We the undersigned, are lodging this submission to express our implacable opposition to the Australian Government’s proposed Digital Identity Legislation.
Australian citizens have no reason whatsoever to be “grateful” that the government will find it easier to access a comprehensive database of information on every single one of them. The legislation is little more than a very poorly disguised attempt to lay the groundwork for a loathsome Chinese communist style social credit system. A system that would be able to continually monitor in real time our movements, our spending habits, our interactions with commercial businesses and the bureaucracy, not to mention a whole host of other equally likely dangerous and sinister intrusions into our lives.
What will be included in this “digital identity”? Our financial records? Our medical records? Who will be able to gain access? Under what conditions? Is Facial Recognition Technology part of it?
Will the “digital identity” be used to monitor political, social and religious participation, comments on blogs, participation in protests, opposition to sacred shibboleths such as climate change and mass immigration, domestic and overseas travel and your reasons for going to a particular destination?
Most importantly, will the “digital identity” be used to restrict individuals’ movements, access to their assets (particularly cash) and access to goods or services based on their “soundness” and compliance with ridiculous and inexcusable government diktats?
Australians have not been able to express their view on the introduction of the “digital identity” via the ballot box. The administration of government IT systems that contain significant amounts of personal information on citizens is notoriously poor – and already subject to abuse by politicians, bureaucrats and other malign actors such as computer hackers.
Why should businesses be burdened with enforcing this legislation? What are their likely costs? Other than restricted goods such as alcohol, tobacco and firearms etc, why should a business be required to check the identity, let alone the state approved status of its customers?
These administrative and cost burdens may be easily absorbed by large corporations, but they will be a significant extra impediment to the viability of small businesses that used to provide around 80% of the jobs and innovation in our economy. Given the recent government administrated destruction of many small businesses courtesy of the idiotic and inexcusable COVID restrictions, this requirement, if enforced will result in further small business closures.
Is this any kind of acceptable outcome for Australia? Ever more regulation, with prohibitive compliance costs pushing the small, innovative companies to the wall, and handing even more market share to those already shown to be in favour of government mandated barriers to entry that remove any additional competition.
Government has never proven to be more knowledgeable than individuals exercising their free choices. The health, education and childcare sectors are signal examples of government’s inability to provide quality service at an acceptable, market determined price.
Cyber security has received a lot of attention recently with Andrew Hastie, Assistant Minister of Defence, announcing proposed expenditure of some $15 billion over the next decade. This clearly suggests that he and his advisers envision a significant future cyber security threat – and they’d be asleep at the wheel if they didn’t.
If this significant cyber security threat exists (and it clearly does), then there are grave and unacceptable risks in developing a consolidated database containing the personal details of all Australians. The strategic, political and military value of such a database cannot be overstated. The ability to steal the identities of political, military and industrial leaders and use those to cause chaos, strongly militates against this proposal.
While it can be argued that “strong” cyber security measures might protect against hacking, the evidence suggests otherwise. Putting aside the over-confidence that these cyber security measures might inspire, there have been many recent examples of supposedly secure databases being hacked. These include a US civil service database covering some 22 million staff, including many in highly sensitive jobs, and the hacking of Australian banking databases affecting tens of thousands of customers, whose personal details were compromised.
These examples strongly suggest that a consolidated database of personal identifications would be dangerous.
Another significant risk is identity theft for commercial gain. This can be achieved by corrupting personnel with access to the system. The acronym for corrupting personnel is MICE (Money, Ideology, Conscience, Ego).
An example of this is the theft by way of a thumb drive of a major US NSA database some years ago. While this was apparently done for reasons of conscience, similar approaches targeting money, ideology or ego could also be successful.
The risk of such compromise increases correspondingly with the number of people with access to the database. In this regard, the suggestion that access will be extended from the Commonwealth, not just to states and territories, but also commercial organisations, is alarming. A database of such sensitivity should have extremely limited access, which would seemingly then negate its value.
To summarise, we are completely opposed to this legislation, the “digital identity” and the attendant Chinese communist style social credit system that would result.
The proposed “digital identity” serves no useful purpose whatsoever. It is beyond unnecessary and will be inevitably subject to abuse by governments, the bureaucracy and malign actors such as hostile foreign governments and local and overseas IT hackers.
Over the last few decades in particular, Australian governments have ceased to act in any kind of good faith manner towards the citizenry. This proposed “digital identity” framework is quite simply an abomination that should never have been even contemplated, let alone come this close to being introduced.
George Orwell’s landmark novel “1984” was not an instruction manual. It was a stark warning about the horrors of an all-powerful utterly intrusive government surveillance state and the abuses it would visit on those unfortunate enough to exist under it.
This “digital identity” legislation must not proceed, not only for the reasons set out above, but also because the Morrison government has no electoral mandate to introduce it.