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

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

Media Reports – 2007

There have been hundreds of media reports. Here are the more important ones that came to our attention:

  • Fittingly, the journalist who persistently followed and analysed the Coalition’s ID Card proposal was the person who wrote its obituary:
    7 December – Labor swift to dump Access Card, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. The Labor Government has moved quickly to scrap the Howard administration’s controversial $1.1 billion Human Services identity card. The federal Government has shut down the Office of the Access Card and closed its website, honouring its election promise to scrap the controversial program. … Bidders are understood to have spent millions on preparing their tenders for systems integration and card issuing; while the department spent more than $50 million on consultants, administration and advertising. The Howard government also spent an undisclosed amount on establishing the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce to manage public consultation; its resulting reports provided recommendations that were ignored by the then minister, Senator Chris Ellison.
    A tribute to the APF’s Campaign Director is on the main Campaign Page
  • 6 December – Is the Access card dead or changing its identity?, ZDNet Australia, incl. Queensland Senator Joe Ludwig is now the Minister for Human Services, his office had not responded to ZDNet Australia’s requests for comment at the time of publication. But the wording of Plibersek’s comments combined with the silence from Ludwig’s office have caused privacy advocates to demand a commitment that the Labor government will not simply introduce an identity card with a new name — as many suggested the Howard government did with the unpopular Australia Card proposal
  • 29 November – First Access Card casualty is…, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “A $2.5 million ongoing contract with Booz Allen Hamilton may be terminated if the incoming minister of human services moves quickly to dump the Access Card project. Prior to the election, Labor human services spokesperson Tanya Plibersek confirmed that Labor would scrap the Access Card project. The contract, a purchase order signed on October 3, covers the period from October 29 to February 1 next year. A Human Services departmental spokeswoman says work has continued on the contract in line with caretaker conventions. “However, the existence of a purchase order does not necessarily mean that funds have to be, or will be, fully expended against it,” she said. “The department has the right to terminate the provision of services by Booz Allen Hamilton if those services are no longer required.” Labor has promised to scrap the $1.1 billion Access Card scheme, and use the savings elsewhere. Booz Allen has earned around $33 million in the past 18 months, acting as the project’s lead advisor.
  • 27 November – Canberra to cancel access card, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Human Services Department will lose $1.2 billion in funding over four years as the new Labor Government cancels the contentious Access Card and slashes costs. Cancellation of the health and welfare access card, consistently portrayed by opponents as a de facto national identity card, will save up to $1.15 billion, according to an independent costing review. … “The Access Card was one of the policies that showed hubris and which was part and parcel of the Howard government’s downfall,” says Tim Warner, a prominent Victorian Liberal who led the Access Card No Way campaign. “Many Liberal supporters, and a significant number of party members, felt that it simply wasn’t a Liberal policy in the philosophic sense.” Mr Warner warned that the campaign would watch the new Government closely, “as the difficulty in getting the ALP’s final repudiation shows an unhealthy interest in the basic idea”. “We’re not packing up our tents yet,” he said. “This is a battle, which some in the civil service and government service delivery see with a narrow vision. “They will not be resting until they have the complete details of people’s lives at their fingertips.” Mr Warner said Australians owed a debt to retiring Senator Natasha Stott Despoja and the Democrats for achieving a measure of accountability on the issue. “Kudos also to Liberal senators Brett Mason, Mitch Fifield and John Watson for bucking party discipline and sending the card back to the drawing board in March,” he said. “Otherwise we would have a contract in place, and Labor made it clear they would not repudiate any contracts signed by the Coalition.” IT vendors and the industry are yet to count the cost of the project’s collapse. About $52 million has been spent to date, mostly on consultants, lawyers and advertising. Halting the flawed project is better than proceeding, Labor says. The vast bulk of the cost lay in the mammoth task of registering some 17 million card-holders, at an estimated rate of 32,000 people each working day between 2008 and 2010. Two critical technology contracts for systems integration and card issuing remain in limbo nearly a year after private sector tenders were called. It’s unclear what, if any, compensation will be available to tenderers. Opposition spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek foreshadowed Labor’s plans to dump the card in March, describing the project as “ill-conceived, poorly executed and will cost a great deal more than the Government imagines or is prepared to admit”.

24 November 2007 – Election – Coalition Rout

  • 22 November – Bureaucrats face Rudd axe, The Australian, incl. “Mr Tanner last night claimed to have identified $10 billion worth of budget savings to help fund Labor’s election promises. The savings, which include $1 billion from scrapping the Access card welfare identification program, have been submitted to Treasury for costing”
  • 20 November – Democrats want to kill off ID card, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Democrats will continue to oppose the introduction of a national identity card, and will seek to wind back Australia’s “intrusive” anti-terror laws, says Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, who will launch the party’s privacy policy in Adelaide today. “The Howard Government has enacted about 40 pieces of security-related legislation, many of which have removed independent judicial scrutiny of surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations,” she said. “We have called for a Senate inquiry into these laws, and will continue to push for an urgent review with whichever party forms government in 2008.” The Democrats will also push for the reform of the Privacy Act, which Senator Stott Despoja describes as “more like a block of Swiss cheese than a bulwark against undue incursions into personal privacy”
  • 17 October – Access Card killed off by election?, ZDNet, incl. “The upcoming election could prove a fatal blow to the government’s Access Card plans, with privacy advocates encouraging a voter rebellion on the issue and Labor promising to drop the project if elected to government. The Access Card, the controversial project that would see welfare payments, health and other government services tied to a nationally administered smartcard, has been put on the backburner by the government after Prime Minister Howard called an election for 24 November. The government is unable to enter into new contracts while in caretaker mode, stalling any new efforts to pass legislation supporting the project or sign any further tenders.”
  • 16 October – Labor to dump Access Card, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne and Ben Woodhead), incl. “A Labor government would scrap the contentious $1.1 billion Access Card project, human services shadow minister Tanya Plibersek has confirmed. “We have said all along that if the Access Card had not been introduced by the time of the election we would not proceed with it,” Ms Plibersek said. “So, yes, we would scrap the proposal entirely.” and “the project has been in limbo since July, following a series of legislative and procurement stumbles. Human Services Minister Chris Ellison was forced to withdraw enabling legislation in March, after the draft bill was rejected by an all-party Senate committee. A revised exposure bill has since been languishing, with Senator Ellison in June saying the consultation period would extend beyond the 2007 election” and “Labor declared its opposition to the Access Card back in March, with Ms Plibersek describing it as “simply a national ID card in disguise”. “It is an ill-conceived, poorly executed project that will cost a great deal more than the Government imagines or is prepared to admit,” she said. Ms Plibersek predicted the card would be an election issue. “It will be on the radar, as people realise every single Australian will have to attend an interview, be photographed and provide original documents they will have to apply for and pay for,” she said. “With the potential for the information they provide to be lost, stolen or misused, I think they’ll be very anxious.”
