Fletcher Slams Government Over Slow Digital ID Rollout
The Opposition is urging the Albanese Government to immediately introduce digital IDs to stop a recurrence of the devastating large-scale Optus and Medibank hacking events in 2022.
Paul Fletcher, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy, said that while the government had started the ball rolling, it was taking too long to bring about the change.
Mr Fletcher was among keynote speakers at the inaugural National Tech Summit held in Brisbane last week.
Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher has reportedly set the end of the year as a deadline for state and federal governments to implement the national digital identity scheme. The issue was discussed with the states earlier this year.
The Federal Government has also released a national strategy for digital identification with a goal of making Australia “the safest nation” by 2030.
However it’s almost a year since the Optus breach in September 2022 which impacted 11 million customers, while the Medibank breach a month later saw the details of almost 10 million customers appear on the dark web.
Mr Fletcher told ChannelNews that the previous Coalition government had already spent about $600 million establishing a trusted digital identity framework which included myGovID, along with exposure legislation to underpin its operation.
One objective was to let customers more readily establish their identity during the “Know Your Customer” process when opening a bank account and when transacting with federal government departments. Legislation had been prepared to extend this to state governments and the private sector.
“We believe that they should pick up the pace and take up the work that was being done by the previous government,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said the federal government didn’t have a dedicated minister focussed on the delivery of digital services as had occurred in NSW under Customer Service minister Victor Dominello.
The Digital Transformation Agency had been moved around and now was without “ongoing responsibility for digital ID”, he said.
Mr Fletcher said India’s Aadharr digital ID system had been operating for a decade, with 1.3 billion people now with digital IDs. It saved customers time when opening a bank account.
He said such a system would allow Australia to ditch the archaic 100-points identification system established in the 1980s.
Australia Post, MasterCard, Services Australia were among trusted Australian digital identity providers.
He cited the example of a customer using a digital token that provided licence and credit card details to a car rental company without those details having to be stored explicitly.
ChannelNews trialled Australia Post’s app which lets you create a digital ID by inputting passport, drivers’ licence, Medicare, birth certificate, concession card and other personal details.
But would this system be any more secure than today’s, given hackers could create shadow digital IDs using stolen passport and licence credentials?
He said companies such as Optus and Medibank wouldn’t need to store personal details in future and shouldn’t. Tokens couldn’t be successfully copied where they needed to be scanned and verified.
Reducing or eliminating the storage of identification documents such as passports and drivers’ licences would make the job of hackers more difficult, and eliminating the 100 points system would eliminate the value of possessing stolen personal credentials.
However the digital ID issuing agency would need to store original documents under tight security. “There is no doubt that, under this system, the databases of the trusted digital identity provider or providers need to be very, very rigorously guarded. That is absolutely true.”
Nevertheless this system was vastly better than the current one where Australian identity documents could typically be held by about 200 organisations.
He said Australians should be encouraged rather than compelled to shift to using digital IDs. He said businesses needed to be persuaded to no longer store personal identification documents for users who already had switched to digital IDs.
In the end, digital IDs would reduce the vulnerability of Australians to large scale data attacks leading to personal data being exposed and being known to criminals, he said.
“I would certainly encourage them (the government) to pick this up and run hard with it because there are real benefits for citizens if we can do it. There is an urgency to move on.”
ChannelNews has emailed Senator Gallagher’s office for comment.