ID card: bureaucrats must correct wrong impressions

Government bureaucrats are boosting ‘smart’ card technology while being economical with the truth, CLA says in wide-ranging ID card media release. The national ID card debate is too important: they must correct wrong impressions left with the Parliamentary Committee examining the card.

CLA media release – immediate release –


10 Mar 07

Bureaucrats boost ‘smart’ ID card at expense of truth

The Parliamentary Committee hearing evidence on the proposed Access Card, which critics call a national ID card, has been misled by a senior government bureaucrat who doesn’t appear to know what she is talking about, Civil Liberties Australia says.

The Secretary for the Human Services Department, Patricia Scott, told the committee last week (Tuesday 6 Feb 07) that ‘smartcard’ readers had been “…used at the Atlanta Olympics and at all sort of places where, for privacy, you insert the card and the concessional status would be visible…”

“Ms Scott left out that smart cards were a dismal failure at the Olympics,” CLA’s chief executive officer Bill Rowlings said.

One US report of their use, in the Intelligent Enterprise weblog, says: “The test of smart cash cards at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics failed…”

Another says: “…a Visa trial at the Atlanta Olympics flopped in 1996, and a joint VisaMasterCard effort in Manhattan failed in 1998.” (US online internet business publication, Industry Standard).

Smartcard boosters in the government are talking up technology where they appear to have no expertise whatsoever, Mr Rowlings said.

“Ms Scott may be an excellent economist, but on the other hand she doesn’t appear to know what she is talking about when putting her spin on card technology – or else she is deliberately leaving the Parliamentary Committee with the wrong impression that
smart cards were a success in Atlanta,” he said.

“She should correct the impression her evidence left, or she is treating Parliament with contempt.”

Mr Rowlings said the ID card pushers in government were claiming all sorts of benefits for the card, like cinema concessions and bus ticket discounts, that had nothing to do with the government’s stated reasons for bringing in an ID card.

“They are trying to sell the sizzle, not the sausage, because the sausage – the Access Card and its legislation – is full of sawdust,” he said.

“The government is trying to tell Australians that it is not a national ID card being introduced,” Mr Rowlings said.

“But everyone is aware including the government that, within days of the scheme starting, the card will become a main identifier in Australia for people shopping, taking a bus or tram or ferry, or paying their council rates and water, sewerage and electricity bills.

“For seniors and concessions holders, it will be literally in great demand.

“Within a year or two, it will be directly linked to the banking system, and Australians will be obliged by commercial practice to carry the new national ID card,” he said.

“The Access Card – without robust legislation to protect Australians from both government and private sector errors, fraud and tricks –– will be precisely a national ID card.”

Mr Rowlings said that CLA supports a card that will help Australians simply access
Medicare and emergency services, as well as welfare and support services.

“But we warned from the outset of the public consultation process that a new, crossindustry
legislative base for all sorts of data storage, handling and public and private
access was required.

“In the absence of robust new legislation which safeguards personal privacy, the data
behind the card could be used to spy on people and their purchases and movements,
so that the National ID Card will become a chain around everyone’s ankles.

“Comedians are referring to it as the Howard Card, but I think it would be a terrible
legacy for Mr Howard to leave behind when he retires,” Mr Rowlings said.

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