  • 19 September – Access card to go ahead despite backlash: Govt, ZDNet, incl. “Over 60 submissions have been received on the draft Bill from public and private organisations as well as individuals”, “The Australian Bankers Association (ABA) is calling for the government to remove parts of the legislation which would make it illegal for the card to be used as an identifier by non-government parties” and ” … the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) [calls] for more details on what information the card is going to contain, and expresses concern that its members will be expected to become Medicare-fraud police. “Health professionals cannot be expected to refuse health services as a consequence of a Medicare Australia rejection relating to Medical Benefits Schedule eligibility; this has consequences in terms of policing of eligibility, as it is now directly managed at the front desk in a practice,” Kate Carnell, AGPN Chief Executive Officer stated in a letter to the Access Card Senate Committee”
  • 18 September – ID theft brings tech to law, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), re the ALRC Discussion Paper, incl. “Privacy rules that prevent the use of identifying numbers assigned by other parties should be extended to public-sector agencies. The planned health and welfare access card would be caught by this provision under the proposed Unified Privacy Principle on identifiers. The commission says the Privacy Act policy intention of preventing identifiers becoming de facto national identity numbers remains relevant for federal government schemes. Privacy concerns about data matching include revealing previously unknown information about individuals without their knowledge or consent, profiling of individuals and compiling data sets based on possibly inaccurate information without right of correction, and database security. The Tax File Number scheme provides an example of the risk of function creep with unique multi-purpose identifiers”
  • 7 September – Access card ‘more secure than Medicare’, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. ” …the existing Medicare card, which figures in 70 per cent of serious and organised crime identity investigations and 50 per cent of all fraud investigations,” a spokesman for Senator Ellison told AAP [??!]. [The Minister’s adviser is mounting a ‘straw man’ defence: no-one ever said that the Medicare card was the standard to be compared against]
  • 6 September – In ‘Future directions in technology-enabled crime : 2007-09’ (1.5MB), Australian Institute of Criminology, ” … [the Access Card] will have widespread uses and applications, making it a likely target for criminals. … [S]uch cards may facilitate the surreptitious collection of personal data. For example, the unique multi-purpose identifiers ease the monitoring of individuals’ activities across different organisations and could be exploited by rogue employees. Other areas of risk include those associated with dishonest initial enrolment of users as well as data security, both with respect to the card’s computer chip as well as supporting databases” (pp. 42-43)
  • 4 September – Smartcard costs hit $52 million, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Spending on the federal Government’s mooted welfare smartcard has reached $52 million, despite uncertainty over whether the $1.1 billion program will proceed. New contracts worth nearly $10 million have been signed by the Department of Human Services since June [!!!], with most due for completion well before the end of this year. … The project’s lead adviser, Booz Allen Hamilton, collected $30.5 million in fees during the past financial year … Law firm Minter Ellison earned $6.2 million … consultancy KPMG picking up $4 million for its monitoring and assurance duties. Technology services provider SMS Consulting Group had a steady run of contracts, totalling $1.6 million, while IT services supplier Acumen Alliance earned $1 million during the year. … Research and public relations firms ORIMA, Porter Novelli and Mediascape held contracts worth a combined $3 million over the past two years, while advertising firm HMA Blaze earned $143,000 for two weeks’ work seeking public comment on the draft Access Card legislation “
  • 29 August – Ruddock attacks Labor access card ‘mistake’, ABC News, incl. “Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock says Labor’s decision to scrap the Government’s planned access card is foolish. The Federal Opposition says it will scrap the legislation drawn up to support the card if it wins power. Speaking at the launch of National Identity Fraud Awareness Week, Mr Ruddock said Labor is making a mistake. “It will minimise the opportunity for people to establish false identity and obtain access to benefits and that’s where it has a very important spin off for the Australian community,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I think it’d be foolish for the Labor Party to walk away from the proposal”
  • 29 August – Labor pledges to kill off Access Card, The Age, incl. ““As far as we’re concerned, (the Access Card) is dead,” Labor human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said. Voters worried about the card now had a clear choice between a Coalition government that would introduce the smartcard — which would replace up to 17 social services cards and be required by anyone wanting to access government payments — and one that would not, Ms Plibersek said. She accused the Government of “doing everything it can to minimise the Access Card as an election issue … (ever since) it became obvious that it was not a popular proposal”. Labor’s confirmation that it would scrap the card — and any similar proposals — came as a new report by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner suggested Australians may be warming to the idea. The survey of 1503 people found 63 per cent were happy with the Government giving them a unique identifying number, compared with 53 per cent in 2004. [The question referred to “a” unique identifying number cf. a general-purpose number designed to enable cross-linkage across all databases]. And 80 per cent were happy for government departments to share information about them, up from 71 per cent in 2004. One of the fears raised by privacy advocates and opposition parties was that under the Access Card proposal, information held across several government departments could be combined through the use of the unique identifying numbers, effectively creating a “super-database” of information. Ms Plibersek denied the Privacy Commissioner’s report suggested Australians were now more open to the Access Card. The survey did not ask specifically about the card, and, in any case, “when the Australia Card was first debated, the opposition to it was not big,” she said. “It took a year of public debate to really shift attitudes on the Australia Card, but as people learnt more about it, their concerns were heightened.” Labor has argued that the way the Access Card is designed, it would turn into a de facto identity card much like the failed Australia Card. Ms Plibersek said Labor was not against the use of smartcard technology to deliver some government services. But a single card required by everyone who wanted to access services — and supported by a database holding information about all card holders — was simply an ID card by another name, she said. Under a Labor government, there would be “no super-database that contains all the information about a person and no effective ID card that you have to carry all the time,” she said. Ms Plibersek also questioned Government estimates that the Access Card could save up to $3 billion over 10 years by cutting down on fraud, saying such claims were overblown. “The Government has made very favourable assumptions about what (the card) would cost and what it would save (in prevented fraud),” she said. “Even without the objection to privacy implications, the card was going to cost a lot of money for a very questionable benefit.”
  • 28 August – Health card photo fears, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “The Privacy Commissioner has advised the Federal Government not to include photographs on the proposed health and welfare card unless it wants people to think of it as a de facto national identity card. … [I]n comments on the draft legislation …, Ms Curtis said a photograph would make it easier to verify the bearer’s identity but people did not need to produce photographic proof to obtain most government payments and services. Photo-identification should only be required for ‘high-risk or high-value transactions’, but a driver’s licence or passport would do”
  • 28 August – APEC pass farce: it’s no go, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “The security accreditation cards for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum have stopped working, hours after the APEC Taskforce began issuing them. APEC staff at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre were forced to abandon a card-swipe computer and confirm the identity of individuals visually. … But an APEC Taskforce spokeswoman said the system was down for less than an hour. “We haven’t compromised our security by going through a visual id check,” she said. [So the automated system is unnecessary?!]. … The 1500 journalists expected into Sydney for the summit have all had to register and receive a security identification card. Many people who work and live the APEC security areas have also had to register and undergo a security check for the summit. … Mr Johnson said an APEC staff member said the database, run by the defence company Thales Australia, was not uploading correctly to the APEC computers. The Herald has been told that there had been numerous problem with the APEC registration website run by Thales with many pages not correctly capturing the data”
  • 24 August – Smartcard on hold till next year, The Australian, incl. Ellison admitted that “I think the timeline we set was an ambitious one”, and that there is no way he would put forward legislation before 2008, i.e. until after the election
  • 12 August – China Enacting a High-Tech Plan to Track People, The New York Times, reporting on a similar scheme in the un-free country of the PRC: “in Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens. Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlordís phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial ìone childî policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card”
  • 1 August – Access denied: young people and the new ‘smartcard’, ABC Opinion by Luke Bo’sher (a policy officer at the Youth Coalition of the ACT), incl. “Hidden well beneath the simmering debate about privacy, technology, safety and cost, the Federal Government has made young people’s access to health care more tenuous than it has ever been before … Anyone below the age of 18 will require an exemption from the Minister to get a card … The Government is proposing to substantially increase the power of one individual Minister to decide whether or not a young person has the right to independently access health care …Requiring all young people to be on their parents’ Access Card would deny young people the opportunity to access health care independently and would compromise their right to confidentiality of treatment. Confidentiality and privacy in accessing health care is central to young people”
  • 17 July – Big spend on project in limbo, The Australian IT Section, incl. “The pace of contract signings is in stark contrast to a decision by the federal Government last month to put legislation governing the controversial smartcard in limbo. The Government has since issued a draft exposure of the proposed smartcard bill, but it has not committed to a release date for the final legislation and is not expected to do so until after the federal election
