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Wednesday, 16 September 1987
Page: 126


Mr CLEELAND(11.45) —I rise with great pleasure to support the Government on the Australia Card Bill 1986, having on the two previous occasions when this legislation was debated in the House supported the proposal. After listening to the speeches from the honourable members of the National Party of Australia on my right today I can see why the National Party did so poorly in the last Federal election. It took five members of the National Party collectively to put together one speech, and then the speech was purely negative and did not relate much to the Bill. It was a most useless contribution to the debate.

Opposition members interjecting--


Mr CLEELAND —Mr Deputy Speaker, you see what I mean. It takes five of them even to interject. I know that National Party members are a very difficult act to follow, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I will do my best to bring some reality back into the debate. If we accepted what was just said by the Opposition we would probably burn 50 per cent of the legislation passed by this House since 1901. In reality, the legislation Opposition members object to is less draconian than the legislation which encompasses the Income Tax Assessment Act. I find it very strange that Opposition members on this side of the chamber, which I now find myself on because of the sheer numbers of Government members, really do not understand the realities of rights, liberties and freedoms. They have the weird and wonderful notion that the Australian Bill of Rights Bill, for example, would remove the freedoms of people. They opposed the Bill of Rights. They argued in this House that somehow the common law creates rights for individuals. They ignored the reality that the common law as established in medieval England was established to protect the rights of property, not the rights of individuals or human beings. Nevertheless, their view is that common law rights are the rights they wish to protect. The speeches by Opposition members today are designed not to protect the rights of individuals but to protect the rights of property, the rights of the people they represent.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall that Opposition members opposed the Cash Transaction Reports Bill in this House, which was designed to tackle the problem of cash moneys flowing from fraud, drugs and criminal offences back into the legitimate banking transaction system and thereby becoming legitimate. The Government put the Bill up, a very prominent and proper proposal. Who opposed it? It was the Opposition. Anything which the Government does which is designed to prevent fraud and to tackle serious social inequalities in cash and wealth movements in this country this miserable Opposition will oppose. Opposition members, in opposing such measures, mask the real reason for their concern by using words such as `freedoms', `privacy' and `liberty'. That does not hide what they are really concerned about.

Who led in the debate on behalf of the Opposition? It was the great paragon of virtue, the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey), the member who is so concerned about human beings, so concerned about the rights of individuals. The mere fact that the honourable member for O'Connor leads the debate for the Opposition indicates the paucity of the Opposition's views in opposing the legislation. That speaks for itself about the lack of real concern the Opposition has. It indicates the paucity of depth of talent it has. That concerns me. The honourable member for O'Connor has his angry face on now. When the honourable member for O'Connor stands in this House to debate real concerns for individuals and for privacy--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I would ask the honourable member to resume the debate before the Chair.


Mr CLEELAND —Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. This indicates the paucity of depth and the lack of ability to debate the concerns of this Bill. This Bill does not impose on the Australian people measures of concern worse than those which exist in current legislation. The honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer) last night interjected that if he employed a baby-sitter the baby-sitter would have to produce an identity card.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member was in the chamber yesterday. It is his obligation to speak the truth if he is able even in the slightest sense. The fact is that the Minister agreed that in those circumstances the card would be presented.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will resume his seat.


Mr CLEELAND —That indicates the paucity and lack of endeavour of the Opposition. That was a stupid point of order. The honourable member for Mayo and other members of the Opposition do not realise that if the honourable member employed a baby-sitter he would have an employee under the terms of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Under the terms of that Act the honourable member for Mayo should then register as a group employer with the Australian Taxation Office, fill in the forms, provide information about that employee or alternatively purchase a tax stamp sheet. Then he would have to require details of birth, age, address and all the other details required under the Income Tax Assessment Act to employ that baby-sitter. The failure to do that imposes the liability for draconian penalties. It means that the Australian Taxation Office, through its inspectors and its auditors, could without warrant, without a court order, enter the house of the honourable member for Mayo, search the house and seek documentation and information concerning the proper taxation which should be deducted because of the employment of the baby-sitter. That is existing Australian law under the Income Tax Assessment Act.

I notice the Opposition does not object to that law. It does not object to the fact that in any employment situation all of this information, by law, is required and the failure to obtain that information imposes the liability for draconian penalties. In fact, Opposition members supported that legislation; it was during their term of government that those draconian laws were enacted. Why were they enacted? Such laws were passed by this Parliament, quite properly, to ensure the fairness and equity of the treatment of the rights of all Australians in taxation law, to ensure that those who do not wish to comply with the majority view on taxation and wish to escape the obligations imposed by the taxation Act cannot do so. I do not suppose I will find any objection from the Opposition on such a very basic principle. Why then do Opposition members complain about the Australia Card? What makes the Australia Card legislation so different from the penalty provisions of the Social Security Act and the penalty provisions of Australian taxation legislation? They reflect the same principle and are based on the same foundation and impose similar, and I would suggest lesser, penalties as existing legislation now provides. One can go to gaol under the penalty provisions of taxation law if one does not comply with the legislation. There is no gaol provision in the legislation we are currently debating.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. There is provision to gaol people in the legislation. Will the honourable member either evidence that he knows what he is talking about or stop telling fibs?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I call the honourable member for McEwen.


