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Wednesday, 16 September 1987
Page: 180

Mr MARTIN(6.03) —It is a pleasure to follow the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), in the debate on this particular issue today. Unlike him, I have spoken in every debate on this issue that has come before the House and have spoken extremely well, if I do say so myself. I cannot recall the Leader of the Opposition speaking in the debates on the Australia Card Bill on the last two occasions, nor in fact can I recall his raising the issue once during the election campaign. Quite clearly, the Australian people and indeed everyone in this place, other than the Leader of the Opposition, recalls that in fact the double dissolution election was triggered by the rejection of the Australia Card legislation. Believe it or not, I do find myself in some agreement with a few issues that have been raised by honourable members on the other side in this debate.

Mr Price —It is hard to believe.

Mr MARTIN —It is hard to believe, I know. My friend the honourable member for Chifley suggests that that is a little strange, but it is not because members of the Opposition have raised the question about rational debate and about placing facts before the electorate of Australia so that people may judge for themselves. Those opposite have called for a referendum on this particular issue and have asked for people to be given all the facts so that they can make up their minds. I do not think anybody in this place would reject that as a supposition. I think everybody in this place would arrive at a decision having rationally assessed facts on any particular issue, not just the Australia Card legislation. Unfortunately what we have seen in this place today and on the last two occasions when this issue was introduced and what we are unfortunately seeing out there in our electorates is far from a rational debate. Facts are not being put before the people and consideration is not being given to the merits and, indeed, what our opponents see as being the demerits of this proposal.

I would like to refer very briefly to some of those issues because they have, in fact, been raised today. I refer honourable members to a publication which somehow was floating around in the House the other day. It is headed: `ID Card-Labor's Australia Card'. On the back it says that it is prepared by Senator David MacGibbon, Liberal, Queensland, 307 Queen Street, Brisbane. This publication says that the ID card will not work, it will cost a fortune, it will not protect privacy and it will carry heavy penalties. It then lists what they might be. There is another heading: `What will Australians need to use the card for'. I found this most interesting because it mentioned that if a person goes to hospital he has to have an Australia Card. Thirteen items were listed. The last item deals with the Social Security Department.

Mr Tuckey —Yes.

Mr MARTIN —The honourable member agrees with that because it is in the legislation; and some members opposite can read. I think that is good. The twelfth item deals with claims for Medicare benefits. What has not been said in this document is that the Australia Card will replace the Medicare card. A person has to produce his Medicare card to go to hospital and, at the same time, a person has to produce his card for Medicare benefits. So the Australia Card eliminates the need for the production of the Medicare card.

The document then lists items which are already encapsulated in the legislation. It mentions baby sitting. This ridiculous notion about a baby sitter was mentioned yesterday. I do not propose to raise that again because it was covered yesterday in Question Time, but what concerns me-I am sure the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) would agree with me on this-is that it is important that the people of Australia are at least acquainted with the facts both for and against the argument so that a decision can be made. I am sure honourable members would agree that this puny little publication, which spells it out in the manner that I have gone through, does not put the facts to the people on this issue.

I am pleased to say that at least in my electorate and I know in the electorate of my very good friend, the honourable member for Throsby (Mr Hollis), we are endeavouring to correct that misinformation and the nonsense that has been peddled by various groups in the community by at least trying to provide them with the other side of the argument. We are prepared to put out information and are prepared to go and talk at public meetings to individuals. Since this whole hoo-ha started about five people have walked into my office off the street or have made an appointment to come and talk to me about this issue. I have had letters and Auschwitz-grams with the barbed wire down the side. Surprisingly, as my colleague the honourable member for Throsby pointed out earlier today, they do come from areas, that do not necessarily give me such a really good vote. I get 12 per cent or 24 per cent of the vote in those areas. So I dismiss a lot of those letters. I also happen to know the names of some of the people who have signed these letters. They are probably card-carrying members of the Liberal Party of Australia. I saw many of them on polling day handing out the `how to vote' cards to the Liberals against me. So, I understand that they have an interest in this particular issue.

What really annoys me is to see people such as Senator Michael Baume touting himself as a senator for southern New South Wales or Wollongong-suggesting that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) members who represent the Illawarra area are running away from their responsibilities or are not prepared to make copies of legislation available or indeed to sit down and explain to constituents what the Australia Card legislation is all about. That is patent nonsense. It adds to the scare-mongering and the rumour-mongering that those opposite are prepared to peddle. But the honourable senator is not alone. The absolute pits is contained in advertisements which are presently being run in the Illawarra Mercury and being put out in pamphlets by the Illawarra branch of the Australian Small Business Association. A number of honourable members have referred to that august body in the debate today and have suggested that they have a little bit of an interest in this particular matter. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) talked about the horrendous effect on small businesses and the dreadful imposition of costs that the Australia Card legislation would have on small business. I have spoken about rational debate and providing the facts. I only hope that that is the case. Nonsense such as this gets into newspapers, with a quarter page advertisement in the Illawarra Mercury. First there is `The Auschtralia Card' with the German spelling, which is an affront to the German people. It has barbed wire running across it, and a blindfolded bearded man in the photograph. It says:

We can stop Labor's ID-database but only with your help!

If the ID-database legislation goes through with its intrusive dossier building sophisticated assets tracking, future Australians can look forward to:

1. Loss of privacy as your computer dossier can be leaked for political purposes or personal vendettas by any of the thousands of junior public servants with access to the computer.

Is that fair and rational? Does that provide facts? Even the honourable member for O'Connor would have to agree that that is not a fair and rational argument. The advertisement goes on:

2. Massive penalties and loss of access to jobs and bank accounts for those whose cards are lost, stolen or cancelled by the authority.