  • 12 July – Opposition seeks costings on Access Card, The Age, incl. “Opposition human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said … the ANAO’s decision was another vote of no-confidence in the project, which was “fast becoming an expensive debacle” …. Ms Plibersek said great sums of money had been spent on the card by the government and tenderers seeking work on the project, even though it had not been approved by parliament. “The Howard government has already spent 40 million taxpayers’ dollars on the Access Card, including more than $3 million on advertising,” she said in a statement. “Tenderers, which include small businesses, have been badly burnt by the government’s handling of this project, and are understandably angry”
  • 12 July – Access Card should be ordered off the field for good, OnLine Opinion by Natasha Stott Despoja, incl. “the government could just as easily snatch victory from the jaws of defeat despite the valiant efforts of those who oppose the Access Card. Those of us who oppose the card can not be complacent. This campaign could come down to extra time”
  • 10 July – Watchdog eyes card project, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The auditor-general may put the Human Services Department under the spotlight over procurements for the proposed $1.1 billion Access Card. The Australian National Audit Office has flagged the project for possible audit this year. It would examine tender processes, service delivery and administration, and payments under relevant contracts. “These procurements are likely to include the co-ordination/construction of customer databases, the development and production of the physical card, and the customer registration process,” the ANAO says. Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja welcomed scrutiny of “the administration of what amounts to the biggest invasion of privacy” in the nation’s history
  • 1 July – Senator protests info fee, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “In May, Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja lodged a freedom of information request for excerpts deleted from the business case, arguing that commercial confidentiality no longer applied. The Human Services Department has put an $867.23 price tag on the release of the full KPMG Access Card report, including “commercially sensitive information” previously withheld”
  • 26 June – Ellison rejects Access agency, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Human Services Minister Chris Ellison has rejected recommendations to establish a separate Access Card agency to handle governance of the registration process and resolve complaints. Business consultancy KPMG and the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce have both called for the creation of an independent health and welfare smartcard management authority within the Human Services Department” [Ellison thereby continues the well-established tradition of Ministers ignoring the advice of the people who they employ, contract with and appoint to guide them through the morass]
  • 25 June – Access Card re-draft fails to meet critics’ concerns, ZDNet, incl. “The Australian Democrats, the Australian Labor Party and privacy groups continue to hold serious concerns regarding the federal government’s proposed Access Card, after a re-draft of the legislation was released on Thursday last week” and “Concerns have also been raised by University of New South Wales researcher Dr Richard Kemp that the government may overestimate the effectiveness of photo ID in the prevention of fraud. His concern is that the means to override the biometric identification will always fall back on humans, whose capacity to recognise an unknown individual from a photograph is somewhat limited. “My research shows an extremely high rate of both false positive and false negative errors when human beings are asked to recognise people based on a photo ID,” Dr Kemp said. “When you consider that we found a number of possible mistaken identities in a random group of just a hundred, without even attempting to use family members, you start to see how the effectiveness of photos can potentially be misleading””
  • 23 June – Rebels claim win over Smartcard,, incl. “Rebel Coalition MPs and senators – many Queenslanders – are claiming victory in the fight to shelve the controversial welfare smartcard. One Queensland Liberal said yesterday the Federal Government’s proposed $1.1 billion card was “dying a slow death” and there was “no way it would get up before the election”. … But many civil libertarians, as well as influential Liberals, are worried it will turn into a de facto national identity card. … Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said despite the assurances it appeared the Government was going backwards in protecting privacy. “In some ways the Bill is worse, confirming that police and ASIO will be able to access the national database without a warrant,” she said. A spokesman for Senator Ellison said there was no decision on the future of the card. “The minister has said the legislation may or may not be introduced this year,” he said”
  • 22 June – No warrant for smartcard data, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “Police and intelligence officials will not need a warrant to obtain personal information stored on the databank of the proposed national smartcard under draft legislation made public yesterday. The draft, released to allow two months of public scrutiny, allows details to be disclosed on the written request of senior officers”
  • 21 June – Card laws fly low – lobbyists, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Access Card No Way campaigner Tim Warner said … to ensure it isn’t scrutinised officially, it has not been tabled in Parliament; it has been distributed with a press release to journalists at the close of the sitting, when the trash gets taken out“, “the House is now adjourned until August 2”, “A spokesman said the document was out for public comment, and did not require tabling in Parliament. “We have said we will introduce the legislation when we’re satisfied with the outcomes of consultation,” he said. “We have put it out for public consultation for two months; we will also refer it to the Senate committee (which rejected a previous Access Card Bill). Depending on how things go, that could still happen before an election, the timing of which of course is unknown”, and “shadow minister Tanya Plibersek … said the confusion surrounding the Access Card had turned into a debacle, and expressed outrage that the minister had given the draft to journalists, rather than tabling it. “It was circulated to a hand-picked audience a couple of hours before Parliament rose,” she said. “The Government has also reneged on its commitment to release a report on a card appeals mechanism; a paper on the registration process, and a privacy impact assessment.” With more than $40 million in taxpayers’ dollars already spent on the Access Card, “all Australians have a right to know where this botched project is heading,” she said”
  • 13 June – Angry Smartcard bidders want answers, AFR (Julian Bajkowski), incl. one source claims delays in the project are costing bidders – “We have already burned a truckload of cash. How much more do they expect us to burn?”. Companies understood to be seeking clarification include Accenture, IBM, EDS and CSC. Many employees of companies seeking smartcard contracts have been banned from communicating with staff seconded from Centrelink and Medicare Australia to the Office of Access Card, which manages the project. DHS has warned bidders that contact with the media could cause them to be thrown off the list of companies being considered. DHS sent written warnings to bidders informing them of penalties related to making public statements without obtaining written permission from the department
  • 8 June – The Access Card has stalled. So now let’s really talk about it, The Age, Op. Ed. piece by Christopher Scanlon, incl. “Speaking at the Australian Smart Cards Summit on Tuesday, Senator Chris Ellison conceded that the Government’s trouble-prone Access Card is to be delayed, probably until after the election. The official reason is to allow for greater consultation with the states and the territories. That’s a refreshing change, given that the Government has so far shown very little interest in consultation. The Access Card was unsuccessfully rammed through the Senate in a deliberate attempt to limit debate. The good news is that the card’s delay will give the breathing space for some debate about the proposed card”
  • 7 June – Some details ‘should be left off smartcard’,, incl. “Some personal details should be left off the proposed national access card to protect privacy and stop it becoming a de facto identity card, a government taskforce says … Mr Fels told the Australian Smart Cards Summit in Sydney today that he was mindful of widespread community fears that the access card could become a national identity card by stealth
  • 6 June – Smart Card sacrificed ahead of election: Labor, ABC News, incl. “The Federal Opposition says the Government has delayed introducing its Smart Card policy because of community opposition. Yesterday the Government announced the health and social services Access Card may not be introduced until next year. Labor’s human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek has told the Australian Smart Card Summit in Sydney that the Government-proposed access card is too expensive and there are still privacy concerns. “What happened yesterday was a bit of excess baggage that we’ve ditched from the saddle bags on the way to an election,” she said. “I think this proposal has been jettisoned because it’s been publicly unpopular, not because of the technology but because of the whole framework that has been presented to the public””
  • 5 June – Access card legislation could be delayed, The Age, incl. “Legislation to introduce a national access card could be delayed until after the upcoming federal election amid fears the photographic smartcard may become a de facto identity card. Human Services Minister Senator Chris Ellison told the Australian Smart Cards Summit in Sydney more consultation was needed with the states and territories before the government could introduce the access card bill. … It is a controversial project and one the government wants to distance itself from during an election year, Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja said. “The project has been farcical from the very beginning. The original bill was fatally flawed,” she said in a statement. “While not shutting the door on it, this announcement may mean a gentle death for the access card proposal before the election””
  • 5 June – Troubled smartcard in doubt after delay, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “The $1.1 billion national smartcard looks in jeopardy, with the Government backing away from its plan to enact laws for the project before the federal election … The delay is the latest upset for the card scheme after the first tranche of legislation was withdrawn earlier this year following a critical report of a Government-chaired Senate committee which raised concerns about security and privacy safeguards. The access card and its biometric photograph faced a turbulent reception in the Senate, with no guarantee it would pass because of likely resistance from some Coalition members, including the Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce. The Government has also been under fire for not providing more time for public scrutiny of the access card. Senator Ellison said yesterday that after “extensive discussions” the Government had decided “further consultation would be of value”.”
