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Australia One Step From ID Card

The Border Mail | January 21 2005

A CIVIL rights group yesterday said a Federal Government plan to introduce a national scheme to fight identity-related crime could lead to a national ID card.

Attorney-General Mr Philip Ruddock said the national document verification system was designed to tackle money-laundering, welfare fraud and terrorism and would go on trial across 24 government agencies soon.

It would enable Government departments and agencies to check documents, such as birth certificates and passports, online.

But there was no need for such a scheme, Australian Civil Liberties Council president Mr Terry OGorman said.

“Its but one step from there to a national ID card system,” Mr OGorman said.

“The alternative already exists when you have to open an account with a bank, you have to present 100 points of privacy.

“When you wish to take out Government benefits, you similarly have to produce evidence of genuine documents for authentication.”

The Hawke governments proposal to introduce a national ID card called the Australia Card bitterly divided the nation in the mid-1980s.

Banks had sought access to the system but it had not been decided whether they would be given it, Mr Ruddock said yesterday.

“Obviously banks are anxious to ensure they are not used for the purposes of money laundering, particularly by criminal or terrorist organisations, so they are anxious to ensure people who open bank accounts do so with a bona fide identity,” he said.

Mr OGorman blamed the banks for the incidence of identity theft.

“If identity theft is a problem, then its a problem because banks, particularly, are not prepared to spend the money to ensure that their systems are as tamper-proof as possible,” he said.

The Australian Democrats yesterday condemned the plan and said it needed a full public inquiry before it went ahead.

“The Government must not just impose a new Big Brother system for bureaucrats and business|without broad public debate and acceptance,” Democrats justice spokesman Senator Brian Greig said.

The federal Opposition also favoured community consultation before the system was trialled.

Mr Ruddock said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was involved in discussions about the scheme to ensure privacy concerns were considered.