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Anatomy of an Anti-ID Card Campaign - The Australian Experience


ID card systems are often made appealing to the public by being marketed as "service cards", offering access to a range of facilities and benefits. The cards are also often marketed as voluntary instruments, thus neutralizing perhaps the key plank of any potential campaign of opposition.

These factors have contributed to the dearth of opposition in recent years to card systems. The specter of an Orwellian Big Brother society has also diminished since the fateful year 1984, and apocalyptic scenarios of information brutality by an information-bloated State have also been treated with more skepticism than in the past. Information Technology has been absorbed by the public.

Over the past ten years, opposition of ID cards has been confined to a handful of countries. French authorities have encountered opposition to their efforts to make cards machine readable. German authorities have run up against public and constitutional barriers in establishing a national numbering system for the German ID card. The Philippine ID card ran aground in 1991 because of cost factors which were made public through a campaign of opposition by human rights groups. The New Zealand public also opposed the Kiwi Card.

The campaign which stands out, however, is the one which stopped the proposed Australia Card. This movement, the largest in recent Australian history, forced a dissolution of the parliament, a general election, and unprecedented divisions within the Labour government. The issues which were raised in this campaign provide important insights into the range of concerns related to ID cards in every country.