Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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PJCIS Report - Identity-matching Services Bill 2019

23 October 2019

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is declining to recommend the passage of the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019.

Instead, Labor and Liberal members of the committee are uniting to recommend that the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 be completely redrafted and referred back to the intelligence and security committee for further inquiry when it is reintroduced.

Intelligence and Security Joint CommitteeReport

Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 andthe Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2019.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

Intelligence and Security Joint CommitteeReport

Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 andthe Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2019.

 

24 OCTOBER 2019

 

Mr DREYFUS: The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is declining to recommend the passage of the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019.

Instead, Labor and Liberal members of the committee are uniting to recommend that the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 be completely redrafted and referred back to the intelligence and security committee for further inquiry when it is reintroduced.

In taking this step, I congratulate all members of the committee for putting the national interest first and sending a strong message about the value of this committee.

The Identity-Matching Services Bill purports to facilitate the exchange of identity information pursuant to the objectives of an intergovernmental agreement reached by COAG in October 2017, but it includes none of the limitations or safeguards anticipated by that agreement. The bill includes almost no limitations or safeguards at all.

As explained in the committee's report, the Identity-Matching Services Bill would authorise the Department of Home Affairs to create and maintain facilities for the sharing of facial images and other identity information between government agencies and, in some cases, non-government entities.

The bill would also authorise the Department of Home Affairs to develop and maintain two centralised facilities for the provision of what are called 'identity-matching services'.

The first of these two facilities would be called an interoperability hub. The hub would act as a router through which government agencies across Australia could request and transmit information as part of an identity-matching service. The second would be a federated database of information contained in government identity documents.

As discussed in the committee's report, the potential implications of these two new facilities for the privacy of all Australians are profound. Those implications do not appear to have even been considered by the Minister for Home Affairs or by his department.

While the bill provides for six different identity-matching services, the service that elicited the most concern from submitters to the committee's inquiry is the face identification service. That service would enable authorities across Australia to use huge databases of facial images to determine the identity of an unknown person.

Using that service, a law enforcement agency could submit a facial image for matching against a database of facial images contained in government identification documents, such as a database containing every driver licence photo in Australia. In return, the agency would receive a small number of matching or near-matching facial images from the database. The agency could then access biographical information associated with those images.

The potential for such a service to be used for mass or blanket surveillance, such as CCTV being used to identify Australians going about their business in real time, was raised by numerous submitters to the inquiry. The Australian Human Rights Commissioner, for example, submitted that the bill 'appears to contemplate intrusive surveillance of persons or, indeed, of the community at large before any crime has been committed and indeed, potentially, before there is any reason to believe that a particular crime will be committed.'

Like my colleagues on the committee, I do not believe that the government is proposing to engage in or to facilitate the mass surveillance of Australians. But I do accept that, given the near complete absence of legislated safeguards in the Identity-Matching Services Bill 2019, those concerns cannot simply be ignored.

If there is no intention for the proposed identity-matching services to be used to engage in mass surveillance activities, the government should not object to amending the bill to ensure that those services cannot, as a matter of law, be used in that manner.

Concerns were also raised about the proposed one-to-many identity-matching service being used to identify people who are engaging in protest activity. This does concern me. It was only this month that the Minister for Home Affairs, the minister responsible for this very bill, called for mandatory prison sentences for people who engage in protest activity; called for the same people to have their welfare payments cancelled; and also called for them to be photographed and publicly shamed.

As presently drafted, this bill would not prohibit authorities from using the proposed face-matching services to identify individuals in a crowd who are engaging in lawful protest activity. That would be concerning in the best of times; it is particularly concerning in the light of the authoritarian disposition of the Minister for Home Affairs.

A raft of other concerns was expressed about the Identity-Matching Services Bill, including in relation to this government's abysmal record on cybersecurity.

I do not propose to list all of the concerns here today, but I encourage everyone to read about them in the committee's report.

I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee, Labor and Liberal, for their work on this important report. It should not escape anyone watching these proceedings today that, by agreeing to the set of recommendations contained in this report, the Liberal members of the committee have placed the national interest first. For that, I would like to pay tribute to Senators Stoker, Fawcett and Abetz, and the members for Canning, Berowra and Goldstein.

I would like to pay particular tribute and extend my thanks to the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the member for Canning.

I also thank the committee secretariat for their excellent work, both in this parliament and in the last parliament, which underpins this report.

 

ENDS