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section heading icon     plastic

This page considers what will be on the 2007 'smartcard' and who might gain a card.

It covers -

section marker     introduction

A focus of anxieties about the Card is that it will house an electronic copy of a range of government files regarding the individual, eg a copy of their tax records and a copy of medical records.

That is not the case. The Card (and the associated Register) is in essence metadata that associates the individual with discrete official databases that are maintained by separate agencies. It is a piece of plastic embodies identifiers (the individual's name, address, birthdate and a card number) rather than holding a copy of the records on those databases.

It is envisaged that the access card will be a 'smartcard' (ie with an an embedded microchip that "will store information in a secure and safe manner") similar in size and shape to a standard credit card.

The card will initially be known as the Health & Social Services Access Card, although there will be scope for the Minister to determine a different name for the access card and a symbol for the card. It will be an offence for a person to make unauthorised use of the card name/s or symbol/s.

The expectation is that an individual's access card will remain in force for the period that is set out on the card (a maximum period of 10 years). Expiry dates on cards will be staggered for logistical administrative purposes.

The shape of the Access Card Register and the registration (enrolment) process are discussed in the following page of this profile. There is a discussion of particular databases and identifiers (such as the TFN) later in this profile and in more detailed notes elsewhere on this site.

section marker     eligibility

In order to be eligible to be registered, an individual must be eligible or qualified for a 'Commonwealth benefit'. An individual who is not eligible or qualified for a Commonwealth benefit will not be entitled to be registered. It important to note that an eligible individual does not need to be currently receiving a Commonwealth benefit. It is sufficient if the person is eligible or qualified for any Commonwealth benefit, for example satisfies the current eligibility requirements for Medicare.

The card - and the Register described in the following page of this profile - will thus cover most Australians.

Individual cards will typically be provided to adults (minors will appear on the parent's card) but in exceptional circumstances may be provided to people under 18 years of age. Children will need to be registered in order for parents to obtain Commonwealth benefits in respect of their children.

The draft legislation notes that Registration will occur when the Secretary enters an applicant's name on the Register, along with the date of effect of registration. That 'event' is significant because the Government that from 2010 an access card will be necessary for a person to be able to obtain relevant Commonwealth benefits. The card will be taken to be issued (with ownership vesting in the individual) at the time it is sent to the individual or is collected by individual.

section marker     contents

Information on an individual's access card will comprise information -

  • that appears on the surface of the card (ie discernable without the aid of an electronic device)
  • that is held in the chip within the card, with discrete 'personal' and 'Commonwealth' information

Information on the surface will include

  • the access card symbol and name
  • the specific card number (a number that uniquely identifies the card)
  • the individual's name
  • the card expiry date
  • the individual's photograph
  • the individual's digitised signature

The surface might also feature the individual's date of birth (if so requested by that person), DVA information (eg a special rate of pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986) and the word 'blind' for Blind disability support pensioners (if so requested by the individual).

The chip will comprise a 'card owner's area' (in which the individual will be able to include any information, subject to legal and technical constraints) and the 'Commonwealth's area'.

It is envisaged that the card owner's area might be used for emergency contact details and information such as organ donor status.

The Commonwealth information (ie used by the national government and its agents) will comprise -

  • the individual's name
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • residential address
  • photograph
  • digitised signature
  • card number
  • card expiry date
  • card PIN or password
  • information about any benefit cards held by the individual
  • medicare number
  • Reciprocal Health Care Card number
  • emergency payment number
  • registration status (ie whether the individual has been identified on a 'full' or 'interim' basis
  • DVA information
  • statements required by legislation (eg any statement required by the Privacy Act 1988 or Freedom of Information Act 1982
  • other information such as audit logs and the serial number of the chip.

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version of February 2007
© Bruce Arnold | caslon analytics