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Wednesday, 6 November 1985
Page: 1653


Senator BLACK —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen reports in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on Monday, 4 November, in which the Queensland Premier is quoted as saying that the new Australia Card is un-Australian and will be opposed by the Queensland Government as an intrusion into the personal privacy of every citizen? Can the Minister advise the Senate as to the validity of these claims, particularly in view of the fact that the Queensland Government currently sells identity cards and that these cards carry the photograph, name, date of birth and signature of the bearer? Has the Minister also seen reports in today's Brisbane Sun which indicate that the Queensland Justice Minister will soon amend the Queensland Liquor Act virtually to compel young Queenslanders to carry the State Government ID cards? Could this indicate a softening of the Queensland Government's attitude towards the Australia Card as indicated by the Premier earlier this week?


Senator RYAN —Far be it from me to attempt to try to explain contradictions expressed by the Premier of Queensland. I think that his fondness for the double standard is far too well entrenched for me to try to unravel it. But with regard to the claim that the Australia Card will be an invasion of privacy, it is the Government's view that there will be no violation of civil liberties in the use of this card. The use of the card will be confined to uses proposed at the Tax Summit-that is, to assist in the elimination of fraud against and invasion of the welfare and taxation systems. As well as there being legislative protection, it must be emphasised that there is no proposal to create an information file on citizens. The Australia Card register will contain only basic identification data which already exists in many forms for use in the legitimate business of government. Individuals will have a right to obtain a printed copy of and/or see on a display terminal at any Medicare office all the data held on them in the register. There will be an absolute right to correct any information which is inaccurate or out of date. By these means it is hoped that the Australia Card will help to remove many of the inaccuracies in existing government data. Various government agencies will have access to that information. Nonetheless, they will not have access to information held by any other government agency without specific legislative authorisation.

It is recognised by the Government that no system can be 100 per cent secure. However, it is believed that appropriate security measures are available and will be incorporated to ensure that the scope for forgery of cards and abuse of the system is limited. Card holders themselves will be protected by penalties applying to such things as forging or counterfeiting Australia Cards and the unlawful use of lost or stolen cards. All things considered, it is my firm belief that in the light of the Government's strong commitments to protecting civil liberties and making the Government more open and accountable, the case against the universal use of national identity system, including the production of an Australia Card for taxation and welfare purposes, completely lacks credibility.