The First Generation
Edited by James B. Rule
Chapter 5: Privacy in Australia
Graham Greenleaf INTRODUCTION The defining events in the history of privacy protection in Australia have had a great deal to do with politics, little to do with an orderly process of law reform, and nothing to do with the Courts. FORMATIVE EPISODES, 1987–1992 The Australia Card In June 1987 a Federal Labor Government was triumphantly returned to office after an unprecedented dissolution of both houses of Parliament. That dissolution had been triggered by Opposition rejection of a Bill to introduce a national identity card, the Australia Card. Since the idea of an ID card to combat tax and welfare fraud was first floated in mid-1985, public support had stayed at around 68 per cent. But three months later it was down to 39 per cent and falling, and the intensity of the mounting opposition to the Card astonished everyone. Though it had rarely been a newsworthy item before or during the election, by September the media were preoccupied with the Card. Sydney talk-back radio journalist John Tingle claimed that for some weeks it was impossible to get callers to talk about anything else. The Australian newspaper editorialised (15/9/1987), when letters to the editor were running twenty to one against the Card: There has never been a debate like it in the letters page; there has never been such a cry of opposition from the nation over one topic . . . It has dominated the mailbag to the point where today, for the first time, we present two pages on the topic....
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