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Is the Access card dead or changing its identity?

Labor needs to make an unequivocal commitment that it does not plan to scrap Howard's proposed Access Card and replace it with its own, according to civil liberties advocates.
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Written by Marcus Browne on

Labor needs to make an unequivocal commitment to that it does not plan to scrap the Howard government's proposed Access Card and replace it with its own, according to civil liberties advocates.

After speculation over the Labor government's plans for a national identity card in recent weeks, the government has said the existing project will be scrapped.

"Labor will not be proceeding with the Howard government's proposed Access Card," the Minister for Housing and the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, told ZDNet Australia yesterday.

Plibersek had been Labor's Shadow Minister for Human Services and the party's spokesperson on the Access Card throughout the Federal election. She has since shifted portfolios after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd selected his new cabinet.

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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.

"Labor needs to come out with an unequivocal public statement that the access card is dead, these comments aren't helpful and don't offer any certainty," said Dale Clapperton, chair of online civil liberties organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"They promised to sink the Access Card before the election and now that they're in power they need to do so in clear and unambiguous terms," said Clapperton.

Despite contention over the wording over Labor's various commitments to reject the Access Card, Clapperton does not believe that Labor has plans to initiate its own de facto national ID card.

"I don't think they're going to scrap Howard's Access Card and replace it with their own," he said.

According to Clapperton, it would not make sense for Labor to do so after taking into account the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been freed up by dismantling the section of the Department of Human Services in charge of the Access Card.

"They made a commitment that the Access card was going to die and we're going to hold them to it."

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