The Federal government calls it a ‘Human Services Access Card’

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

Frequently Asked Question No. 9

Why does the APF say that the ‘Access Card’ is a ‘National Identification Scheme’?

Again, there’s a lot to squeeze into a small space. A summary document we prepared in July 2006 requires only limited changes even after the Government’s further announcements in December 2006.

The Criteria

The definition and elements of a National Identification Scheme are explained in FAQ8.

This document compares the ‘Access Card’ with those criteria.

Definition of a National Identification Scheme

The second column of the following table shows the key aspects of the definition of the national identification scheme in Clarke (2006). The third column shows the APF’s assessment of the ‘Access Card’ against each criterion:

1. a general-purpose identification scheme the ‘Access Card’ is intended to support many programs in many agencies, across a vast ‘super-ministry’ called ‘Human Services’. It is therefore a general-purpose scheme
2. designed to achieve consistent and reliable identification of humans the ‘Access Card’ is explicitly designed to achieve those objectives
3. throughout a country the ‘Access Card’ is being proposed by the national government of Australia
4. particularly in relation to their relationships with governments and government agencies the primary beneficiaries are government agencies, and State and Territory hospitals and clinics are involved
5. but also in their relationships with private sector organisations tens of thousands of private sector organisations are involved

The ‘Access Card’ satisfies the definition of a National Identification Scheme.

Characteristics of a National Identification Scheme

A general-purpose national scheme features some token such as a card, but that is only a fraction of what’s involved. The second column of the following table shows the elements of a national identification scheme identified in Clarke (2006). The third column shows the APF’s assessment of the ‘Access Card’ against each criterion:

1. A Database The ‘Access Card’ Registry is that database
2. A Unique Signifier for Every Individual  
    2.1 A ‘Unique Identifier’

The scheme imposes a ‘legal name’ on Australians (completely against the grain of tradition and the law in Australia since the country was settled by Britons in the late 18th century).

The scheme also features a card-number, which the scheme cross-refers to existing single-purpose identifiers, and which is therefore a convenient ‘unique identifier’

    2.2 A Biometric Entifier The scheme includes what is referred to as a ‘biometric template’. (But it is merely a ‘trojan horse’, designed to be replaced by a real biometric like fingerprints, once public resistance has been overcome)
3. An (Id)entification Token (such as an ID Card) The promotion of the scheme is focussed almost entirely on the card
4. Quality Assurance Mechanisms The scheme includes substantial impositions relating to identification and identity authentication
    4.1 Mechanisms for (Id)entity Authentication  
    4.2 Mechanisms for (Id)entification  
5. Widespread Use The scheme is intended for enormously wide usage, well beyond government agencies, out to tens of thousands of service providers of many different kinds, across both the public and private sectors, with the identifier very widely used
    5.1 Widespread Data Flows Containing the Identifier  
    5.2 Widepread Use of the (Id)entifier  
    5.3 Widespread Use of the Database The Register used by the participating agencies, and by large numbers of national security and law enforcement agencies that are outside the scope of the limited and weak privacy laws that exist in Australia, plus social control agencies that have specific powers that enable them to gain access
6. Obligations  
    6.1 Obligations Imposed on Every Individual All individuals are subject to very substantial impositions
    6.2 Obligations Imposed on Many Organisations The Government has avoided declaring the obligations. (They have used the excuse that it is presenting the law in tranches, and that everything is in a breathless rush – to keep the Minister happy – and that there’s therefore no opportunity to delay the first tranche until all the other information is available). The reasonable inference is that the Government intends creating substantial impositions on service-providers throughout the public and private sectors
7. Sanctions for Non-Compliance The public service executives responsible for the scheme are starting to admit that they have lied, and that the scheme is compulsory. In regard to criminal sanctions, it has avoided declaring these details of its proposal (using the same excuses listed in the previous para.). But it has already shown its hand by referring to the existence of substantial penalties for breach of data security. The reasonable inference is that the Government will impose considerable criminal sanctions for non-compliance

The so-called ‘Access Card’ is a National Identification Scheme.


Here are the APF’s Resources on National Identification Schemes.

Here is APF Board-member Prof. Graham Greenleaf’s article ‘Quacking like a duck: The national ID Card proposal (2006) compared with the Australia Card (1986-87)’

If you are aware of errors or omissions in this document, please let us know.

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