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Let’s kill the Australian identity card zombie once and for all

Bruce Baer Arnold writes in The Conversation (17.1.17) about Pauline Hanson’s call to introduce a national identity card to supposedly reduce welfare fraud, an idea the author suggests has little practical merit.

‘Some policies are like zombies – toxic, frightening, defiantly un-killable. They reappear, even though they aren’t useful and aren’t pretty. Pauline Hanson’s call for a national identity card is one of those zombies.

‘The One Nation leader has been calling for a networked biometric card for people who interact with the national government. Put simply, that is most citizens. The card will supposedly significantly reduce fraud by non-citizens who are resident in Australia.

‘Statements about the card are confusing. Presumably it is meant also to reduce entitlement fraud by citizens – a focus of the current Centrelink debacle – and provide definitive proof of identity in dealing with state or local government and the private sector.

‘Past enthusiasts for a national identity card, claiming “if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear”, have suggested a “must carry” regime. People would be expected to take the card with them when they use public transport, walk the dog, visit granny, go shopping or otherwise step outside. The card would be the default proof of identity in private sector transactions, stronger than the easily forged driver licence photo cards that are the standard ID for most adults.

‘The proposal may be good politics – a timely diversion from Hanson’s very public tendency to lose candidates – but it is unviable. Just as importantly, it is contrary to the dignity we are entitled to as members of a liberal democratic state. On that basis we must hope government ministers looking for a quick policy fix do not cynically embrace the idea.’

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