in a substantial number of cases would be forced to refuse transfer of funds, cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines, debit transactions to another bank--


Madam SPEAKER —Would the honourable member get to the question.


Mr PORTER —And direct entry transactions such as the payment of pensions-why is the Government reneging on its commitment to amend?


Mr HAWKE —The position is quite simple. The Government is serious about getting as much done in the budgetary processes, both for the May statement and beyond that, to reduce the deficit as far as possible. We need to be in a position to know what our commitments are. A very considerable amount is written into the Estimates in regard to the initial costs of setting up the Australia Card. We are not prepared to take the risk of an undue delay in the consideration of an amended piece of legislation and leave ourselves with a lack of knowledge as to what our commitments may be. Therefore, we will be introducing the legislation in its un- amended form.

The Minister for Health had discussions, going back to May 1986, with the Australian Bankers Association. We are not prepared to accept that everything that has been put to us, either from that quarter or elsewhere, is necessarily correct.

As far as the Opposition is concerned, let me say just two things. Firstly, I can understand the unease that there is on this matter concerning the proposed course that the Government will take; secondly, I take this opportunity to make it clear that this Government is committed to proceed with the Australia Card concept because, as distinct from the Opposition, we are committed to do everything we can to stamp out tax avoidance and to stop social welfare fraud, and we will not be diverted from that course of action.