ID Card stoush brewing?

Gold Coast based Liberal MP Steven Ciobo copped a serve in Brisbane’s Sunday Mail for taking a taxpayer funded study tour to Britain and the USA (allegedly at a cost of around $10 000) to explore issues relating to national identity cards, when he “could have taken a $225 flight to Canberra for a briefing on the Federal Government’s Access Card from Human Services Minister Joe Hockey.”

Probably the most interesting thing about the story isn’t a politician getting chided for flying overseas – I’m sure stories criticising politicians for junkets have been around since before aeroplane travel was invented.  Rather it is the fact that the editorial in the same paper says that while “Mr Ciobo blamed political rivals for his troubles, it was actually Human Services Minister Joe Hockey who blew the whistle.”

If, as is suggested by this line, Joe Hockey has encouraged a media beat-up about a colleague flying, allegedly unnecessarily, to London and Washington, then the ID card debate could be one that causes the federal government a bit more public and political discomfort than is being anticipated. 

Mind you, I’m not sure exactly what the whistle has been blown on.  I am sure I had already read that Steve Ciobo was travelling to the UK to examine matters about ID cards.  Regardless of how in-depth his trip is, the notion that flying to Canberra to be assured by Joe Hockey “that the Government had no plans to introduce a national ID card” is ludicrous. 

Debate about an ID Card is worth having, as there are arguments on both sides.  However, trying to silence debate by pretending that calling it an Access Card means it’s not an ID Card is just likely to make people more suspicious.  Not surprisingly, I’m no great fan of Steve Ciobo’s politics, but from my experience, he’s not an idiot. He wouldn’t be fooled by such a ludicrous fob-off, and I doubt many in the wider community would be either. Frankly, it’s mildly reassuring to know that at least some Liberal MPs don’t just swallow glib reassurances from government Ministers.

The fact that some aspects of the British ID Card will be different to Australia’s proposed de facto ID Card does not mean that there is nothing useful that can be learned from what they are planning.  There will still be a lot in common between the two, not least the large increase in data sharing that will happen, and the potential for large cost blow outs which already seem to happening both here and there.

No doubt it’s a politically stupid thing to do to defend a politician against media criticism about junkets.  There’s no easier story to run and understandably you will never get public sympathy trying to defend taxpayer funded overseas travel by any politician, regardless of the nature of the trip.  I recall one short delegation I went on was described as a jaunt and a waste of money before we’d even left the country.

I haven’t done a lot of overseas travel compared to most federal politicians, but I have done some. Rather than hide it and hope no one notices, I’ve tried to be open about it, including writing on this blog about some of my trips.  I can only say that I have found most of my overseas travel to very useful and extremely interesting.  Being exposed to different ideas and perspectives outside the often very narrow and parochial context in Australia can really help broaden your understanding and provide some fresh ideas.  I’m not defending all overseas travel by any means, and I have no doubt that some trips are little more than junkets – particularly some of the delegations. I’ve been told as much by more than one MP.

I don’t know much detail about Steven Ciobo’s trip beyond his own statements that he’s looking at government ID cards and counter-terrorism and intelligence issues.  However, I am sure that if he used his time to meet a wide range of people and assess information, ideas and opinion about ID cards, it would be a much better use of resources than many of the other things MPs can spend their money on (and if he flew economy as he says he did, I’d be surprised if his trip cost anywhere near $10 000). (I could mention the need to cut back on long-haul air travel because of the high greenhouse emissions, but that’s a wider issue).

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  1. ‘Debate about an ID Card is worth having, as there are arguments on both sides. However, trying to silence debate by pretending that calling it an Access Card means it’s not an ID Card is just likely to make people more suspicious.’ is a half true thing to say.

    Because Labor is to be worshipped in this country, thus when then they decide to bring it in, which wont be before very much longer (1-2 years), then we will get it. So lets have the un-cencored debate before it becomes fait-accomplie.

    At least with nuclear issues, the Liberals got the jump. But Labor will counteract with a full nuclear confession soon enough.

  2. My understanding is that the Access Card as presented at the National Press Club address would replace ALL other cards.

    This might sound convenient, but when your card goes missing, it will effectively mean that the sum total of all of your current cards (along with your ID) will be gone.

    Until it is replaced, you could be no one – unable to access any kind of services or funds.

