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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2762

Senator GEORGES(11.56) —I must confess to some amusement in listening to Senator Peter Baume. When this proposal was first mooted there was strong enthusiasm and support from members of the Liberal Party of Australia.

Senator Peter Baume —From whom?

Senator GEORGES —From Mr Howard in particular. There was an exchange between Mr Howard and me at a committee meeting. I said that it was passing strange that I opposed the identification card and the Liberal Party supported it. Mr Howard confessed that he supported it because it seemed to him, as an ex-Treasurer, to be a convenient way of gathering in funds. But the matter had not been carefully thought through. We now have members of the Liberal Party standing up and raising questions that were raised by many of us at the time the Australia Card was proposed. I assure honour- able senators opposite that the Government has paused and the matter has gone to a select committee of both Houses for consideration. There is no doubt that the Government would be unwise to allow any further expenditure to take place until the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card reports. This matter is dealt with in the legislation. Nevertheless, my view and my understanding of it is that there will be very little further expenditure on this matter until the Committee reports.

Senator Peter Baume —What is your experience of dealing with the bureaucracy?

Senator GEORGES —In my view the bureaucracy merely follows and tries to carry out the policy of the government of the day. More often than not it is very difficult for it to do so. I must admit that sometimes it takes initiatives before their time and manipulates procedures-as we have reported from time to time-to expedite the matters before it. The concerns that Senator Peter Baume now belatedly expresses on behalf of the Liberal Party are the concerns of many of us here.

Having listened to the speeches yesterday about the identification card, I must say that I am a little bit concerned that if we can prove that this card will be effective we will all take it in hand. But in order to make this card effective we have to go further down the track in limiting the rights of individuals in the community. Many agencies in this country would like to have the convenience of being able to identify individuals clearly for a variety of reasons. The only way to do it effectively, of course, is to make certain that the identification card is effective and that it carries all the information for easy identification. We now know that technology can include on one small card all the information that is contained in three volumes. If we are going to take this matter as far as some people are trying to take it, we need to be able to identify poisitively every individual in our society through information from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Some people think this should happen. I would think that in a free society people should be able to change their identity should they desire to do so during their lifetime. Perhaps people want to do this to try to escape their past. The ability of a person to change his identity is an inherent right in a free society. The procedure which the Opposition seems to be encouraging will effectively limit the ability-

Senator Peter Baume —Who is encouraging it? It is your Government.

Senator GEORGES —No, my friend. The encouragement came from the honourable senator's side as much as it came from our side. The proposal was not properly considered or thought out. There was no pause to consider the magnitude of referring this matter to a committee.

Senator Peter Baume —We are opposing the provision; you are supporting it.

Senator GEORGES —Do not try to confuse the--

Senator Puplick —With the facts.

Senator Peter Baume —Even for you this is extraordinary.

Senator GEORGES —It is extraordinary that for convenience in collecting finance the Liberal Party, perhaps as well as the Australian Labor Party, went down a track which they are now beginning to believe might present considerable difficulties for ordinary individuals.

If we succeed in making this card effective for taxation purposes we will create a whole new series of evasion measures in respect of normal procedures. The black market will grow; the cash economy will flourish; people will purchase portables; mansions will increase in size; and portraits will appear on the walls of practically every home. Devices such as these will be used by the strong and the wealthy to escape their responsibilities and only ordinary people will be caught. I am afraid that this proposal will catch the innocent more often than it will catch those who will use the system expeditiously for their own purposes. I am glad to see that this matter has been referred to a committee where it will be considered. I am a little nervous about the fact that we have before us legislation designed to implement the proposal. However, I am certain that the Government will not spend another penny on this matter until that Committee reports.