  • 4 June – Access card put on backburner, Australian IT Section, incl. “The federal Department of Human Services has delayed the launch of its $1.1 billion welfare access card by up to eight months following a series of legislative and procurement stumbles. The department previously said it would begin registrations for the access card in April and May next year, but has now conceded it will be late 2008 before it starts signing up Australian residents. The delay is an embarrassing blow for the high-profile project, which has already cost $41 million and has come under fire from the opposition political parties and privacy groups. … The revelation came in Senate hearings in which Department of Human Services executives admitted $3.1 million had been spent on public awareness campaigns for the card. The expenditure included about $1 million each on market research and media placement services. … The card continues to encounter fierce opposition, and Australian Privacy Foundation No ID Card campaign director Anna Johnston yesterday called for the project to be scrapped. “The project management of the access card is in such a state of shambles that the project should be shut down immediately,” Ms Johnston said. “Forty million dollars of taxpayers’ money has already been spent this year on external advisers on this project and yet the Government still has not figured out how the access card is supposed to work”
  • 24 May – Govt ‘spending big on Access card ads’, The Age, incl. “The federal government has spent more than $3 million on advertising the controversial Access card even before it has been approved by parliament, a Senate committee has heard. … Draft laws setting up the smart card were put on hold in March after a government-dominated Senate committee warned it was likely to become a de facto identity card. The government now plans to re-introduce the legislation into the Senate next month. … Labor senator Kate Lundy said it was absurd that so much money had been spent when the government had not yet finalised the legislation”
  • 21 May – Dems demand smartcard report, Australian IT Section, incl. “Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is seeking the release of the full KPMG Access Card report, including “commercially sensitive information” previously withheld””
  • 17 May – Access card heads back to Senate, Australian IT Section, incl. “Draft laws establishing a controversial billion-dollar health and welfare access card will be reintroduced to federal parliament next month. A photograph, signature and personal number will be retained as key components of the smart card, despite concerns raised by privacy advocates, Opposition politicians and coalition backbenchers about such a move”
  • 12 May – Smartcard hardly a picture of health, The AFR (Julian Bajkowski), incl. a good short history, and “The billion-dollar project is causing major headaches for the Howard government in the run-up to the election expected later this year. It should have been a red-letter day, but the federal government’s troubled $1.1 billion welfare smartcard project has celebrated an unhappy first birthday with another round of musical chairs at the Department of Human Services, which is charged with heading the project. A year after the ambitious proposal was launched, signs have emerged that Prime Minister John Howard and public service head Peter Shergold are starting to have reservations about the huge project, which aims to issue 16 million photographic identity cards. Howard moved decisively this week to swap Department of Human Services head Patricia Scott for Helen Williams, the head of Helen Coonan’s Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. … One trigger for the government’s present woes and the resulting rotation of top bureaucrats was the demolition of evidence submitted by Scott to a government-controlled Senate inquiry into the smartcard by Australian Security Intelligence Organisation chief Paul O’Sullivan. It was not the sort of performance anticipated by a government that controlled the balance of power in both houses of parliament and which has passed controversial workplace and media reforms. While Scott repeatedly had stated that ASIO would require warrants to access the project’s huge photographic registry – supposedly capable of matching surveillance vision with pictures of welfare recipients – O’Sullivan maintained that present national security powers already permitted ASIO to access the registry without the need to obtain a warrant. The dispute was immediately exploited by Labor and the minority parties … O’Sullivan’s evidence … crystallised concerns held by Queensland Nationals senators Barnaby Joyce and Ron Boswell that the smartcard had become another version of Labor’s ill-fated Australia Card, which was scuttled in 1984 [sic: 1987], and carried with it an Orwellian stench of electoral death … Notably, private sector conservative stalwarts, including Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Hendy, also remain hostile to the notion of a national identity card, not least because of the increased burden it will place on businesses … A further unanticipated irritation is the obvious conflict with anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism laws, which were introduced by Ellison during his previous role as customs and justice minister. Banks and merchants are angry that anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism laws compel them to collect, retain and submit records of a customer’s identity, while the new smartcard laws introduce heavy sanctions for just such an action
  • 8 May – Privacy concerns over Government net plans, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “The announcement [of a single sign-on service as part of the Australian Government Online Service Point] comes as the government struggles to win support for a national Access Card
  • 27 April – Ministerial Media Release, announcing that Helen Williams (Secretary of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) will swap appointments with Patricia Scott (Secretary of the Department of Human Services) as of Monday 7 May 2007. The gaffe before the Senate Committee on 9 March would appear to have cost Scott her position
  • 24 April – IBM, Thales make smartcard short list, The AFR, incl. “a short list of two companies, IBM and Thales, to manage the project”, “Thales has a longstanding business installing smartcard systems in Europe” and “Ellison faces a knife-edge vote in the Senate when he introduces legislation to authorise the card in June. revising the proposed laws prepared by his predecessor, Ian Campbell, earlier this year. Nationals senator Bamaby Joyce has warned he will vote against the legislation if it does not do enough to guarantee privacy, while Family First senator Steve Fielding also has concerns about the project. But the most important challenge to the project is likely to come from coalition MPs who object to the inclusion of a photograph on the front of the card”
  • 18 April – Democrats urge revolt on access card, The Age (AAP), incl. “Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja said Senator Ellison’s comments showed the card would still act as a national identity card. “I think this government needs to get ready for some backbenchers crossing the floor,” Senator Stott Despoja said. “I think it’s possible this card will be defeated if the National Party sticks to their guns, if Family First really cares about the privacy of families in Australia and if various small `L’ Liberal backbenchers stay true to their beliefs and conscience … then this card should fail.” Senator Stott Despoja said committee chairman Brett Mason, now a Liberal frontbencher, must stand tall with other coalition politicians. “There is no way that they can go on record in the Senate committee process with such (strong) concerns and back away from those,” she said”
  • 18 April – Photo on card vital, says Ellison, The Australian IT Section, incl. “A photograph, signature and personal number will be retained as key elements of the Howard Government’s new Access Card, despite backbench protests this will make it a de facto identity card” and “Senator Ellison’s views threaten a split in Coalition ranks that could derail swift implementation of the card. Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said he was prepared to cross the floor on the issue. “We don’t believe Big Brother should be watching you,” Senator Joyce said. The Senate committee said the rules meant to prevent the card being used for identity purposes would “become dead letter law” and “Labor will oppose the legislation, with human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek maintaining the card could increase fraud and lead to breaches of privacy”
    “With that much information on the face of the card, it’s a de facto ID card,” she said.
  • 18 April – Access card under fire over ID concerns, The Age (AAP), incl. “Ellison said the concerns raised by his colleagues [about “a photograph, signature and personal number” did not reflect the views of the community” and “I think the case has been built [!!!] for there to be a photo, a signature and a number on the face of the card …”
  • 17 April – Biometrics errors ‘too high’, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The EFA cites a European Commission report that found facial recognition unsuitable for large databases. “Accuracy drops when the acquisition and test occur further apart in time, suggesting faces may need regular re-enrolment,” the report says. EFA rejects departmental claims that the access card proposal is based on tried and tested technology, and claims references to international projects are misleading” and “There was no evidence to substantiate claims that face-matching technology would help identify unknown people, as in the Cornelia Rau case”. See the EFA’s submission on which the article is based
  • 10 April – We’ve given away our privacy, a card’s just the final blow, The Age (Opinion Piece by Christopher Scanlon), incl. “Hockey’s description of the Access Card [as ‘a mini iPod’] was, of course, disingenuous in the extreme, though there is a method to his madness”, “There are, of course, differences between surveillance by the state and deciding to put your whole life online. For example, there’s no compulsion to have a blog, or even to reveal all on it. Individuals are free to put up and take down content as they choose. A similar refusal to have, or produce, an Access Card would result in a denial of access to medical and welfare services. However, such technologies have made the Access Card palatable in a way that the Australia Card was not” and “Hockey’s likening the Access Card to an iPod isn’t as mad as it seems. Rather, it taps into deeply entrenched myths about the capacity of technology to empower individuals and expand choice. Defeating the Access Card will require more than simply arguing that the card encroaches on individual privacy. Rather it will mean recovering a sense of what privacy is and why it matters”
  • 3 April – ID card hearings cancelled, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Public hearings on the Access Card registration process were cancelled in Sydney yesterday and in Brisbane today due to “a lack of interest”, “anti-card campaigners are furious about the limited notice of the hearings, which follow weeks of rushed consultations over technical matters and the draft bill, and a Senate inquiry that sent back the legislation for revision”, “Details of the public hearings [were buried] … Those wishing to attend the Sydney session had only six working days notice” and “Once again, proper process is being sacrificed for political expediency, and the so-called independent taskforce is not standing up to the minister on this issue,” [No ID Card Campaign Director] Ms Johnston said”
  • 30 March – Card will be debated – Ellison, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Senator Ellison said that the Access Card Bill would be tabled in Parliament June 12 allowing two months’ public debate before its fate is considered by the Senate [BUT SEE CLARIFICATION BELOW]. Access Card No Way convenor Tim Warner emerged from a 45-minute meeting with Senator Ellison yesterday with a commitment to a firm timeline, and public hearings in every state” and “Senator Ellison has also referred concerns about costings, particularly for photo-capable terminals, to the Finance Department and promised to release that information, Mr Warner said”. [Ellison later declared that he had made no commitment to hold public hearings. Any public hearings would be the responsibility of the Senate Committee. The Government does not recognise any public right to participate in the process of designing schemes that are intended to subjugate the public]
  • 27 March – Card opponents fear report go-slow, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “Anti-Access Card campaigners said that the federal Government was undermining the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce by “sitting on its reports” until publication suits them. Anna Johnston, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation’s No ID Card campaign, said the taskforce’s key paper on the card registration process appeared to have been delayed until the Access Card Bill was passed by the Senate. “Happily this tactic failed, as the Senate committee refused to let the Bill go through without further scrutiny of the details,” she said”
  • 24 March – Fears for card security, The Age, incl. “The taskforce warned that there was a danger that criminals could try to hack into the system to acquire passport or birth certificate details of applicants when they registered online”
  • 23 March – Sign-up queue card’s biggest hurdle, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The fate of the federal Government’s Access Card scheme rests upon successfully registering more than 16 million people at a rate of well over 30,000 per working day between 2008 and 2010, the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce warns”, “The initial application will have to be in writing, followed by attendance at a face-to-face interview where people will have to produce a range of identity documents which will be copied for checking. A biometric photograph will be taken for inclusion on the card, and people will need to provide a digital signature”
  • 23 March – Photo could delay smartcard by five years, AFR (Julian Bajkowski), incl. “Pressure has intensified for the federal government to dump the biometric photograph planned for its troubled welfare smartcard project after the head of a similar scheme in Austria warned a photograph was unnecessary and could result in delays of up to five years. The managing director of the Austrian government’s welfare smartcard agency, SVC, Ursula Weismann, said yesterday the exclusion of an identifying photograph had been necessary to retain public support for a welfare smartcard scheme largely similar to the one proposed for Australia”, “The promotion of a successful photo-free smartcard option by private industry supportive of smartcard technology has come as the government mulls what concessions it will need to make to persuade fiercely resistant coalition senators from Queensland to support the troubled project … senior coalition figures … increasingly concerned the smartcard project has become an escalating electoral liability in the face of deteriorating polls, with little visible advantage for citizens in the near term”
  • 21 March – Access card legislation set for June, ZDNet, incl. “Ellison will meet with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia as well as consumer, health and privacy groups in the next 10 days. “The purpose of the meetings is to hear first hand from groups who made submissions or attended the public hearing of the Senate inquiry, about their views, issues and concerns regarding the Access Card. This is not about revisiting the concept of the card …” [What, pray tell, is the point of a meeting that can have no outcome??]
