Bills Digest No. 159 1986
Australia Card Bill 1986
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.
Date introduced: 22 October 1986
House: House of Representatives
Presented by: Hon. Neal Blewett, M.P., Minister
To introduce an identity card for use in certain
The Government’s proposal to introduce a national identity
card was released at the ‘Taxation Summit’ held in July
1985. In the booklet issued at that time the major benefits to be
gained from the proposal were given as the reduction of tax and
social security fraud and the detection of illegal immigrants. The
card was estimated to result in an additional $800 million in tax
revenue per year once established as well as savings in the social
On 13 November 1985, the House of Representatives resolved to
establish a Joint Select Committee with the Senate to report on the
proposal. The Senate concurred on 29 November 1985. The Committee
comprised three Senators and five members of the House of whom four
were members of the A.L.P., two Liberals, and one member each from
the National Party and the Democrats. Their report was delivered in
May 1986 and contains a number of estimates of the costs and
benefits of the proposal based on various assumptions. For example,
in the Government submission to the Committee, it was estimated
that the card would raise an additional $750 million in tax revenue
annually. However, in evidence before the Committee, a
representative of the Australian Taxation Office estimated that if
the assumed level of avoidance were reviewed to more realistic
levels, the amount of additional revenue that could be raised may
be twice the submitted level. Similarly, the
Department of Social Security found great difficulty in estimating
the effect of the card and was unable to put a value on the
While agreeing that there is a need to prevent tax avoidance and
social security fraud, the Committee differed on how this could
best be achieved. The majority (comprised of all opposition members
and one A.L.P. member) rejected the need for a card and recommended
that a system based on existing tax file numbers be
introduced. A minority report was presented
which criticised the tax file proposal and supported the card.
The Government proceeded with its proposal and this legislation
was presented. The Bill was defeated in the Senate on 10 December
Also refer to the Digest of the Privacy Bill 1986 (no.
The Bill comprises 189 clauses divided into nine Parts. Part II
deals with the issue of the card and its duration; the Australia
Card Register will be created by Part III; Part IV contains
provisions relating to the production of the card and certificates
of identity; access to information is dealt with in Part V; Part VI
will create a national register of births, deaths and marriages
while Part VII will create the Data Protection Agency and the Data
Protection Advisory Committee. Part VIII contains a number of
Clause 3 contains the objects of the Bill, which include to
facilitate the administration and enforcement of laws relating to
taxation, social security, hospital and medical benefits and
immigration and to prevent the obtaining of benefits that are
excessive or not due.
The Health Insurance Commission will administer the Bill and
will, for the purposes of the Bill, be known as the Authority
There will be no obligation to carry the card at all times
Australian citizens and certain people granted entry under the
Migration Act 1958 and the Immigration Act 1980 of Norfolk Island
will be eligible to be issued with the card (clause 10).
A card is not to be issued to a minor under 16 unless that
person is living independently or is eligible to a social security
pension or benefit. A representative may apply for a card for such
a person if that person agrees, the applicant has a power of
attorney or is in a class declared to be able to make applications.
In addition, representative applications may be made on behalf of
people who lack the necessary mental or physical capacity, by a
trustee or guardian (clause 11).
Clause 12 will require a person to provide a sample signature
unless the issuing authority is satisfied that the person is
suffering from a disability or illness that would make it
unreasonable to require the specimen; and to comply with reasonable
requirements to enable an issuing agency to take a photograph,
though the photograph may be dispensed with if the making of the
photograph may reasonably be expected to cause an unreasonable
amount of stress to the person or a member of their family.
The Authority will be given power to obtain information to
enable it to decide whether to issue a card or for any other
function it is to perform under the Bill, from the Commissioner of
Taxation, the Health Insurance Commission or Departments that deal
with defence or administer the Social Security Act 1947, the
Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986, the Student Assistance Act
1973, the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 or the Migration Act 1958
to the extent that the information was acquired to administer that
Act (clause 14).
Clause 17 deals with the form of the card. The card is to
contain the card-holder’s name, date the card will expire, a
distinctive number, the number of times the card has been issued or
renewed, the name of any prescribed representative, the age of
minors and, where the card-holder is a minor who did not apply for
the card themselves, their sex. The information may be recorded by
electronic means and contain security devices.
