National ID card? $1.1 billion+
Freedom and privacy? Priceless!

The Federal government calls it
a ‘Human Services Access Card’, ‘Smartcard’, ‘Consumer Card’ or even a ‘People’s Card’ …

We call it for what it is: The proposal for a National ID Card System



Do you want to do something about it? Here are some suggestions!
Is this the biggest privacy threat this year? Nominate Joe Hockey for a Big Brother Award

1. Snapshot overview:
About the proposed national ID card system (‘Access Card’)

The so-called ‘Access Card’ proposal, as announced by the Australian Government in April 2006, is to introduce a single new card for adults, to replace the Medicare card and various benefit cards issued by Centrelink and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The proposal is that the card would include a biometric photograph of the adult, and be suitable as a multi-purpose “proof of identity” card, not limited to claiming health and social security benefits.

The card technology proposed to be used is a ‘smart card’, meaning there would be a computer chip inside the card, and special readers would need to be installed by any person or organisation wanting to ‘read’ the information from the chip. (Although there would also be some information clearly visible on the face and back of the card.)

The proposal also includes the development of a unique identification number for every person – not just adults.

The proposal includes that information about the adult card-holder, and their dependents (children), be held on the chip, and also on a national population register database to be created by the Department of Human Services through a major investigation checking everyone’s identity.

The Australian Privacy Foundation believes this proposal is effectively a proposal for a national ID card system, and we oppose it as such.

2. Current Status

The so-called ‘Access Card’ proposal was approved by Cabinet (26 April 2006), and received a four-year budget starting 1 July 2006 of $1.09 billion (9 May 2006).

The two most senior staff running and designing the project have already quit. They cited privacy, information security and accountability concerns with the project, as have a number of independent commentators and experts.

Professor Allen Fels has been appointed to head a Consumer and Privacy Taskforce (24 May 2006). No terms of reference have been provided. At the announcement, Human Services Minister Joe Hockey called the proposal a ‘Consumer Card’, which ‘the private sector would almost certainly be allowed to read’. (It is unclear why ‘[Human Services] Access Card’, ‘Smartcard’ and ‘Consumer Card’ have all been used as names for this proposed national ID system; the uncertain nomeclature adds to confusion.)

Key information about the proposal remains secret. Minister Hockey initially promised the Australian Privacy Foundation that he would ‘shortly’ (9 May 2006) release the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) prepared by Clayton Utz. He then later refused to do so, calling the PIA ‘redundant’ (24 May 2006). However government officials giving evidence before the Senate on 25 May 2006 said the PIA was prepared in conjunction with, and on the same basis as, the business case prepared by KPMG used by the Government to justify its budget and Cabinet’s approval. Neither Prof Fels nor the Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis have been able to have the PIA released.

Edited parts of the Business Case, prepared by KPMG in February 2006, were finally published on 6 June 2006. However, critical chapters were missing, including:

  • the cost/benefit analysis,
  • the explanation of how the proposal will allegedly reduce fraud, and
  • any discussion of the privacy implications for Australians.

The Australian Privacy Foundation continues its call to have the Privacy Impact Assessment published immediately. If the PIA is ‘redundant’, then so is the government’s whole ‘Business Case’ for the project.

APF also demands the release of the Terms of Reference and briefing documents provided to KPMG and Clayton Utz, on which they based their assessments, and the critical omissions from the business case.

Note: This information last updated 6 June 2006.

Update: Speech at public forum 9 November.

3. Information pack

Policy documents

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

[Answers to follow soon – please suggest extra questions!]

  • FAQ: what makes something a ‘national ID card’? – see Quacking like a duck: national ID Card proposal (2006) cf. Australia Card (1986-87)
  • FAQ: what’s wrong with a national ID card?
  • FAQ: if the Government’s got all our information anyway, what’s the difference?
  • FAQ: how is this so-called ‘Access Card’ different to the Australia Card?
  • FAQ: what’s changed since the Australia Card debate 20 years ago?
  • FAQ: if I’ve got nothing to hide, do I have anything to fear from this proposed national ID card system?
  • FAQ: what is “smartcard technology”?
  • FAQ: what have other countries done with smartcards?
  • FAQ: what is a “biometric photograph”, and how does “facial recognition technology” work?
  • FAQ: what are the objectives of the proposed Access Card system (and will they be achieved)?
  • FAQ: how will the card be used?
  • FAQ: how will the national population register database be used?
  • FAQ: how much will this proposed national ID card system cost?
  • FAQ: have the government counted all the costs, or only their direct costs to build it?
  • FAQ: how big a problem is welfare fraud (and how else can it be tackled)?

