The Minister for Human Services has denied the Federal Labor government is investigating the introduction of a nationwide ID card scheme similar to the previous government's Access Card.
The government's denial follows reports today which suggested that, after opposing the Howard government's Access card plans when in Opposition -- and also in the lead up to the Federal election -- the Labor government had undertaken a preliminary investigation into introducing a similar card to combat healthcare and welfare fraud.
"The Australian government has delivered on our election commitment and abolished the Access Card and we have no intention of reintroducing such a card," a spokesperson for Senator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Human Services, told ZDNet.com.au today.
"The Liberal government tried to introduce an ID card by stealth, the projected costs were underestimated and the projected savings were overestimated. There were serious privacy concerns with the Access Card, and a business case for its introduction was never made public," said the spokesperson.
According to the spokesperson, the previous government's proposed Access Card would have featured a biometric photo and personal identification number and, given that citizens would need to present the card to access health and social services, would have had a de-facto compulsory status.
The Labor government was criticised during the election and shortly after the beginning of its term for taking a noncommittal stance on the future of any national smartcard scheme, despite stating specifically that the Access Card would not go ahead -- doing little to abate the concerns of privacy advocates.
"We were obviously opposed to the Access Card and have made that clear to Labor on a number of occasions, and we will continue to oppose proposals from any government that does not protect the privacy of all Australians adequately," said Dale Clapperton, chair of online civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia, today.
"The Liberals were fixated by the idea of a single card to magically solve every problem facing health and welfare services: they could not see beyond this fascination and could not consider other ways to meaningfully tackle fraud and non-compliance," said a spokesperson for the Minister for Human Services.
"We are committed to achieving best practice in the provision of government services, but we are not considering a compulsory identity card," the spokesperson added.