Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
New 'smartcard' legislation introduced.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Senator Ian Campbell Minister for Human Services



7 February 2007

Millions of Australians are a step closer to gaining access to a modern, simpler and more secure health and social services system with today’s introduction of the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007.

The Minister for Human Services, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Bill will provide Australians with an upgraded Medicare card which will replace up to 17 cards and vouchers, and make dealing with the government easier, faster, more secure and less complex.

The access card - or ‘smartcard’ will benefit Australians in a number of ways through:

• reduced waiting times in queues; • improved security so that entitlements to access health and social services can’t be stolen; • less running around for Australians by providing a one-stop avenue for

changing personal contact details across a number of agencies; • no more clutter in wallets with the new card replacing a number of existing cards.

“The new smartcard is the single greatest initiative ever undertaken in Australia to combat welfare fraud,” Senator Campbell said.

“Over the next 10 years this government will be distributing almost a trillion dollars in health and social service benefits. That significant sum of money provides enormous risks for Australian taxpayers to be ‘ripped off’.”

Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, has said that identity fraud is estimated to cost Australians anywhere between $1 and $4 billion annually. The Federal Police has also said that Medicare cards are used in some way in more than 50 per cent of identity fraud cases.

“I want to ensure that only those people who are entitled to benefits receive them. As the Minister responsible for delivering health and social services payments at the rate of $3,000 a second, taxpayers have a right to expect they are directed to the people who need it.”

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to consulting with the community, an exposure draft of the Bill was released for public comment on 13 December 2006 . More than 120 submissions were received.

“Every one of these submissions has been considered and a range of subsequent changes have been included in this Bill.”

“This Bill also incorporates changes suggested by the Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, headed up by Professor Allan Fels, AO. The Government has, and will continue, to adopt a highly consultative approach in developing and implementing the smartcard and associated legislation.”

The new smartcard will be implemented through a staged legislative process.

“The Bill introduced today will establish the framework for the card and address some key matters of community interest including outlining the information that will be on the register and the chip in the smartcard, and prohibiting unauthorised demands for, and use of, the smartcard for identity purposes,” Senator Campbell said.

Matters for subsequent legislation will include protection of information on the register and card, registration for the card, issues relating to an individual’s area of the chip, in which they can store voluntary information, and transitional issues.

“In conjunction with the introduction of the Bill, and given we now have more clarity on the smartcard and how it is proposed to work, I have asked Professor Fels to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment before issues around privacy are resolved in

subsequent legislation.

“I have also asked that his Taskforce complete a study and provide advice on the most appropriate review mechanisms to be included in subsequent legislation.

“In addition to the 4 week period of public comment that has already occurred on the legislation, I will be referring the Bill to a Senate inquiry to run for 5 weeks to allow additional opportunity for people to hear about and express their views on the legislation.

“The Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007 is significant and necessary legislation that will ensure future generations will be able to have access to an appropriate health and social services system.”

Copies of the Bill and related documents can be found at the Parliament of Australia website.

Media Contact: Rob Broadfield on 02 6277 7200 or 0409 493 902