Our media contributions

4. Media reports, links, and other resources

Earlier projects

There is a considerable amount of information on related APF Campaign Pages for the predecessor projects, which were:

A related project is the Document Verification System

Resources re the Government’s Proposal

Resources on the proposed national ID card system generally

Media Reports

This section has links to media coverage of the proposal.
See also:

Some of the hundreds of media reports:

    • 8 August 2006 –

“Libs, business rebel on Access Card

    • “,

The Australian3 August 2006 – “Smartcard worries doctors“, The Australian

    • 4 July 2006 – “

Minister flags e-purse on ID smartcard

    • “,

The Australian

27 June 2006 – “Smartcard secrecy hinders discussion“, The Australian

17 June 2006 – “Smart card report prompts privacy concerns“, ABC News Online

17 June 2006 – “Privacy fears linger over smartcard“, The Age

17 June 2006 – “Warning on ID card by stealth“, Herald Sun

13 June 2006 – “The $1billion house of cardsSydney Morning Herald

13 June 2006 – ‘New card same as Australia Card’, The Australian

5 June 2006 – ‘Access card could link to surveillance’, The Age

30 May 2006 – ‘Smartcard contracts blow budgets’, The Australian

12 May 2006 – ‘Disaster card plan triggers storm’, Sydney Morning Herald

12 May 2006 – ‘Australia budgets A$1.1B for smart-card development’, ComputerWorld (NZ)

12 May 2006 – ‘Commercial access on the cards’, The Australian

11 May 2006 – ‘$1bn smart card to roll despite privacy swipes’, The Australian

11 May 2006 – ‘Privacy officer to monitor smart card’, Sydney Morning Herald

11 May 2006 – ‘Government begins search for smart card ‘advisors”, ZDNet Australia

10 May 2006 – ‘Hockey spruiks card with a little help from Edna, 72’, Sydney Morning Herald

9 May 2006 – ‘Smartcard tenders tipped for this week’, The Australian

9 May 2006 – ‘Feds confirm smart card, Centrelink spend’, ZDNet Australia

8 May 2006 – ‘Smartcard will save ‘billions”, The Age

8 May 2006 – ‘Smartcard chief quits PS in disgust’, The Australian Financial Review

8 May 2006 – ‘Privacy Foundation: Put ID card “on hold immediately”‘, iTnews

4 May 2006 – ‘Bitten by control card’, The Courier Mail, 4 May 2006

2 May 2006 – ‘Smartcard heading for fall’, The Australian

30 April 2006 – Channel Nine Sunday Poll

29 April 2006 – ‘Identity crisis’, Sydney Morning Herald

28 April 2006 – ‘That’s not an ID card …’, National Nine News

28 April 2006 – ‘ Police to get smartcard data’, The Australian

28 April 2006 – ‘Smart card savings estimate to be released’, ABC News

27 April 2006 – ‘Liberal backbencher criticises smart card plan’, ABC News

27 April 2006 – ‘Official: national card due by 2010’, Sydney Morning Herald

27 April 2006 – ‘PM can’t calm Coalition nerves on smart card’, The Australian

27 April 2006 – ‘Smart card raises privacy concerns’, ABC News

27 April 2006 – ‘Smart card savings kept under wraps’, ABC News

27 April 2006 – ‘Details will clear up smart card concerns: Hockey‘, ABC TV News

27 April 2006 – ‘An ID card by any other name?’, ZDNet Australia

27 April 2006 – Australia Talks Back , ABC National

27 April 2006 – editorial, Herald Sun

26 April 2006 – ‘ID cards to foil fraud, terrorism’, Sydney Morning Herald

26 April 2006 – ‘Government photo-ID card for all Australians’ , The Australian

26 April 2006 – ‘Cabinet reignites smart card debate’, ABC News Online

26 April 2006 – ‘Govt remains divided over ‘smart card’ plan’, ABC National, The World Today

26 April 2006 – ‘Cabinet approves smart card’, ABC TV News

5. History and background to the current proposal for a national ID card system

See separate page.