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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3631

Mr JENKINS —My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister inform the House why the Government remains firm in its intention to introduce the Australia Card program?

Dr BLEWETT —The Government's continuing commitment to the Australia Card is reflected in the decisions made recently and arises from the simple fact that we regard the card as vital to the economic future of this country. It is now beyond argument that the Australia Card is the single most effective weapon against the problems of tax evasion, welfare fraud and illegal immigration. I think that as each day passes that becomes more obvious to thinking Australians. There is no doubt that our efforts to tackle the problems we have in social security would be much facilitated by an effective identification system. It is growing more obvious that the ability to trace the money trail through the Taxation Office would be much enhanced by an effective identification system. At the same time that the Australia Card would be introduced it would be accompanied by enhanced privacy protections and an effective data protection agency.

The result of the Australia Card would ultimately be a saving to this community of nearly $900m a year; that is, money would be saved from those who would defraud the public purse and would pass to honest taxpayers, whom the Opposition pretends to be so concerned for. That transfer is something that I believe Australians would very much welcome. Of course, each day that passes until this legislation is in place will ultimately cost the Australian people $2 1/2m. Ultimately each week that passes $17m is lost, and we are losing that because of the negativism and the obstruction of the Opposition in this country. On 11 July the Opposition will clearly be called to account because of its negative attitude on this issue, and I am completely confident of the verdict of the Australian people.