  • 20 March – ID card stumbles on report of Senate, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Access Card Office “should do the responsible thing and call off the tendering process”, said Anna Johnston, No ID Card campaign director for the Australian Privacy Foundation. “The Senate committee was pretty damning of project development, and any suggestion that procurement is not affected by the bill’s cancellation is both contemptuous and negligent,” Ms Johnston said. “The Government really needs to go back to the drawing board and think the whole project through again.” That meant “the tendering work done to date is surely null and void”, she said. “If the Government is telling tenderers any different, it’s leading people up the garden path” and “The Public Interest Advocacy Centre said the Government was paying the price for putting “the cart before the horse”. “It must guarantee that it will proceed no further until fundamental flaws are addressed,” the centre’s chief executive, Robin Banks, said. “To sign contracts to roll out the Access Card before accompanying legislation passes through both houses of parliament would be completely irresponsible.”
  • 20 March – Privacy no loss in Access Card, The Age Business Section (Mirko Bagaric) – an impassioned but error-ridden hymn of support for a national ID scheme, accompanied by a cartoon which took a different line entirely
  • 18 March – Access card hits credit limit, The Canberra Times (Peter Martin). Apart from a couple of quibbles, an excellent summary of the scheme and the Senate Committee’s review of it. It’s so good that we’ve created a mirror of the article
  • 16 March 2pm – Govt to push ahead with smartcard plan, The Age, incl. “The federal government will push ahead with its proposed health and welfare smartcard, despite a Senate inquiry raising major concerns it could become a de facto identity card”, “The government has taken the recommendation on board, saying it hopes to introduce a consolidated bill as early as June. Human Services Minister Chris Ellison says any changes won’t delay the introduction of the card. “I want to see the access card rolled out in 2008,” Senator Ellison told reporters in Perth. Senator Ellison says he will be meeting with stakeholders in the next fortnight to discuss other concerns raised by the committee. “This is certainly not the end of the access card and people are seriously mistaken if they think that is,” he said”, and “”In order for the government to fix up all of those problems … the government would face the prospect of dealing with an extraordinarily contentious piece of legislation just before the federal election,” [Greens] Senator Nettle told reporters in Canberra. “Even their own backbench doesn’t support this legislation and has massive concerns about it,” she said”

March 2007 ­ Government-Dominated Senate Committee Hammers ‘Access Card’

    • 16 March, am edition – Access Card vote halted by privacy doubts, The Age, incl. “Legislation for the Government’s controversial health and welfare Access Card will be withdrawn from Parliament after it was sent back to be redrafted by a cross-party committee over fears that it represented a threat to privacy. The Government has avoided the embarrassment of having its own senators cross the floor to vote against the Access Card bill by declaring it would follow the committee’s recommendation to introduce all the legislation for the card together in one bundle. But Human Services Minister Chris Ellison said in a statement that the Government was still committed “to having the legislation passed this year” and that he was confident the Government could deal with concerns raised by the Senate inquiry. But the scathing report suggests the Government still has a long way to go before it convinces even its own backbenchers that the Access Card is no Australia Card”
    • 16 March – Greens say good riddance to access card, The West Australian, incl. “The proposed new access card has too many problems and should be ditched instead of revamped, the Australian Greens say. … Greens senator Kerry Nettle said the card had too many flaws for the government to deal with before the election. “In order for the government to fix up all of those problems…the government would face the prospect of dealing with an extraordinarily contentious piece of legislation just before the federal election,” Senator Nettle told reporters. “Even their own backbench doesn’t support this legislation and has massive concerns about it”
    • 16 March, 08:22 – Backbenchers warn of problems with access card, ABC AM, incl. “Some of the fiercest critics of the Government’s proposed Access Card are within its own ranks. More than a handful on the coalition backbench are worried it could easily morph into something like the Australia Card, which was proposed back in the mid 1980s. And now this Senate report, chaired by Liberal Brett Mason, has added its weight to that criticism and added a lot more besides”, “Chris Ellison: What we’ll do is we’ll simply defer it, and we’ll look at amending the Bill to include the further provisions which we were going to include in the second tranche of legislation that was going to deal with safeguards and appeals and a number of other aspects. We’ll also consider carefully what the Committee said … I’m going to use that as an opportunity to have some round tables with key stakeholders to assess their views
    • 16 March – Access Card stalls, The Australian IT Section, incl. “Although the move heads off a split within Coalition ranks, it is likely to derail the swift implementation of the card, which was designed to provide access to government services. Senator Ellison said the Government still hoped to pass the legislation this year, although it was unclear what impact the delay would have on the rollout of the Access Card, which was slated to come into operation in April next year”, “Despite uncertainty about the new timeline, Senator Ellison said the Government remained “committed to having the legislation passed this year”, “Seldom do Coalition senators make recommendations that are critical of a government program, let alone multiple critical recommendations … but the Access Card is so bad they have swallowed their fears and spoken out,” Opposition Human Services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said. Democrats senator Natasha Stott-Despoja said the report showed that the card needed to be “cut up and the flawed legislation shredded”
    • 16 March – Backlash fear sparks ID card rethink, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mark Metherell), incl. “The Federal Government has swiftly bowed to a Senate committee report critical of the proposed national smart card and agreed to rethink the legislation. The report, by a Government-chaired committee, criticised legislation for the card, warning the scheme risked becoming a de facto identity card. Facing the prospect of a fiasco similar to that of the Australia Card, which sank an identity card scheme 20 years ago, the Government moved within two hours of the report’s release to quell a backlash against the $1.1 billion plan. It has promised to combine the legislation, which has passed the House of Representatives, with a second tranche containing privacy and other safeguards”
    • 16 March, 1:15am – Govt stands by smart card despite Senate concerns, ABC News, incl. “The Federal Human Services Minister is standing by the Government’s plan to roll out a health and welfare access card from next year, despite concerns raised by a Senate inquiry”, “He says he is not convinced by the committee’s concerns that measures to limit the card’s use will be ignored in practice. “No-one can unlawfully demand them to produce it to prove their identity,” [Ellison] said. He says that distinguishes this proposal from the failed Australia Card plan more than 20 years ago”
    • 15 March, 8:40pm – Govt agrees to delay smart card legislation, ABC News, incl. “The Federal Government has agreed to delay the first round of legislation designed to introduce a high-tech access card for health and welfare services”
    • 15 March, 8:04pm – Access card a risk: senate committee, The Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “The federal government will delay the first stage of its proposed health and welfare Smartcard, after an inquiry revealed major problems with the plan. A cross-party Senate committee warned on Thursday the high-tech access card was likely to become a de facto national identity card, despite measures aimed at limiting its scope. The committee, chaired by Liberal Brett Mason, says it was unable to fully assess the card because legislation covering its privacy and security safeguards had not yet been introduced. It recommended the legislation be rewritten to include the privacy provisions, which the government had planned to introduce down the track” and “But Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja says the inquiry has uncovered faults in the application process, the information register, the chip and the card itself. She wants the legislation scrapped”
    • 15 March, 5:38pm – Smart card delayed, The Courier-Mail, incl. “The Federal Government will delay the first stage of its proposed health and welfare smart card, after an inquiry revealed major problems with the plan. The decision follows the emergence of serious problems with the Federal Government’s plan to issue smart cards to 16 million Australians from early next year. A Coalition-controlled Senate inquiry last night appealed to the Government to go back to the drawing board amid concern the technology was not ready to be rolled out. In a damning report, the standing committee on finance and public administration warned that the so-called Access Card could become a de facto national ID card. The senators are worried safeguards are inadequate. The Courier-Mail reported this week that Australia’s privacy watchdog had warned the Government’s rush to introduce the technology was putting personal freedom at risk”
    • 15 March – Help needed to access new card, The Australian, incl. “The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has signalled that indigenous Australians could have difficulty meeting the registration requirements for the card, which will be needed from 2010 by anyone wanting to claim from Medicare or Centrelink” and “Labor human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek … said the same sort of problems would also be seen across the broader population. “I think that the difficulties that people have living in remote locations and having to travel and not having appropriate documents, of course they apply to indigenous people, (but) they also apply to non-indigenous people,” she said. “It just shows what an enormous bureaucratic nightmare this system will be.” She said there was a strong argument to be made for people who did not want their photo taken for cultural reasons. But she said literacy problems could also make it hard for people across the community to comply with the registration process. The Government had given no indication of how it was going to deal with such issues, she said.