Mr CLEELAND —I will ignore the honourable member for O'Connor, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I usually do. He is regarded as a joke by most people who watch the proceedings in this chamber and I regard him as a bit of a joke. The Opposition cannot cope with the intellectual part of this debate. Opposition members cannot say to this House why they support measures such as I have mentioned in the Income Tax Assessment Act and in the social security legislation and why they object to such measures in the Australia Card legislation. As I stressed earlier, these are the very people who opposed the Cash Transaction Reports Bill. These are the very people who opposed the Australian Bill of Rights. Heavens to betsy, what sort of rhetoric did we hear from them on that subject? What sort of rhetoric indeed! We are talking about deception; we are talking about distortion; we are talking about the use of rhetoric to inflame Australian citizens who lack a depth of understanding and knowledge of the English common law system, as do many of us. We saw what members of the Opposition did in regard to that Bill, yet they sit here today and accuse the Government of deception. They have a lot to answer for in that regard.

I have no objection to the concept of a plastic card containing my name, number and photograph. I have three ID cards in my wallet right now. As a member of the Law Society of Victoria who once dealt in part with criminal law matters, I require an identity card, issued by the Law Society, to enter Pentridge Prison in order to interview clients. The Law Society's computer contains my name, address, age, date of birth and other pertinent details about me. I need that card every year in order to get a current practising certificate. I have no objection to providing the information to the Law Society of Victoria under the Legal Profession Practice Act of that State. I have no objection to being required to carry an identity card which has my photograph on it in order to enter Pentridge Prison, or any other penal institution in Victoria, to interview clients; no objection whatsoever. I suppose that members of the Opposition would not object to that, or do they suggest that any person, on stating that he or she is a lawyer, could walk into a penal institution and have access to people in it? That is the option that they must discuss regarding that matter.

I have a Victorian drivers licence for which I volunteered and which I wanted. In the application form I provided quite personal details which are contained in a computer file held by the Victorian Government. I was issued with a plastic card which has a number and a photograph. That is another ID card. I have no objection to that ID card. Indeed, why should I? Do members of the Opposition suggest that ID cards which are issued for the purpose of allowing people to drive motor cars are somehow wrong? Do they suggest that the information stored in the databank of the Victorian registration and licensing authority is being leaked or sold to private enterprise? The fact is that those cards have been in existence for a long time. Neither the Victorian Government nor any other State government which stores this information on individual citizens in databanks has sold it, and they will not sell it.

Let us look at the information held by the Federal Government. What sort of information do honourable members opposite think the Australian Taxation Office holds on every Australian? The information it holds is far more detailed than what is held by any other Commonwealth department. Yet since 1901 what evidence has there been that the Australian Taxation Office, its officers and staff have ever breached the obligations of secrecy imposed on them? No one in this House-not least a member of the Opposition-has given detailed evidence of leaks of sensitive information from any Commonwealth department which has been to the detriment of any individual. I defy any member of the Opposition to produce in this House evidence that the Australian Taxation Office, its officers and staff have breached those secrecy requirements and have in any way, shape or form acted to the detriment of any Australian citizen because of information stored in databanks.

The Department of Social Security requires a recipient of a social benefit, such as the unemployment benefit or age pension, to produce a cardboard identity card issued by that Department. No person in receipt of the unemployment benefit in this country can walk into a Social Security office and collect the unemployment benefit without the production of that ID card. Mind you, being a cardboard card, it is torn or destroyed very easily. It is quite a problem to issue them all the time. Pensioners require an ID card issued by Social Security to get their pension. They require a concession card, which is an identification card, to obtain the concessional benefits provided by the Commonwealth and State governments, such as free transportation on public transport systems. Without that card, they would not get the benefit.

Do members of the Opposition object to that? No, they do not. They support such ID cards and such systems. Why, then, in all logic, do they object to a single card incorporating all of those facilities through a centralised system? The answer is very simple: Their real concern, as expressed in the debate, is the cost to their mates-the cost to business. It always comes down to the fact that the people they represent do not want to pay for it. When we debated the cash transactions legislation they did not object to the tracing of illegal cash through the financial system; their objection was based on the cost to the banking system. Their objection was based not on a proper notion of the legislation or any desire to catch crooks, but on the cost to the banks. If one listens to every member of the Opposition who will speak in this debate, their arguments will always come down to the fact that business does not want the card because it imposes an obligation on it. They are happy that people are able to use false names in the banking system. They are happy for people to cheat the system. They are always happy to allow systems which enable fraud to occur, to maintain themselves and to continue in the future. That was their history in government; it is their history in opposition, and they will stand condemned for it.

The Bill, if properly read and construed, does not take away the rights of freedom or liberty of any Australian. Those rights exist for individuals and can be expressed by individuals. There is no such collective notion of rights. The rights exist only within the state. It is only through a social system such as we have experienced in the last several centuries that those rights can flourish. The rights ultimately must flow from the system. They are not individual rights; they never have been. Any such notion is a misnomer. The individuals of a society such as ours owe that right to the state. Without that there will be no society; there will be no state. I believe very firmly that that notion is the only notion with which societies can operate.


Mr Downer —The principle of socialism.


Mr CLEELAND —Have a look at Locke, Hume, Bentham, Smith and a few others who talked about rights and freedoms. The honour- able member should come back to the philosophical base of what this is all about. He should not talk nonsense. That is why I support this card. There is more for it than against it. On balance, it will provide a fairer, more equitable society. Those who would cheat and defraud the system will be made to pay their fair share. By doing that, it imposes an obligation. It is a two-way deal. Nothing comes cheaply in broad societies such as ours. All citizens, having regard to any new change, must bear some burden. I am prepared to bear that burden. I firmly believe that in the long term it will be beneficial for all Australians and will present a better and fairer society. I support the Bill.