The federal government has paved the way for additional personal details to be placed on its planned health and welfare services access card, but the Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, said the government had "no desire" to access or control that information.
Addressing a smart cards conference in Sydney on the development of the AU$1 billion access card, Hockey moved to allay privacy concerns over the controversial card, stressing most of information it held would be user- rather than government-controlled.
"There will be the capacity for voluntary fields, such as organ donor status, such as blood type, such as emergency contact information," he told the conference.
"I have no desire to either access or control that additional information.
"In fact, I would go so far as to say I would rather have a private sector safety deposit box that can be the holder of that additional information in the case of a lost card."
The access card will replace 17 health and social services cards, including the popular Medicare card, and will hold a person's name, address, date of birth, Medicare number and concessional status.
"The only field which we control; the government controls; will be your concessional status," Hockey said.
"All other mandated fields are in the control of the individual. It is your card. You control the information."
Centrelink turned away about 600,000 people per year due to inadequate identity material, according to Hockey. The access card would reduce this problem, he said.
The access card would also contain less data than many existing forms of identity authentication, such as the NSW drivers licence, he said.
He gave the example of a video store that might photocopy a drivers licence being able to access the owner's driving record via the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority Web site.
"Yet people suggest that by introducing this new card somehow we are going to reduce the privacy of individuals."
The access card was a more suitable solution to the Department's problem than an Internet-based one as not all Australians had Internet access, according to Hockey.
However an Internet solution would still be the optimum service delivery model, he said.
Currently only four percent of the Department's customer interactions were online.
"One of the challenges has been increasing the level of online activity and being able to identify the person claiming to be accessing the online service.
"There is a compelling argument to have a PIN associated with the smart card. And if that is the case then that solves a lot of our online authentication needs.
"These are the types of issues that are yet to be resolved."