Govt throws Access Card to industry

Identity laws good enough.

Deployment of a national access card will be a job for private industry, not government, according to the federal Human Services Minister, Joe Ludwig.

The government launched scathing criticism at the Howard government's plans for a national identity card, but has remained open at the philosophy behind the initiative.

Speaking at the 2008 Australian Smart Cards Summit in Sydney today, Ludwig said the government does not reject the idea of a national identity card, but will not deploy it without private investment.

"The Access Card structure tangled everything into one big complex project, which risked delays, cost blow-outs, and restricted the former government's ability to steer the project over the long term," Ludwig said.

"Labor was opposed to the previous government's Access Card, but we have no in-principle objection to smart cards. The Access Card was an Identity Card by stealth.

"Even if the Access Card was signed off by the Department of Finance, I don't think it made good sense for the government to be involved in the roll out."

The controversial Access Card was designed by the Howard government to tie welfare payments to healthcare and other services and improve service delivery and reduce fraud.

The plans were scrapped in December last year.

Ludwig said it will be up to the private sector to create a national smart card, and the government would create standards for the transfer of payments.

He said enough work is being done to secure identities through reforms including the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) laws, the Know Your Customer regulation, and identity management in the finance sector.

"We are keen to take a step-by-step logical approach [to smart cards] where each step stacks up on its own, and unmeasurable synergies are a bonus."

Ludwig said further collaboration is required between government and non-governmental agencies to bolster the framework and delivery of national smart card initiatives, including the income management card.

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