Strong response to access card consultations

Strong response to access card consultations

Over a hundred submissions received

The federal government has received more than 120 public submissions on the development of its health and social services access card.

The billion dollar project involves the introduction of an access card to replace 17 existing welfare cards by 2008.

Access card submissions closed on Friday and a Human Services department spokesperson described it as a "strong response" adding that the submissions will be given careful consideration.

"Submissions will be reviewed and analysed to advise the Minister [Joe Hockey] to determine if any changes are required to the access card legislation," he said.

The revised legislation is expected to be ready by mid 2007.

A series of consultations were held throughout December to brief privacy advocates concerned about protecting confidential information held on the cards.

Briefings were also held with the IT industry with the first access card tender issued on January 5, 2007. Two major Request for Tender (RFT) packages will be finalised in coming months for a systems integrator as well as card issuance and management.

The Office of Access Card CTO Marie Johnson said an information hotline has received 1800 calls and 55,000 visits to the Web site.

However, shadow human services minister Tanya Plibersek said consultation has been lacking with the draft legislation released on December 13 and submissions closing January 12, 2007, when most Australian were away on leave.

Pilbersek said significant questions were yet to be answered by the government about how information will be protected and stored.

"These matters are of great concern to the 17 million people who as early as next year may be forced to hand over a biometric photograph and digital signature along with private health, social security and other information in order to get government assistance," she said.

"Labor is concerned there are not enough protection to prevent 'function creep', and that the access card will become a de facto ID card."

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