After the debate today, I suggest that we should have that amended to include `or eaten by the dog from Bowral'. The advertisement continues:

3. The end to the traditional healthy Australian attitude towards authority as petty bureaucrats gain greater control over our day-to-day lives.

Wake up Australians-don't give up your traditional Aussie freedom-say no to the intrusive ``licence to live''. Only honest decent Australian have anything to fear.

What does it then go on to do?

Mr Hollis —Ask for a quid.

Mr MARTIN —Yes, it asks for money. It is like evangelists in the United States who say, `Send me $1,000 and I will be able to save the world'. This is the nonsense that is being peddled. It does not provide the information, it is far from factual and it is contributing to the hysteria being generated by certain groups. During the debate today, a number of specific issues have been raised on which it is important to touch. The centrepiece of what I am endeavouring to get across to honourable members is quite simply that I do not believe that any member of parliament who represents his constituency fairly is in any way shirking or backing away from his responsibilities by providing information to his constituents so that a rational debate on any issue can be entered into. That is a laudable aim, but what concerns me greatly is that hysteria is being generated by a select few out there. It seems at the moment that there is no other issue.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that the media are now backtracking and prepared to pick up on the issue. We can all peddle stories about the media and what they have done and are supposed to have done in the past. Recently, one of my colleagues told me that he was discussing the Australia Card with some journalist friends and asked why they were starting to run the line about the negative aspects of the Australia Card and running a paranoia campaign in all forms of the media. They said that they thought that they would see what they could get the Government to do as it was fairly quiet because the Budget had not yet arrived.

There may be some people like that, but I do not subscribe to the view of the Leader of the Opposition. He has tried to totally discredit the media by suggesting that they treated the Opposition badly. He has blamed the media and some of the words he used were: `They were part of the conspiracy of silence about the problems of the Australia Card'. I do not subscribe to that view at all. I believe that, as part of the information provision that is necessary for rational debate, every side of the argument must be put. However, I also believe that the Government's argument is the correct one. I have not yet heard any issue which will in any way change my mind or make me change my support, and the support of the overwhelming majority of the members of my local constituency, for this legislation. If one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to fear. It is as simple as that. No talk about Goebbels techniques or misinformation will make any difference to that.

The Leader of the Opposition in his contribution raised another issue. He said that Labor members had expressed their reservations about the Australia Card and spoken against it. That is true. They have done that in the past, as it is the right of any individual in society. The honourable member for O'Connor has taken up the cause of the Liberal-National Party coalition and it is his political right to do so, just as it is the right of Labor members to put their views. However, unlike the Opposition and those in the community who are not prepared to concede on certain issues, we have mechanisms within the ALP to resolve issues, and that is what has happened.

On Tuesday this legislation came to the ALP Caucus before the Bill was introduced into Parliament. Senator Susan Ryan, the Minister responsible, discussed the legislation yet again. A number of questions were asked on it and it was then put to the vote as is the wont in the Labor Party Caucus. It was passed without a dissenting voice. That is part and parcel of the process of the Labor Government in action. We are confronted with legislation and an issue which, as we know from the contributions made by honourable members on both sides of the House, will lead to a more fair and equitable system in terms of taxation revenue, social security benefits and illegal immigration.

It seems to me that many of those issues have been swept under the carpet. We have a list of when the Australia Card is to be put into place and how often one has to use it. We have heard the scare tactics saying that one has to carry the Australia Card and if one does not, one is in big trouble. That is nonsense. Clause 8 says that one is not required to carry it. However, nonsense is still peddled. I saw a great story in, I think, the Bulletin last week, with three scenarios of people caught without their Australia Card. The first one was appalling. It said that an Aboriginal was walking down the street and was accosted by a policeman who said, `Show me your Australian Card'. The Aboriginal said, `I don't have to'. He was lumbered into gaol and I cannot remember whether it went on to say that the next day he was found hanged in his cell, but the implication was there. That is patent scaremongering nonsense, put about by people in the community. The journalist was just repeating the sorts of stories peddled by different groups in the community.

To have a fair assessment of the Australia Card legislation, what it says and what it will do, is the responsibility of every member in this place. All the uses to which the Australia Card is to be put-opening bank accounts, welfare payments, Medicare replacements, taxation, employment and so on-are the issues that affect most people in the community, but they will be affected only the once.

About the other issues of investments, shares, trusts, primary production, land transaction, safety deposit boxes, futures contracts and so on, there are not a hell of a lot of constituents in Macarthur who are worried about those sorts of issues. Therefore, I believe that the issues being generated by consideration of the Australia Card legislation, which has suddenly become all things to all people and is the great bogey legislation which will take away individual rights, privacy considerations and so on, are all nonsense. I believe, as does every member who sits on this side of the House, as well as a few who sit slightly on the other side, that this legislation will do the things that it is intended to do.

Some speakers have had reservations about one or two issues associated with computer hackers and privacy. Having seen information on this and listened to the debate, I feel that such worries no longer exist. I hope that when the legislation is passed through the House, as it will be, those in the Senate who will determine its fate will be swayed by the arguments put here and not by the sorts of nonsensical, paranoid, schizophrenic arguments going on out there with people suddenly changing their minds, with conversions along the road--

Mr Hollis —To Damascus.

Mr MARTIN —To Damascus or anywhere else, or to Bowral to see card-chewing dogs, or wherever it may be. I hope that the legislation receives the assent of both Houses of Parliament, is put in place as quickly as possible and goes on to solve the problems of taxation and welfare fraud and illegal immigration.