In 2006/07 budget documents, released tonight, the government said current systems would remain in place until early 2010, after which anyone wishing to interact with agencies would have to obtain a card.
The government's campaign to win public acceptance for the card -- which will be phased in from 2008 -- suffered a blow this week when the head of the taskforce charged with devising a plan for it resigned. James Kelaher is reported to have recommended funding for the project be taken outside the department and that an external advisory board keep a check on privacy matters.
The card is slated to replace 17 existing health and welfare cards and vouchers, with individuals only needing to register once rather than several times with multiple health and social service agencies.
The government said it would improve data across those agencies and help identify and eliminate fraud affecting its AU$92 billion annual spend on health and social services benefits. KPMG reviewed the card plan and came up with the savings figure.
In a statement, Joe Hockey, Minister for Human Services, said the card would include the holders' name, a digital photograph, signature and card number, while a microchip on the card would store details such as date of birth, address and details of children and other dependants.
He gave little away, however, about security arrangements governing the card and associated registration database, saying "information held on the access card will only be accessible by authorised people".
Hockey also announced an additional AU$115 million over two years to boost Centrelink's call centre capabilities, saying demand had increased by 12 percent per year over the last four years. Centrelink was now trying to handle 22 million calls per annum.
A significant proportion of the funding would go to enhancing phone voice recognition services, with an additional 25 percent of customers expected to use the option by the end of 2007-08.