WE may be living in the “Digital Age” but a proposal by the Morrison government to create a national digital ID has residents and businesses fearing the envelope is being pushed a little too far – and a little too quietly.
A digital ID allows Australians to prove their bonafides online, helping them access a range of services faster and easier, but similar to the proposed Australia Card back in 1986, there are concerns it could lead to major privacy breaches and government control.
Digital ID providers would have the ability to access birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, medical histories, and perhaps eventually biometrics and behavioural information as well.
Best-selling author and Willagee resident Carla Van Raay believes the new legislation is a straight power grab by the government.
“One of the ideas behind the digital ID scheme is to counteract money laundering, but this does not justify the loss of everyone’s financial privacy,” Ms Van Raay said.
Despite the digital ID legislation undergoing four iterations since first emerging in 2017, and the $200 million the federal government has splashed on it so far, it’s barely made mainstream media. Despite its broad ramifications, the first round of consultation in November and December last year received just 44 submissions – that’s 614 less than were concerned whether a kiosk should be allowed in Hyde Park.
“The legislation’s progress has not found much publicity, if any at all in some cities,” Ms Van Raay told the Voice.
“How many of your friends are aware of it?
“They don’t want us to know about it.”
A discussion paper released by the federal Digital Transformation Agency claims having a digital ID would save start-up businesses $128 and an hour and 45 minutes by scrapping the need to post certified documents to the Australian Business Register. It would speed up registration by up to four weeks because documents wouldn’t need to be manually reviewed and processed.
But new Fremantle cafe owner Harrison Peasnell said setting up took six months for a variety of reasons such as locking in a lease, so saving four weeks wouldn’t matter that much.
“It didn’t take long,” Mr Peasnell said of the business registration.
“If we want to do more things, we would just have to assess it, but judging by how we’ve done this first thing, that was something that wasn’t really an issue.
“We just had the right people doing the right things for me to get it done pretty quick,” Mr Peasnell said.
Digital ID would be used for government services such as Centrelink and the Australian Tax Office but would also extended to other industries such as banking.
The proposed legislation does not allow for the release of partial information so all information shared would extend across all industries.
University of Notre Dame adjunct professor of theology and philosophy Phillip Matthew said a digital identifier could be a good thing if there were limits on who had access, and how much of each person’s identity they could use.
“The devil is in the detail,” Prof Matthew said.
“The concept of a digital identifier for health reasons is a good idea because it will help to track disease and, in the near future, will be a great tool in preventative medicine.
“The legislation is the key to determining who can access this information.”
The third phase of public feedback has been completed and the DTA will now draft the legislation ready to be introduced to parliament.
Although the public feedback phase has now technically closed, opinions can still be left in a submission form at: https://www.digitalidentity.gov.au
by ISABELLA MARCHETTI