    • 15 March – Access card to hit hip pocket, [Melbourne] Herald-Sun, incl. “FAMILIES could be billed more than $100 to get the Howard Government’s controversial new Medicare Access Card. In a costly bureaucratic nightmare, every person will have to supply a birth certificate, a passport or other “Category A” document to obtain a card. The Government confirmed yesterday that a driver’s licence would be accepted only as a supporting document. Those without a birth certificate will have to pay $25.80 to get one at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages — or about $100 for a family of four. A new passport costs $193, and also requires a birth certificate to obtain. Adding to the inconvenience of collecting the documents, applicants will be required to meet officials face-to-face, probably during business hours, forcing many to take time off work
    • 15 March – Details on card held forever, The Adelaide Advertiser, incl. “THE Federal Government has admitted transaction logs for the $1.1 billion welfare smart card will be kept indefinitely, prompting new concerns about tracking and surveillance abuse. The Human Services department has told the Democrats logs would be retained for “audit and security” purposes”
    • 13 March – ID card personal freedom threat, Courier-Mail, incl. “In a submission to a Senate inquiry examining the legislation, the Office of the Privacy Commission appeals to the Government to slow down, claiming a number of outstanding privacy and secrecy issues need to be sorted out. In particular, the independent body has advised the Government against finalising the legislative framework for the card before further consultation with relevant privacy and technology experts. “The Office believes it is important that legislative measures do not pre-empt the finalisation of important design and policy considerations,” it said.
    • 13 March – Fears card will access all areas , The Canberra Times (Peter Martin, Economics Editor), incl. “Why is it that each time a new government minister promotes the wonders of the new Access Card, I feel a chill?”, [important review of the function creep that quickly arose with the TFN], and [reference to the shady businessmen behind the national ID card push],
    • 13 March – New boss in ID card rush, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The rush to introduce the Access Card continues, with new Human Services Minister Chris Ellison unwilling to call a halt while details of the controversial scheme are thrashed out”, “Senator Ellison brushed off suggestions that he’d had insufficient time to digest the huge, $1.1 billion Access Card project. “In my previous portfolio of Justice Minister, I had experience with a range of issues similar to those involved with the program, including privacy and legislation,” he said. “These included the introduction of reforms to Australia’s anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, and the document verification service“, “As Customs Minister, Senator Ellison also presided over the disastrous $210 million cargo systems re-engineering IT project. His performance in that instance was criticised in an independent review last year by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton – now lead adviser on the Access Card project”, and “WA Premier Alan Carpenter has slammed the lack of consultation. He said a promised briefing by former Human Services minister Joe Hockey did not eventuate and a single meeting with Office of Access Card officials “focused on technical issues rather than strategic concerns and cost implications for the WA government”. Mr Carpenter has asked for “an agreed process for indemnifying the states for any additional costs accruing from the implementation, including the installation of infrastructure”
    • 13 March – Security advice missing over data card, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mark Metherell), incl. “The Federal Government has proposed to push ahead with initial legislation for the proposed national data card even before the system’s security has been vetted by electronic spy experts. The Defence Signals Directorate, which is advising the Government on card security, says it is too early to give advice on the issue”, “The Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said yesterday that he would need his concerns about official snooping to be allayed before he supported the legislation. The question was how “a bad government in the future” could be stopped from over-intruding into people’s private lives”, he said”, and “A proposal to include optional personal medical information on the card’s chip has been criticised by MedicAlert. The non-profit organisation said it would undermine its position as the only recognised symbol of emergency body-worn protection in Australi”
    • 13 March – ID card that’s not turns into a hot potato, The Australian IT Section, incl. “The latest card carrier is Chris Ellison, who knows all about big, bad IT projects, having presided over the Customs $200 million cargo management software mess. Ellison has less than nine months to drive the card forward before there is an election, which a resurgent Labor Party stands a chance of winning – for the moment”
    • 9 March – Access your areas, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mark Metherell), incl. “[Liberal Senator Brett Mason, Chair of the Senate Committee] told the committee several times his reservations are grounded in two dilemmas: the potential of the database to widen the risk of intrusive and unreasonable use of information about individuals; and the failure of government officials to persuade him of the need for a photograph, signature and individual number to be printed on the card surface”, “Mason took exception to [ASIO’s] O’Sullivan’s assurance that the legislation did not change ASIO’s access. That failed to recognise the position, Mason said, that the access card would create “some very powerful intelligence, for example potentially a photographic database of every Australian … that is far, far more powerful”, “The prospect of a qualified report from the Mason committee is likely to further unsettle Government senators already nervous about a reprise of the public response to the Australia Card”
    • 9 March – Queries over ASIO access to data card, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mark Metherell), incl. “The chairman of the committee, the Liberal senator Brett Mason, this week pressed police and intelligence chiefs to explain what access they would have to the card system’s store of 16.5 million photographs … it is likely that a majority of its members will suggest the photograph be optional or axed” [Mason is trying the ‘Gareth Evans’ tactic: get everyone to focus on just one small element, give in on that, and then everyone forgets about the other problems and passes the Bill], “The first tranche of legislation for the card has passed the House of Representatives, but it is looking vulnerable in the Senate, with all Opposition parties against it and at least one Coalition senator, Barnaby Joyce, signalling he could vote against the bill
    • 6 March – Ellison gets smartcard keys, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne and Ben Woodhead), incl. “The minister who presided over Customs’ disastrous cargo system re-engineering project has been handed the keys to the controversial Access Card project as part of a ministerial reshuffle. Prime Minister John Howard today announced that Senator Chris Ellison will replace Senator Ian Campbell as federal Minister for Human Services. … The whole project blew out by more than 600 per cent, from an initial estimate of $30 million, to over $210 million, and a woeful list of failures was documented in an Australian National Audit Office review published in January … The proposed Access Card is the largest IT project ever to be undertaken by the Australian Government – a $1.1 billion program to link key health and welfare agencies and issue smartcards to more than 16 million people by 2010. The enabling legislation has been under sustained attack this week at Senate inquiry hearings in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra over privacy, technology and legal concerns. Privacy lobbyists regard Senator Ellison’s credentials with suspicion – the Australian Privacy Foundation last year nominated him as the Worst Public Official in its annual Big Brother awards for the “Abolition of Financial Privacy legislation, masquerading as the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Bill. “This legislation turns thousands of bank tellers and other employees into amateur spies – with a legal obligation to report anyone who may be ‘acting suspiciously’,” APF judges said.”
