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Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Page: 1517

Mr COLEMAN (BanksMinister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) (09:55): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 implements the Intergovernmental Agreement on Identity MatchingServices which was agreed between the Prime Minister and the first ministers of all states and territories at the Special Meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Counter-Terrorism on 5 October 2017.

Under this intergovernmental agreement, the Commonwealth and all states and territories agreed to preserve or introduce legislation to support the sharing of facial images and related identity information, via a set of identity-matching services, for a range of national security, law enforcement, community safety and related purposes, while maintaining robust privacy safeguards.

The imperative for this legislation is just as strong as it was when the bill was first introduced into the previous parliament in February 2018.

The identity-matching services to be enabled by this bill include a Face Verification Service which will make it easier for documents containing facial images to be safely verified online, making access to government services more secure, accessible and convenient for citizens. This means that, over time, more and more services can be provided completely online, making life easier for everyday Australians.

The Face Verification Service will also help to protect Australians from identity crime, which continues to be one of the most common crimes in Australia. One in four Australians will be a victim of identity crime at some point in their lives, with an estimated annual direct cost of more than $2 billion to the economy. The face verification service will also help people to reclaim their lost or stolen identification documents faster, without the need re-establish their identity.

Identity crime is a key enabler of serious and organised crime, including terrorism.

Australians previously convicted of terrorism related offences are known to have used fake identities to purchase items such as ammunition, chemicals that can be used to manufacture explosives, and mobile phones to communicate anonymously to evade detection.

Identity crime is aided by the growing sophistication of criminal syndicates and the technology now able to support them in manufacturing fake identity documents.

Organised criminal groups are now producing false driver licences and other documents in bulk, often using similar technology to that available to the government issuing agency itself. These documents often have genuine biographic details but a fraudulent photograph, and can therefore be difficult to detect.

For many years government agencies have been able to verify biographic information on driver licences and other government issued identity documents, such as passports, by using the Document Verification Service.

However, name based checking tools such as the Document Verification Service cannot detect documents that contain legitimate biographic details with a substituted photo, nor can they identify an unknown person from a facial image.

This is a particular problem for driver licences, which are the most commonly used photo identification documents in Australia and, therefore, the most sought after by criminals.

The new face-matching services enabled by this bill will make it harder for people to obtain driver licences in false identities in an attempt to conceal their true identity or avoid traffic fines, demerit points or licence cancellations. This will improve road safety by increasing the detection and prosecution of these offences and deterring dangerous driving behaviour.

The new face-matching services will also greatly assist our law enforcement and national security agencies by providing authorised agencies with the means to rapidly share and match facial images drawn from existing databases in order to identify unknown persons, and detect people using multiple fraudulent identities.

Since the bill was first introduced in 2018, two states and territories have passed legislation to implement the intergovernmental agreement. There are now five states with such legislative frameworks in place. This bill will ensure that the Commonwealth also meets its obligations to implement legislation under the agreement.

What the bill will do

The bill will help deliver these benefits by providing explicit legal authority for the Department of Home Affairs to collect, use and disclose identification information in order to operate the technical systems that will facilitate the identity-matching services.

The passport, visa and citizenship images that are used in the face-matching services will continue to be held separately in databases by the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the agencies that issue these documents.

Driver licence images will be made available via a National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution. This system will be hosted by the Department of Home Affairs on behalf of the states and territories in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement.

The system will consist of a database of driver licence images and information supplied by each state and territory, and a facial recognition system for biometric comparison of facial images against facial images in the database.

The design of the driver licence database will enable each state and territory authority to control access to its data via the face-matching services.

It will not provide the Department of Home Affairs with the ability to modify or update identification information supplied by state and territory authorities.

The bill defines the types of identification information that may be used in the services. In doing so, the bill excludes certain types of personal information from being used in the services, such as information about a person's political opinions or religious beliefs. This is to ensure that the department may only collect, use and disclose those types of information that are reasonably necessary in order to provide the identity-matching services.

It is important to note that private sector and local government organisations may only use one of the identity-matching services described in the bill, the Face Verification Service, and may only do so with the consent of a person whose information is being checked. In addition, these organisations will just receive a 'yes/no' match response when using this service. They won't be able to receive a person's photo or any other identity information that a person hasn't already provided when doing the check.

The bill also provides for a Face Identification Service which law enforcement and national security agencies will be able to use to identify unknown persons or detect persons using multiple fraudulent identities.

Recognising the privacy impacts of this service, its use will be constrained only to those agencies with national security, law enforcement or anticorruption functions that are specifically listed in the bill and only for specified purposes.

The Face Identification Service cannot be used for live facial recognition of people in public places. While this type of technology is being used in some overseas jurisdictions, the system has been designed so that it cannot consume live video feeds of any kind. A human operator will always be in the loop for all uses of this service, so that people and not machines are making the final decision about a person's identity.

In addition, the bill prevents criminal history information from being used as part of the face-matching services. This means that the Face Identification Service cannot be used to match images against criminal watchlists.

The bill also provides for other face-matching services that are designed for use by state and territory driver-licensing authorities to help improve the integrity of their data and licence-issuing processes.

The bill limits the department's provision of the face-matching services to the following purposes:

Preventing and detecting identity fraud

Law enforcement

National security

Protective security

Community safety

Road safety

Verifying identity

The bill does not provide any additional legislative authority for other agencies or organisations to collect personal information in order to use the services. These organisations will need to have a separate legal basis to support their use of the face-matching services.

The bill will provide robust accountability and transparency measures to help maintain public confidence in the operation of the face-matching services. These include an offence for unauthorised disclosure of information by Home Affairs workers, annual reporting to parliament on the extent of the use of the services and a statutory review to be commenced within five years and reported to the parliament.


This bill will give effect to the commitments made by the Commonwealth in entering into the Intergovernmental Agreement on Identity Matching Services.

The face-matching services enabled by the bill will assist Australians to access services online more easily and securely.

The bill will also help to reduce the impact of identity crime on the community, helping Australians to prove their identities more securely and easily.

The bill will also promote a range of law enforcement, national security and community safety outcomes, while providing robust privacy protections over the use of personal information.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.