Future of government's smartcard in doubt

Call for more privacy safeguards

The future of Australia's $1.1 billion Access card is in doubt after a Senate committee said current legislation is lacking security and privacy safeguards.

While legislation to implement the Access card has been passed by the House of Representatives, a parliamentary Senate committee has called for additional legislation to provide safeguards and ensure it doesn't become a national identity card or Australia Card.

The Access card, to be introduced by 2010, will streamline health and welfare benefits and is aimed at reducing fraud.

It will replace 17 cards including the Medicare card.

However, implementation proposals for the Access card have received a lot of criticism with critics claiming the card lacks security and privacy protection.

The committee has called on the government to provide additional legislation to cover privacy protection and governance.

Committee chairman, Brett Mason, accused the government of moving too quickly and more time was needed to consider the ramifications of the card.

Democrat senator Natasha Stott Despoja said the legislation was fundamentally flawed and needed a rethink.

The federal government has agreed to extend the legislation to deal with issues raised by the Senate committee.

The legislation was first introduced to parliament last month with plans to pass the new laws by the end of April.

However, the new legislative demands are likely to extend the government's timeline although smartcard registration is still earmarked to commence in 2008.

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