This page considers access by federal/state police forces
and other law enforcement agencies to cards and their
It covers -
is complemented by a discussion of Australian policing
One focus of community anxiety (or polemic by card critics)
has been access by police and other law enforcement agencies
card (ie requirement that an individual produce the
bit of plastic)
database/s underlying the plastic.
of the criticisms about access are, at best, disingenuous.
Law enforcement officers have traditionally been able
to request individuals to "assist police in their
inquiries". As noted earlier and in the discussion
schemes it is often a requirement that people carry authorisation
(identity) documents while engaged in particular activities
- or example carry a drivers licence while driving a car,
carry an aviation security identification card while on
duty in the civil aviation industry. Formal penalties
for non-compliance with such requirements vary, as does
their implementation on a day by day basis.
There is no requirement to carry ID at all times in other
circumstances. However there is no formal right of anonymity
and Australian courts have broadly expected individuals
to comply with reasonable requests for provision of proof
of identity, whether on the spot or on a retrospective
Refusal to identify yourself after being apprehended while
engaged in a burglary, rape or murder (none of which necessarily
involve a licence) would thus not be regarded favourably.
Inability - or direct refusal - to provide an identity
document on request by police if stopped by police while
walking in the street or visiting the National Library
is likely to be addressed on the basis of the particular
circumstances (and on factors such as the grumpiness of
the magistrate, whether the officer was creative in finding
an offence, and so forth).
Australian privacy legislation at the federal and state/territory
levels typically features what critics characterise as
'back doors' and proponents label necessary provisions
allowing access for the purposes of law enforcement and
national security. As discussed elsewhere on this site
there is no absolute protection for personal privacy regarding
government and nongovernment data collection.
As with the 1980s Australia Card, promotion of the 2006
Access Card has not been assisted by conflicting information
from key government agencies.
March 2007 testimony by ASIO chief Paul O'Sullivan to
the Senate Finance & Public Administration Committee
regarding the card for example conflicted with testimony
from other agencies. O'Sullivan indicated that ASIO would
not need a search warrant to gain access to the national
smart card photographic database.
Patricia Scott, head of the Department of Human Services,
disagreed. She told the committee (PDF)
that after talks between lawyers for ASIO and her department,
ASIO could only ask her department for access to the card
and if refused by the DHS would need to seek a search