  3. The mentioned other politicians should show up here,if necessary,to make sure the Senator is reading events right.I cannot understand wiht this type of requirement of the population,that a civil liberties committee isnt part of all its processes and outcomes..Which could also include advisor rep. from Police and A.S.I.O. So if by necessity big brother had to do something the civil liberties people would know detail,and may not require themselves to act.

  4. The ID card proposed by our Federal Govt is just another method of allowing big brother to interfere with our right to privacy because once the application is made by you and signed, you would have freely elected to waive some of your rights to privacy which will never be truly disclosed by any Government.
    Queensland is attempting a simular scam with the smart card for our drivers licence as you freely elect to waive all of your rights to privacy, freedom of passage on the Commonwealth roads, liberty and property (your money), when you apply and sign for your drivers licence and or registration that is, if you do not take up the offer in sect 15 of the TORUM Act Qld and fail to negotiate privately with the executive officer on what you object to and which substantive rights do not consent to being detrimentally effected.
    The same applies to the application for a Tax File Number so that you can pay tax which is only a voluntary obligation as you have freely elected to have all of your substantive rights to property, liberty and others effected as you have agreed to be bound by the taxation legislation and that covers more commonwealth legislation that I could quote on this site.
    Just like section 15 of the TORUM Act Qld there is a way around this trickery and deception but no politician will admit that the following notice should be served on the Tax Commissioner.

  5. As a person allegedly requiring one of these “Access Cards”, I have undertaken some research to get the facts or as much accurate information as possible. After a few hours, to my dismay I now know that this is not an “Access Card”, it is a defacto National ID Card.

    How can I make that claim?

    Visit the official government website, the Office of Card Access and read the information, located at;

    Next, visit the website of eminent and long term critic of government data surveillance and privacy intrusion, Dr. Graham Greenleaf, located at;

    Note: the original Greenleaf website URL was too long, so I have used free, online Tinyurl service to make it more friendly for blogs etc.

    The presentation by Dr. Greenleaf gives an accurate and side-by-side comparison between the “Access Card 2006” and the well-known and defunct Australia Card 1986-87. The Australia Card was shown and publically touted by the Hawke Government to be a National Identify Card and was fortunately rejected by the Australian people.

    Dr. Greenleaf’s comparison clearly shows that the “Access Card 2006” is almost identical to the Australia Card with several key protections removed, numerous increased functionalities and personal data retention.

    Read, discuss, query, act.

    This “Access Card” is not just for receivers of Centrelink benefits as they would have you believe, it is for anyone who receives or accesses *any* government benefit or service, including Medicare.

    This basically denotes the total effective Australian population, unless you are wealthy enough to not use the Medicare system or other services at all.

    I am all for fraud prevention, smooth inter-agency information sharing (when legislated) and removal of duplication but not at the expense of a pseudo-ID card that will invariably expose us to increased data surveillance, activity profiling and onerous identify proof systems.

  6. Developments in “smart-card” technology have resulted in a push by governments world-wide to identify people more securely. Will a national identity card lead to abuse, or improved services? The Diffusion Science Radio team at 2SER in Sydney explore the technology, risks and benefits of the Australian controversy in their podcast: ID Card – Is Big Brother Stalking You? Whistle-blowers have long had their identity protected with voice distortion. Diffusion experiments with the next step – replacing the interviewer with an anonymous synthetic voice. Splicing answers from a real interview with new questions spoken by an anonymous voice demonstrates the tenuous nature of electronic identity. Can we ensure complete anonymity for both interviewer and interviewee? Will Australia’s access card inevitably become a national identity card? Why are the “commercial benefits” of the card being kept secret?
    Privacy advocate Anna Johnston, Professor Graham Greenleaf, and engineer Aras Vaichas are interviewed.

  7. Andrew, the part that worries me the most about the ID card is that very basic security and misuse protections are being ignored by the govt. Alan Fels’ #1 recommendation was to not put a human readable number on the card. One need only look to the US Social Security number for an example of rampant misuse, even without the cross-linkable multiple databases that will be part and parcel of the “Access Card.”

    It disturbs me even more that the govt is insinuating the ID card via parts of the community who are least able to resist. Single mums and disabled people will have no option but to be Big Brothered. Rich folks, not dependent on any Centrelink or Medicare payments if they so choose, will be able to buy their way out of the ID card system.

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