The duration of a card will be for three to seven years where
the card is issued within five years of the commencement of clause
18 or for five to six years if issued after that time. A
representative card issued on behalf of a minor will expire when
the minor reaches 18 years or a card is issued to that person
The Authority will be given power to cancel a card if it was
issued under a false identity, was issued to a person who was not
eligible or has since ceased to be eligible or if the person has
failed to comply with clause 12 (clause 19).
The Authority will be able to replace lost or defaced cards
(clause 20) and renew cards (clause 22).
An Australia Card Register will be established by clause 23 and
will contain the information listed in clause 25, which includes
the matters listed in Schedule 1 (e.g., name, date of birth, sex,
current address, citizenship status and each address since the
first application for the card or two years, whichever is the
shorter), information relating to the issue of the card and any
dealings between the Authority and the person.
A card-holder may request that incorrect information on the
register be changed and where the information is found to be
incorrect it is to be changed within 21 days of the request (clause
26). In addition, the Authority will be given power to correct
inaccurate information (clause 28).
The Secretary of a Department that is entitled to have access to
the Register will be able to enter into an agreement with the
Authority under which the Secretary is to notify the Authority of
any changes in the information contained in Schedule 1 (clause
Part IV, clauses 32 to 54, deals with the
production of the card.
Clause 36 deals with certificates of identity. Where production
of the card is required, the requirement will be taken to have been
fulfilled where a certificate signed by a prescribed person (i.e.,
an Australian citizen included in a prescribed class) specifying
the card-holder’s card number and stating that the card has
been produced to the prescribed person; that they are not, to the
best of the prescribed person’s knowledge, related; that it
is not, in the prescribed person’s opinion, reasonably
practicable for the card-holder to attend to produce the card; and
any other matter required by regulation.
For visitors (i.e., those who have been in Australia for less
than six weeks in the preceding 12 months) their passport will take
the place of a card (clause 37). Similarly, for non-residents, a
signed notice setting out the name and residential address of the
person and stating that they are a non-resident will replace the
card. It will be an offence for the statement to contain knowingly
false information (clause 38).
Clause 40 deals with accounts with financial institutions. Prior
to the second relevant day (i.e., a day prescribed by regulation
that is later than the first relevant day and later than 30 June
1990) but after the first relevant day (i.e., a day prescribed by
regulation that is not earlier than 1 March 1989), a financial
institution is not to accept a deposit, open an account, give
effect to an assignment, withdrawal, deposit or pay interest
relating to an account opened after the first relevant day without,
at the time of the transaction or earlier, having recorded the
person’s card number. After the second relevant day, the same
requirements will apply to all transactions. Where interest is paid
and the institution is required to notify the payment to the
Commissioner under a tax law, the Commissioner is to be notified of
the card number of the person receiving the interest. A breach of
these provisions may result in a $20 000 fine.
A prescribed borrower (i.e., the Commonwealth, a State, the
Northern Territory or a corporation) is not, from the first
relevant day, to borrow money from a person or to repay money or
interest on funds lent to the prescribed borrower on or after the
first relevant day to a lender without recording their card number.
From the second relevant day, the prohibitions will apply to funds
lent or borrowed before the first relevant day. The same tax
notification requirements as will apply to financial institutions
will also apply to prescribed borrowers. Solicitors will also be
required to record card numbers when investing, accepting or
lending money or paying interest. A $20 000 penalty will apply for
a breach of the recording provisions (clause 41).
Similar provisions, including those relating to the first and
second relevant days, the provision of information to the
Commissioner of Taxation and penalties, will apply to income from
certain trusts (clause 42).
Primary produce marketing authorities and produce agents will be
required to record the card number of people where, after the first
relevant day, payment is made on the sale of primary produce. The
marketing authorities and produce agents will also be required to
comply with similar provisions relating to reporting to the
Commissioner of Taxation. In addition, real estate agents are not,
on or after the first relevant day, to make payments representing
rent to people for whom they are acting without recording their
card number. Again, similar tax reporting and penalty provisions
will apply (clause 43).