    • 6 March – Chris Ellison takes over Access Card reins, ZDNet, incl. “Back to the future: Critics of the government … have swooped on the Ellison appointment, claiming his responsibility for the Australian Customs Service’s Cargo Management Re-engineering (CMR) debacle raised questions about his ability to manage large-scale projects. The botched introduction of the system for importers and customs brokers in late 2005 caused cargo to pile up at ports around the country as brokers struggled to gain clearances. … The Labor Party’s Shadow Customs and Justice Minister Joe Ludwig told ZDNet Australia today that Ellison’s oversight of the CMR project raised questions about his ability to administer the Access Card project. “There’s been an incredible reluctance it seems, at least on his part, to acknowledge what went wrong, so that you can have confidence that he’s actually learnt from his mistakes” Ludwig said
    • 6 March – Labor would scrap card scheme, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “If we come into government, we certainly won’t proceed with the card in its current form,” she said. “We believe the Government’s proposal is simply a national identity card in disguise, and we’re not about to introduce a national ID card” [says Tanya Plibersek, shadow minister for human services], and “Ms Plibersek said the Access Card would be an election issue. “It may not be on the radar for many yet, but it will be as people realise every single Australian will have to attend an interview, be photographed and provide original documents they will have to apply for and pay for,” she said. “When people realise the hoops they’re going to have to jump through, as well as the potential for the information they provide to be lost or stolen, or misused, I think they’ll be very anxious”
    • 6 March – Govt ‘misled’ card inquiry, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Australian Government has “seriously misled” a Senate inquiry into the Access Card Bill, says legal expert Graham Greenleaf in a devastating critique of the proposed regulatory framework. “I think the Government should be required to withdraw its submission and correct the document,” Professor Greenleaf has told the inquiry. “It should be required to explain to the committee why it has provided such misleading information about the Bill”, Access Card No Way co-ordinator Tim Warner told the inquiry … “The proposal is a ridiculous imposition to solve administrative failings of the Human Services department and Medicare Australia”, and “Given that all taxpayers fund the Medicare system, it is disingenuous of the Government to suggest the Access Card is not compulsory,” the [Festival of Light movement] says. “It is only ‘not compulsory’ to someone who is willing to forego entirely a service for which they are taxed.” The FoL said it was not clear what percentage of fraud was due to the use of false identities, compared to claims under a correct identity to benefits to which a person was not entitled. “An Access card could only help reduce the latter if it is linked to tax, employment and banking information.”
      “If fraud is suspected, we recommend that efforts be made to find those defrauding the system, without calling in 16 million ‘suspects’ for a 15-minute interview.” said
    • 5 March – Democrats Media Release (Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja), incl. “The Government wants the bill through the Senate before March 29 yet, this portfolio is about to gain its third Minister in as many months. Surely, this is a signal this bill must be scrapped. This is complex public policy. It straddles technological, medical, race and legal divides. It should not be legislated in such a piecemeal fashion”
    • 5 March – Greens Media Release (Senator Kerry Nettle), incl. “The new Minister will not be across the massive complexities of card and should put the process on hold until they are up to speed … Now that the current Minister in charge of the card has gone, it is
      time to put a halt to this hasty and dangerous process”
    • 5 March – ‘Access Card’ is a Cane Toad, Liberty Victoria Media Release, incl. “the card, like the cane toad, may be introduced with good intentions to deal with a serious problem and to save money. However, like the cane toad, the so-called “Access Card” would become a pest and do more harm than good by turning into a national ID card”
    • 4 March – Access Card chief falls on sword, ZDNet, incl. “Just over a month into the job, Human Services minister and Access Card champion Ian Campbell resigned on Saturday after being caught in Brian Burke’s influential tentacles
    • 2 March – Access card built for banks?, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Bill is silent on how the smartcard infrastructure may be used by business, yet the chief technology architect is due to tell an industry summit how the card could become the ‘common railroad’ for retail,” [No ID Card campaign director Anna Johnston] said. ” … the immediate impact will be the diversion of at least $1 billion from real services into the hands of the IT vendors, lawyers, consultants and advertising agencies feeding off this project”
    • 1 March – ID Card – Is Big Brother Stalking You?, Diffusion Science Radio / 2SER
    • 1 March – Haste needed on card, says govt, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The Coalition yesterday defeated four amendments proposed by Labor intended to “protect Australians from the worst fraud and privacy invasions” associated with the card. Shadow Minister for Work and Family Tanya Plibersek sought to delay card registrations until the Document Verification Service database is operational in 2010; to reduce ministerial power over the collection and sharing of personal information; provide that Australians are not required to carry the card at any time, and give the option not to put your number and signature on the face of the card”, “Meanwhile, Human Services Minister Ian Campbell may “scrub” space on the card for information voluntarily loaded by consumers, following the revelation that highly sensitive health or emergency data could be read by anyone with an approved reader“, and “Democrat Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja has called on the Government “to guarantee that no-one will ever be denied access to emergency treatment either on the basis of information contained on their card, or if they are not able to produce their card”.
    • 1 March – Smart card privacy laws promises made, [Melbourne] Herald Sun, incl. “[Campbell said] experience showed that people who exploited their position by inappropriately using other people’s personal details usually got caught” [!!??] “He said around 100 of Centrelink’s 38,000-strong workforce had been sacked after being caught”, and “Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja said the guidelines were not strong enough as they could be changed by the human services minister at any time. “If the access card is to go ahead, young people’s entitlement to it should be enshrined in law, and any future proposed changes to the age limit must be debated in Parliament,” she said.
    • 28 February – ‘ID card’ moves closer, The Age, incl. “Legislation setting up the card, which will be needed to access government services like Medicare and Centrelink, passed the lower house today after five Labor amendments were defeated. Two amendments related to the recommendations made by Professor Allan Fels in a report on the privacy aspects of the card”, and “Ms Plibersek said government backbencher Gary Hardgrave had enthused about police carrying portable card readers. Another Liberal, Steve Ciobo, had hit the nail on the head when he’d described it as a “Trojan horse for a national ID card”
    • 28 February – Full Access card face for Muslim women, [Sydney] Daily Telegraph / AAP, incl. “Muslim women who wear headscarves will have to make sure their face is fully visible when they have a photograph taken for the Government’s new access card”
    • 27 February – Golden noose tied to cards, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “The first two access-card contracts come with a golden noose attached, as successful bidders must lodge financial guarantees – understood to be more than $100 million – against project delays, breaches and failure to meet agreed services levels. Contractors will also bear “unlimited liability” for damages, including payments for every day a project is delayed. If a problem is not fixed within five days, the Department of Human Services has the right to terminate the contract and call on the financial guarantee. The Office of the Access Card declined to confirm the size of the financial guarantees, which were “commercial in-confidence” [BUT only because the Government made them so!]”, and “Meanwhile, Australian Privacy Foundation spokesman David Vaile said there was a risk that any contracts negotiated prior to the passage of all three proposed access card bills would be negated if they were inconsistent with the final legislation. “If I was a tenderer, I would be seeking advice on this risk,” he said”
    • 27 February – Trivial benefits not worth danger of abuse: Liberal, The Australian IT Section, incl. “Liberal Party supporters are preparing to mobilise against the health and welfare access card before the federal election, prominent Victorian Liberal Tim Warner has warned. Convenor of Access Card No Way, Mr Warner says the Bill before Parliament would create “a massive infrastructure for future governments” to abuse. “The trivial and overstated benefits of the access card do not outweigh the dangers of such a card,” he said last week at a Liberty Victoria forum. “The assembly and centralisation under one key of the most minute details of an ordinary Australian’s daily activities should be a cause of serious consternation. Who will be watching all the uses to which Big Brother will be putting this information about all of us?”
    • 27 February – Teenagers ‘could be denied medical care’, The West Australian / AAP, incl. “The federal government Tuesday released guidelines that allow people aged under 18 to access its proposed Smartcard, but has chosen not to include the guidelines in the legislation currently before parliament [because it was scrambled through] in a bid to appease coalition MPs divided over the issue”, and AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said: “It’s not acceptable”.
    • 27 February – Smart card to pass parliamentary hurdle, The West Australian / AAP, incl. “The government promised Tuesday that teenagers under 18 would be able to access the card but refused to put the policy into legislation. Instead it released guidelines outlining the change”, “Doctors and some government MPs are concerned the guidelines will have little legal protection and could easily be changed by a future minister”, and “Liberal MP Mal Washer, a medical doctor, said it would be a “crime against humanity” if children were prevented from accessing medical help because they could not talk to their parents about their problem. But Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce has flagged concerns about giving teenagers access to the card, an issue he plans to raise when the laws reach the Senate.
