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Friday, November 10, 2006

Privacy advocates take aim at National Access Card

Privacy experts have thoroughly rejected the Federal Government's "No ID card" claim regarding the proposed National Access Card.

At a public forum in Sydney last night, organised by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Anna Johnson, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, and Professor Graham Greenleaf from the Centre for Cyberspace Law and Policy at University of NSW, both said that the proposed card will be a National ID card, and highlighted important privacy, security and cost concerns.

Professor Greenleaf said that despite assurances to the contrary, the proposed card posed far greater dangers than the attempt 20 years ago to introduce the Australia Card. In particular the decision to include on the face of the card a unique identity number and the digitalised signature of the holder posed major security risks. Professor Greenleaf says that on key issues such as this there appear to be significant differences between the Task Force and the Minister for Human Services.

Anna Johnson said the card proposal should be rejected because it was unjustified, unnecessary, unpopular, unsafe, wasteful and discriminatory. She questioned the independence of the Task Force, and the continuing secrecy surrounding the Privacy Impact Assesment undertaken by Clayton Utz for the Government but which has never been released.

The full text of her speech is available on the Australian Privacy Foundation website - Speech to public forum 'The Access Card – fallacies and facts' (9 November 2006). She has a letter - "Access Card will be our national ID" in today's Australian Financial Review (no link available).

These speakers and others including Kelvin Thompson, the Shadow Minister for Human Services, and Michael Raper of the Welfare Rights Centre, questioned the cost benefit assessments that underpin the project - spending $1billion over 4 years to save $10billion over the next 10 years, according to Anna Johnson is a worse return than putting the money into a savings account.

Michael Raper said that all the current evidence is that fraud in the welfare system, while still a problem, amounts to 0.05% and hardly justifies proposed expenditure on the project as alternative less expensive measures are available.

They all expect actual costs to far exceed current estimates.

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