A financial institution is not to remit money overseas after the
first relevant day unless they record the card number of the person
to whom the funds are to be sent. Similar tax notification and
penalty provisions will apply (clause 44).
A person is not, after the first relevant day, to be a party to
a transfer of an interest in land unless the person has completed a
declaration stating the person’s name, card number and any
other prescribed matter and the declaration has been delivered to
the relevant Registrar of Land Titles. The penalty for a breach of
these provisions will be a $5000 fine. Where a tax law requires a
Registrar to notify the Commissioner of Taxation of the transaction
or transfer, the Registrar is also to give the person’s card
number (clause 45).
Financial institutions are not, after the first relevant day, to
make available or allow access to safety deposit boxes or similar
services without recording the card number of the person concerned.
The financial institutions will be required, within two months of
the first relevant day, to furnish particulars relating to the
safety deposit boxes to the Commissioner of Taxation (clause
On or after the first relevant day a share dealer is not to buy
shares on behalf of another without recording their card number. In
addition, an instrument of transfer of registration of shares in a
public company is not to be submitted unless it contains the
transferee’s card number and the transfer is not to be
registered unless the transferee’s card is produced and its
number recorded. Similar tax notification and penalty provisions
will apply (clause 47).
Similarly, a broker is not to deal in future contracts on behalf
of another after the first relevant day unless the person’s
card number is recorded. Similar tax notification and penalty
provisions will apply (clause 48).
Where, on or after the first relevant day, a person commences
employment or is paid, the employer is to record the person’s
card number. Similar tax notification and penalty provisions will
apply (clause 49).
People applying for Medicare benefits on or after the first
relevant day will be required to produce their card and the number
is to be recorded before payment is made. Where, before the first
relevant day, a card is issued to a person, the Health Commission
may refuse to pay the claim unless the person’s card number
is contained on the claim (clause 52).
Clause 54 deals with social security benefits. They will not be
payable on or after the first relevant day unless the person
produces their card and its number is recorded. Where an
application for a card is pending and, apart from this Bill the
applicant would have been eligible to receive a benefit, the
benefit shall be payable.
Part V of the Bill (clauses 55 to 68) deals
with access to information.
A card-holder will be able to request access to information in
the Register that relates to that person. The Authority will be
required to give access to the information within 21 days of a
request (clause 56).
Where a card-holder has made a request to access information,
the Authority may refuse a further request made within 12 months
where there has not been notification of a change in the Register,
unless the applicant pays the prescribed fee (clause 58).
Access to the Register for officials is defined as access to the
information reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose for which
access is allowed (clause 59).
Access for the performance of their functions will be allowed to
the Commissioner of Taxation (clause 60), the Secretary of the
Department which is responsible for social security (clause 61),
the General Manager of the Health Insurance Commission (clause 62),
the chief executive of the Authority and the President of the
proposed Data Protection Agency (the Agency) (clause 64).
Clause 66 will allow ‘authorised persons’ to have
access to the Register. ‘Authorised persons’ will be
those nominated by one of the people who are allowed access. Before
access will be allowed, the instrument seeking approval will have
to be forwarded to the Authority and the Authority’s
recommendation and the instrument will have to be forwarded to the
Agency. The Agency will be responsible for approving or rejecting
the instrument (clause 65).
Part VI (clauses 69 to 84) will establish a
National Births, Deaths and Marriage Register.
Clause 69 contains the objects of the Part, which include to
facilitate the execution of this Bill and certain other laws, the
provision of an updated census of the population and to enable a
uniform register to be kept.
The Authority will be given power to establish and keep the
Register (clause 71).
Clause 72 will give the Minister power to delegate the
Authority’s power to maintain the Register.
The Authority is to have access to Territory registers and the
Minister will be able to make arrangements with the States for the
Authority to have access to State registers in order to compile the
National Register (clause 73).
Access to the Register for the purposes of their duties will be
allowed to the Chief Executive of the Authority (clause 76), the
Secretary of the Department responsible for passports (clause 78),
the Australian Statistician (clause 79) and the Secretary of the
Department responsible for administering the National Health Act
1953 for the purpose of conducting epidemiological studies (clause
80). Authorised persons may be granted access (clause 82) after
requirements similar to those contained in clause 65.