    • 27 February – Smartcards are not that smart, zone-h, incl. “according to Adrian McCullagh, researcher at the Queensland University of Technology’s Information Security Institute, it is already possible to identify a vulnerability in smartcard technology … The problem is un the fact that the access card will store personal details in two parts of the chip. … These two parts have to communicate with each other. This link represents a high-risk vulnerability, as Mr. McCullagh said. “It is possible to exploit the open or non-secure section to get into the secure section,” he declared. “You would probably start looking at the communications channel between the non-secure and the secure because that’s where the vulnerability will be”
    • 27 February – Too soon to deal smart card, The Australian, incl. “Labor human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said Labor did not oppose the card but was concerned about security. “This card is the Australia Card on steroids,” she said, referring to an attempt by the Hawke government to create an identity card in the 1980s”
    • 27 February – Access card will be forged, says MP, Australian IT Section, incl. “Labor’s human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said a censored report from accounting firm KPMG showed the government was unlikely to meet its target. “The government says that it will save $3 billion over 10 years and they keep claiming this figure, although the KPMG report that they’ve released in a highly censored version, says that it “could” save between $1.6 billion and $3 billion over 10 years,” Ms Plibersek said in parliament today. “If the figure is actually $1.6 billion they’d save more money by putting the $1.1 or $2 billion that they’re going to spend in the bank and collecting the interest”
    • 27 February – Govt concedes age limit on access card, ABC News, incl. “Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce has other concerns and he is also being lobbied by the Human Services Minister. “Senator Campbell’s office have come around to say g’day … If it comes to light that it’s a 1987 Australia card I certainly won’t be supporting it,” he said. While Liberal backbencher Steve Ciobo says he will support the access card, he warns it will not stop fraud. “The notion that in some way this card is unable to be forged is wrong,” he said.
    • 22 February – Smart Card Medical Data Builds on Privacy Concerns, IDM, incl. “A Consumer and Privacy Taskforce has offered a warning to Australians: Consider the privacy implications of the proposed storage space for personal and medical data on the Access Card. … Overall, the Taskforce found the majority of consumer submissions were in support of embedding emergency health and medical data into a consumer controlled area of the access card. But it’s what’s stored and how it is accessed that is concerning … The Taskforce recommends that blood type … be kept well away from the card
    • 20 February – Crucial ID card systems lagging, The Australian IT Section (Karen Dearne), incl. “No decisions about which identity documents will meet the tough standards for an Access Card have been taken”, “the Document Verification Service will not be operational until 2010”, “No system was capable of weeding out all fraud”, [Attorney General’s Department deputy secretary Miles Jordana] said, “While it appears ASIO will have access, it’s not clear under what circumstances,” [Greens NSW Senator Kerry Nettle] said. “We still don’t know what information will be on the database. We’re very concerned that this proposal is setting up infrastructure open to abuse by future governments, which may spy on the community” and “Some technical details have been revealed. The use of a proprietary system has not been ruled out, and contract specifications identify the features required without prescribing any particular system. Card readers will be available in agency offices so cardholders can check the details stored on the chip” [Wow. So now we know everything we need to evaluate the scheme???]
    • 19 February – ASIO to access smartcard data, The Australian Financial Review (Julian Bajkowski), incl.
      “The secretary of the federal Department of Human Services, Patricia Scott, told a Senate estimates hearing on Friday that authorised agencies such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and police would be allowed to use facial-matching technology on the smartcard’s central database registry to reveal a person’s identity solely from photographs” [False, in that facial recognition technology is completely incapable of supporting 1-to-many identification tasks], and “benefits could flow from facial matching. One example was the prevention of mix-ups such as the infamous Cornelia Rau incident, in which a mentally ill Australian citizen was wrongly thrown into an immigration detention centre. “Having a biometric photo will dramatically improve situations,” Ms Scott said. “If Cornelia Rau had been registered and had a [welfare smartcard] we would have been able to find her in our system” [Entirely False, for the reason outlined]
      “Ms Scott told the hearing that the facial-matching system would work by authorised agencies providing a warrant and photo of a person they wanted identified to DHS, whose staff would then attempt to match the photograph on the smartcard’s photographic registry” [Seriously Misleading, because some agencies do not need judicial authority]
      “existing overriding legislation” that governed the powers of police and security agencies gave them access to biometric data contained within the smartcard’s registry” [i.e. any privacy protections that may have been mooted have been undermined before the draft legislation even reaches Parliament]
    • 14 February – ALP wants more smartcard privacy, The Australian, incl. “Opposition human services spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the [Labor] party did not oppose the smartcard in principle, but was worried the proposal had been rushed through.”We think the use of smartcard technology in both health and social security has great potential,” she said. “But we think this bill and this plan has significant flaws” and “Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce confirmed yesterday he would reserve his support for the plan and would consider the concerns raised by Coalition and Labor MPs before voting. “I never agreed with the 1987 Australia Card,” he said. “I will be having a yarn with people who have been strongly involved in the debate before I vote. I’d hate to think I voted for Australia’s next compulsory ID card. That is not on. The quiet enjoyment of my privacy is something that’s important to me. I don’t want people keeping tabs on me for the sake of it. Unless I’ve done something wrong, I want to be left alone”
    • 14 February – Doubts over new card, The Sydney Morning Herald – “The potential for the Government’s controversial access card to be blocked in the Senate has increased with Labor threatening to oppose the legislation. The Opposition’s spokeswoman on the issue, Tanya Plibersek, says Labor agrees with the card in principle but that the first tranche of legislation to be debated today is sloppy on privacy safeguards. Labor also wants to be convinced that the $1.1 billion cost of the cards is justified”
    • 14 February – Michael Pierce SC: Your ID? It’s on the card, The Age, Opinion Piece, by the vice-president of Liberty Victoria
    • 12 February – Jim Nolan: Heading for an identity crisis, The Australian, Opinion Piece, by a Sydney barrister and former Executive Officer of the NSW Privacy Committee
    • 11 February – Access Card guarantees ‘won’t protect us’, The Age, incl. “Julian Burnside, president of Liberty Victoria, said it was inevitable the State Government would tap into the opportunities presented by the new Federal Access Card … “It will become a universal ID card; that’s the bottom line of it.”” and “”The Australian Government is working with the states and territories, including the Victorian Government, to explore opportunities for state involvement in the roll-out of the Smart Card,” Senator Campbell said in a written statement”
    • 10 February – High-tech headaches on the cards, The Australian Health Editor, incl. “The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners went [warned last year] that the card risked “undermining the trust between patients and their general practitioner/general practice”, and that despite its name, might also restrict rather than enhance patients’ access to care”, and “ambulance officers are among the many health workers – alongside physiotherapists and podiatrists as well as doctors – who are expected to have the readers necessary to access [organ donor status, blood type and “health alerts” – such as dangerous allergies]”, but “the Australian Medical Association warned that the “usefulness of the information is related to the reliability of the source” and a patient was “not always a reliable source of information on allergies””
    • 9 February – Access for whom?, The Age
    • 8 February – Labor, Muslims pan smart card, The Australian, incl. “prominent National Party senator Ron Boswell joined at least three other Coalition MPs in protesting against the smart card …”, “The Australian Medical Association voiced strong opposition, arguing that powers handed to the Government under legislation introduced into parliament yesterday would allow almost any information to be added to the list of uses for the card”, “Tanya Plibersek, indicated Labor might oppose the card legislation because of inadequate protection” and “Muslim community spokesman Keysar Trad said government requirements that headscarves be pushed back to expose the forehead, cheeks and chin for 3D biometric photographs on the cards could present difficulties for some women who wore hijabs. Some Muslim women would want privacy when photos were taken and if personal identification was needed, he said. But Mr Trad said his main fear was the potential use of the smartcard. “The microchip on future versions of the card could be used to locate individuals, so they know exactly where you are,” he said”
    • 8 February – Access card ‘won’t identify ethnicity’, The Melbourne Age, incl. “Liberal MP Steve Ciobo said he was worried about the bill’s apparent discrimination between people who were able to prove their identity fully and those who could only partly prove it. “Given it makes no difference to provision, why then is there a need to have it on the card?” he said” and “Backbenchers told The Age they were worried after Prime Minister John Howard apparently told the Coalition party meeting this week that the community’s attitude to identity cards had changed largely because of the advent of terrorism.
      “There’s no link between terrorism and the access card and it’s concerning that it was used as a justification,” one said”
    • 8 February – Public locked out of their own national cards, Sydney Morning Herald, incl. “the Government’s bid to reassure the public that the scheme was not a national identity card was hit by a conflicting message from the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, who hailed its potential to counter identity document fraud”, “The Australian Medical Association president, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said …actively disguises the fact that the individual does not own the information contained on the card”
    • 7 February – Real debate about Real ID, GCN (US), incl. “The government has made a public relations effort to convince people that the new card will be benign and not pose a threat to privacy”, attributed to Marie Johnson of the Office of Access Card
    • 7 February – ‘Rushed’ Access Card Bill raises suspicions, ZDNet, incl. “Senator Natasha Stott Despoja … called for support for a Senate inquiry … The concerns of organisations such as the Australian Medical Association and Australian Privacy Foundation must be listened to and addressed”