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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1944

Senator PETER RAE(10.37) —There are several matters I wish to raise briefly in the adjournment debate tonight. The first matter concerns identification cards. I was delighted to see reported in the media today that apparently there is growing opposition within my own party, the Liberal Party, and elsewhere to the issuing of ID cards. I think it is important to record that there has been a vast misconception as to the likely cost and real effectiveness of ID cards. I am glad to see that the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes), who is probably in a good position to comment in relation to this matter, is present in the chamber tonight.

I believe that to have an effective ID card we would need to have the silicon chip card, the so-called smart card. This is the card which costs at least $50 per issue. This is the card necessary for us to have any hope of having an effective means of decreasing social welfare and taxation fraud. That cost of $50 is just for the manufacture of the card itself. If we add the sort of figures we have obtained from the Government recently, not only in the course of Estimates committees but also in relation to charges levied for Freedom of Information Act applications, one would have to say that the very minimum charge for processing any individual identity card would have to be $50. However, the net result is that the cost of a basic effective ID card would be $100. Therefore, the cost of issuing cards to the 12 1/2 million Australians who would need to be issued in the first place with such cards would amount to $1.25 billion. That would have to be expended before we would save the first dollar.

Senator Tate —It makes your figuring improbable.

Senator PETER RAE —I did not hear Senator Tate's comment as to whether he meant my figuring was improbable or the Government's figuring was improbable. I say that my figures are not improbable but are more accurate than anything that the Government has produced.

Senator Messner —They said $35m in the first case.

Senator PETER RAE —That is ridiculous. That is the same sort of thing which happened when the Medicare card was issued. Some families received three cards and some families none. The whole thing did not work. The whole matter fell foul of the bureaucracy when during the doctors' dispute information on doctors' income, which was supposed to be sacred, was leaked to the media from the sacred area of the computer. One imagines that that could happen again. To return to reality, if one takes $50-which is a fact-as being the cost of a safe kind of card one might do a job which is nearly as good perhaps as a passport. Having regard to passports, people such as Trimbole and others have been able to skip back and forth into the country without any apparent untoward interference from the country's authorities.

Senator Aulich —Room to move?

Senator PETER RAE —Yes, there is room for further comment. On the Government's figures, the very minimum cost would be $50 for processing. That is a cost of $100 per person, or a total of $1.25 billion for something which Senator Grimes's own Department has said will not be successful. The Australian Federal Police have said that it would not be successful. Almost any organisation which is in a position to have an informed view on the subject has said that the more than likely result will be that not only will it be unsuccessful, but it will facilitate fraud.

Senator Tate —Why don't you stay here and fight it instead of going to Tasmania?

Senator PETER RAE —We can spread the fight further by using the information I can give here tonight. The honourable senator can continue it, and I can spread the fight further against the intrusion of bureaucracy, of Big Brother, and made sure that we defend the country against Big Brother. While I am talking about Big Brother--

Government senators interjecting-

Senator Messner —Would you Tasmanians mind if we went home?

Senator PETER RAE —Honourable senators can have their conversation if they want to. I will try to make my comments. I did not hear anything said during the interchange but earlier I heard Senator Tate expressing concern about the Philippines. I did not have any disagreement with that concern except from the point of view of the limitation of the area within his sights. I wanted to check the extent to which we provide military aid and defence co-operation aid to the Philippines. I find that the estimate for the current year 1985-86 is $1,493,000, which is about one nine-hundreth of the amount it would cost to introduce identification cards into this country. That is the first point. The second point is that it would not be likely to stop a revolution in the Philippines, nor would it be likely to assist one very much, particularly as most of the areas of assistance relate to Nomad aircraft and other forms of civil contract work, to assist with light vehicle and fire-fighting equipment and so on.

I am not disputing the point made by Senator Tate, but I wish to add that I find even more obnoxious, even more objectionable, what is happening in a country such as Iran. We read that last month, October, 200 political prisoners were executed in Iran, according to an authority which I would accept as being likely to be reasonably accurate. I have expressed concern in the past about what is being done on a basis which is comparable to apartheid, singling out an individual group as a result of their religious attitudes or colour or whatever. That is what is happening to the Bahaist in particular in Iran. I find it so offensive and so little mentioned that I want to mention it again tonight.

While we are thinking about some of the objectionable things going on in the Philippines, let us think about some of the objectionable things going on in Iran. Let us remember that the estimate is that about 500,000 people have been killed in the past six years in the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Senator Tate —I mentioned that in my remarks.

Senator PETER RAE —I know; I am just summarising. But let us think about some of these other things. Let us think also about Vietnam. The best information I can obtain is still the information from the Nordic group which keeps under surveillance what is happening there. Ten years after the end of the war in Vietnam about 200,000 political prisoners are still held in custody in that country on the pretext of re-education or some other excuse.

This Parliament needs to mention from time to time the matters of concern in other countries. We may not be perfect but what we can do in a free society is try to redress, or at least expose, some of the injustices and horrors which are taking place through the misuse of power in various countries in the world. The list is very long indeed. I do not want to take up the time of the Senate in mentioning more than those three countries tonight.

In conclusion, from the point of view of Australia's aid programs, we could be said to be misdirected in taking aid away from the Philippines because of its abuse of human rights when one compares its record with that of other countries to which we provide some form of assistance. The general principle of directing our aid to countries which support the freedom of the individual is something which I warmly support. That is why I conclude, as I started, by saying: Let us not have in this country the intrusion of Big Brother. Let us not have the loss of freedom or the expense of the control of the individual contained in the proposal for the identification card or, as it is euphemistically and absolutely erroneously called, the Australia Card. If that is what Australia is all about, I will be ashamed to be an Australian.