Access Card sidelined by Privacy Foundation

Privacy debate gets personal

The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has demanded the national Access Card be canned because it is unjustified, unprecedented, unpopular, unsafe, wasteful and discriminatory.

Responding to a speech delivered by Human Services Minister Joe Hockey at the national press club last week, APF chair Anna Johnston took a swipe at both Hockey and the Access Card chair, Professor Allan Fels.

Speaking at the APF's Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Johnston called on the government for full disclosure on the initial KPMG validity report, as well as the Privacy Impact Assessment.

In both cases, she said Hockey has gone back on his word.

"We know that a Privacy Impact Assessment was commissioned by the government on the proposal, but the government has refused to release it, contrary to a commitment Joe Hockey gave me that he would," Johnston said.

"First we were told it was because the report was not complete; then they had to admit it was not true, it was indeed complete. Then we were told the assessment was based on an earlier version of the proposal; but then again the KPMG "business case" still being touted by the government in support of its plans was also based on the same, earlier model.

"So if the Privacy Impact Assessment is obsolete, then so are the government's cost estimates. Then we were told that the privacy impact assessment report could not be released because it was Cabinet-in-confidence. But then again so was the KPMG report, and the government was happy to release bits of that report - bits that were positive, anyway."

Johnston also called for more clarity between the government and the Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce chaired by Professor Allan Fels.

She is suspicious the government has already rejected a key recommendation of the taskforce.

The recommendation is that a personal identifying number will not appear on the card.

Johnston said inclusion of the identifier is the single biggest factor in the card becoming an "all purpose national ID card".

"Public servants told the Senate Committee in May that the Privacy Impact Assessment made no recommendations; then three months later they clarified that statement by reversing it, admitting that the Privacy Impact Assessment report did make recommendations," Johnston said.

"Of course they're not going to tell us what those recommendations are, because they say it has all been superseded now anyway becausse Allan Fels is on the case.

"There is a fundamental contradiction in this entire approach. The government says you can trust us with all your data but we can't trust you to see our privacy advice."

Professor Allan Fels was unavailable for comment at time of writing but is preparing a response to Johnston's claims.

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