Part VII (clauses 85 to 162) will establish the
Data Protection Agency and the Data Protection Advisory
The Data Protection Agency (the Agency) will be established by
The Agency’s functions are listed in clause 88 and include
to review decisions made by the Authority under this Bill; to
review the actions of the Authority to see if they unduly infringe
on a person’s privacy and, if they do, to direct the
Authority how to perform those functions; to investigate the
actions of eligible bodies (Departments, the Commission, or others
entitled to require that a card be produced) to see if they are
against the Bill or any guidelines issued by the Agency; to
supervise the keeping of the National Register of Births, Deaths
and Marriages and to issue guidelines concerning the keeping of the
Register and the Authority’s actions.
Clause 89 will give the Agency power to do all things necessary
for the performance of its functions.
The Agency is to have regard to the protection of important
human rights and Australia’s international obligations
The Agency is to consist of a President and two Commissioners
The Data Protection Advisory Committee (the Committee) will be
established by clause 104 and will consist of a Convener and
between six and 12 other members.
The Committee’s functions will be to advise on certain
decisions of the Agency (though not those relating to its review of
the Authority’s or an eligible body’s functions), to
recommend material for inclusion in the Agency’s guidelines
and to promote community education on the protection of individual
privacy (clause 105).
People are to be notified of certain decisions made under the
Bill (clause 113) and will be able to request that the Authority
reconsider the decision. The Authority will be required to assist
in the making of an application and to reconsider its decision
The Agency will generally be required to investigate complaints
that the Authority has exercised its power in such a way as to
unduly infringe a person’s privacy (clause 137) or that an
eligible body has breached the Bill or the guidelines (clause 138)
though the Agency may refuse to investigate complaints made after
12 months of the complainant becoming aware of the situation,
frivolous or vexatious complaints and complaints in which the
complainant lacks a sufficient interest (clause 139). In addition,
the Agency will be able to refer appropriate complaints to the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the Merit Protection
Agency or the Ombudsman (clause 140).
Investigations will be in private and conducted as the Agency
sees fit (clause 144).
Clause 145 will give the Agency power to obtain information and
documents while clause 146 will give power to examine
The Agency will be immune from action in relation to acts done
in good faith (clause 153).
It will be an offence, with maximum penalty of a $2000 fine
and/or 12 months imprisonment, to refuse, without reasonable
excuse, to attend before the Agency, be sworn or affirmed, furnish
information or answer a question, produce documents, hinder the
Agency in the carrying out of its functions or to make a knowingly
false or misleading statement. It will be a defence to refuse to
answer a question or furnish information on the ground that it may
be self-incriminating (clause 154).
The Attorney-General will be able to issue a certificate stating
that the production of a document or giving certain evidence will
be contrary to the national interest on the grounds of defence,
prejudice to international relations or relations between the
Commonwealth and a State, that it may disclose Cabinet
deliberations or decisions, that it may prejudice an investigation
or a fair trial or that disclosure would endanger life or safety
The Agency will be required to lodge an Annual Report (clause
Part VIII (clauses 163 to 172) deals with
offences which include:
- intentionally defacing or altering a card (clause 163);
- possessing false cards (clause 164);
- producing a card with intent to deceive (clause 165);
- making false statements to obtain a card (clause 166);
- requiring the production of a card except as authorised by this
Bill (clause 167);
- obtaining unauthorised access to the Register (clause
- a breach of secrecy by a staff member of the Authority or
Agency (clause 169); and
- misuse of information (clause 170).
In addition it will be an offence to use the term Australia Card
or a prescribed symbol in trade or business or for a promotion
For further information, if required, contact the Law and
(1) Report of the Joint Select Committee on an
Australia Card, May 1986, p. 27
(2) ibid, p. 31.
(3) ibid, pp. 147–151.
Bills Digest Service
LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH SERVICE
2 February 1987
This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources
should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of
© Commonwealth of Australia 1986
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Last updated: 17 January 2006
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