Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Questions without Notice
Electronic Identity Verification
I thank the member for Canberra for her question and her ongoing concern in regard to terrorism and organised crime. I think everybody in the House would share the government’s concern about tackling these very important challenges. Critical to our ability to disrupt terrorist activities and to tackle organised crime is our regime to prevent money laundering and indeed prevent financing of terrorism. This regime relies upon the goodwill and the good work of the private sector, especially the banks, the bullion dealers, the gambling sector and the remittance dealers, who have to ensure the integrity of their arrangements with clients. In reporting suspicious transactions they play a crucial role in identifying the people trying to launder money or indeed trying to finance terrorism. These businesses therefore have to be sure that they identify a customer accurately, that they identify but also verify that identity.
I think we all know that identification and the verification of that identity is critical, particularly when this has been processed electronically. Everybody in this chamber and indeed everyone in the country knows that you cannot take an email at face value. Due diligence is required. With respect to business, to establish identity electronically a business must collect the customer’s full name, residential address and birth details and then verify that information from separate data sources. It is therefore incumbent upon governments, and indeed this government, to make sure that the responsibilities we are asking of the private sector are not too onerous. But can I say that industry has been calling for access to credit reporting data for the purposes of identity verification. In its submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the Australian privacy law, ING Bank has said that it provides a source to strengthen the match of customers’ identity. Veda Advantage submitted that it has a clear public benefit in protecting consumers and businesses from harm. GE Money have suggested it will greatly enhance credit providers’ ability to detect and prevent money laundering and fraudulent activities.
The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended that the law be amended to allow businesses to have access to credit reporting data for the purposes of identity verification for counterterrorism and for financing regimes. The government agrees with the commission’s recommendation, and I am pleased to announce that we are taking the first steps to give it effect. We are now talking with the privacy groups because we need to get the balance right. We are talking with industry stakeholders to see how we can allow electronic verification whilst continuing to protect people’s privacy.
This is just another example of how the government takes terrorism and organised crime very seriously. It shows how we are concerned that the government is working with others, listening, taking advice and taking the time to ensure we get the electronic verification right, and then acting.