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100 Points

Forgery &


section heading icon     the Register

This page considers the Access Card Register.

It covers -

section marker icon     introduction

The Human Services (Advanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007 provides for establishment of an electronic national Register as the basis for the government services Access Card.

The Register will be established and maintained by the Secretary of the Department of Human Services.

It will be separate from databases maintained by federal
agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and other Human Services agencies. It will also be separate to various taxation, corporate registration and law enforcement databases.

The Explanatory Memorandum notes that

there will be no centralised database holding all of an individual’s information in one place. Existing agency records will remain with the relevant agency – where they are now.

Given the emergence of networks and data mining capabilities since the Australia Card was proposed the absence of a single central database is underwhelming, as agencies will of course be able to rely on their own systems and will not need a central data processing point (particularly one that would crimp the various bureaucratic fiefdoms).

The Explanatory Memorandum thus indicates that

information in the Register will be verified and will be able to be checked against cards that are presented by individuals when they claim benefits or seek services. This will be a significant check against attempts by individuals to fraudulently obtain benefits.

section marker icon     coverage

Information on the Register will include -

  • name (including prenominals such as 'Dr' or 'Ms' and Australian honours)
  • date of birth
  • citizenship or residency
  • Indigenous status
  • registration status
  • for people with access cards (ie most Australians)
    (a) the access card number;
    (b) the date the card was issued;
    (c) the expiry date of the card;
    (d) if there is a personal identification number for the card - that number, protected by encryption or other technological protection measure;
    (e) if there is other information (for example, a password) for authenticating identity - that information, protected by encryption or other technological protection measure;
    (f) if the individual's photograph is on the surface of the access card - that photograph and a numerical template derived from that photograph;
    (g) if a digitised signature is on the surface of the card - that signature;
    (h) if the card has expired, or is deactivated, suspended or cancelled - that fact
    (i) the colour of any benefit card held by the individual
    (j) if the date of birth is on the surface of the access
    card - that fact
    (k) if the word 'Blind' is on the surface of the access card - that fact
  • Department of Veteran's Affairs information, eg identification of the individual as a former Prisoner of War
  • documents produced to prove identity
  • statements required by legislation, eg a privacy statement
  • a flag identifying a relationship with any of the participating agencies
  • emergency payment number
  • date of death
  • "other information" -
    (a) such other technical or administrative information that: (i) does not expressly identify the individualby name or other personal identifiers; and (ii) is determined by the Secretary; and (iii) is reasonably necessary for the administration of the Register or the access card - for example audit logs or the serial number of the chip
    (b) such other information that is determined, by legislative instrument, by the Minister and that is for the purposes of this Act.

section marker icon     registration

The proposed legislation envisages that individuals will formally apply for an access card, with that application being be made at a variety of venues throughout Australia, including Medicare offices. (An individual may apply for registration on behalf of another person, for example carers on behalf of those they care for.)

Applicants will be required to provide documents or information that establishes the individual's "identity and use of that identity in the community". Those documents will be specified by the government and are expected to include "birth certificates, passports, immigration documents, drivers' licences and similar documents". The legislation seeks to address instances where some individuals (eg some Indigenous people in remote Australia, homeless persons and "people at risk" such as participants in the national witness protection program) are unable to provide the requisite documentation.

Given that a rationale of the Access Card scheme is substantial reduction in fraudulent access to government services - and an essential weakness of the scheme is fraudulent enrolment - verification processes (as yet not described but presumably consistent with identity referencing mechanisms discussed here) will be used to "ensure that forged or duplicate documents are not used to fraudulently register people".

Individuals wanting an access card will need to attend an interview have their photograph taken and provide a signature. The expectation is that at the interview Commonwealth officials will physically sight the applicant, "discuss" documents provided by the individual and take a digital photograph for inclusion on the Register and card.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the 2007 Bill notes that there may be instances where it would be inappropriate for an individual to attend an interview or have a photograph taken (eg where a person is physically incapable or "where it would be emotionally upsetting" for a severely disfigured person to have to submit to a photograph). Similar considerations apply to the requirement to provide a signature.

Given the large number of people to be enrolled on the Register the "interview" in most cases is likely to be somewhat cursory and mechanistic. Few government staff have extensive skills in document forensics: the verification will presumably centre on online identity referencing (ie matching information from birth certificates and other documents with the relevant databases). The verification will presumably identify some bogus documentation. Some fraud will slip through, whether through the systematic nature of impersonation or through dealings with corrupt officials.

As noted earlier in this profile, some individuals will seek to manufacture their own cards and in particular circumstances - notably where the fake card is being used as a proof of identity document in private sector transactions - that forgery will be effective.

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version of February 2007
© Bruce Arnold | caslon analytics