Deviating from the Path of Democracy

15 May, 2024

Thank you, Deputy Speaker Sharkie, for this opportunity to speak on the Digital ID Bill 2024 and the associated bill. One thing I will note from the start is this: look at the list of speakers here. There are no Labor speakers at all, only coalition or independent speakers—not one from Labor! There's a good reason they're not lined up to speak on this bill: half of them don't like it. Half of them are very uncomfortable with the bill, but they can't say anything to their leadership about the fact that they're uncomfortable with the way this bill attends freedoms.

But it's not just the Labor party that's at odds here. I'll go back to 2022, when the coalition was in power and I was a member of that government. To give the experience—and I'll come to that a bit later on—if you ran a superannuation account on your own in 2022, the then minister, Jane Hume, introduced and passed legislation for a government sector ID for small and medium super funds. I got a direction from the government that said: 'Sign up or else. You have to have a digital identity if you want to be a director of your own super fund.' I thought: 'This can't be right. The Liberal-National government would never to do this—make it compulsory.' Not only did they make it compulsory but, under the law, directors who failed to apply for a director ID within the stipulated time frame could face criminal or civil penalties of 5,000 penalty units, which currently stands at $1.11 million. Directors of a CATSI organisation can face penalties of $200,000. So I thought, 'I better get on and get a digital ID,' because I didn't want to be the member of parliament that wouldn't sign up for, at that time, his own government's digital ID.

It was quite difficult. It was quite a strain on my wife to get that done, because you have to have facial recognition. You had to go through the process, and our accountants couldn't process our documentation. So don't talk to me about 'voluntary'. This government is talking about 'voluntary', and I'll speak a bit more on that when I get a chance later, when, internationally, this legislation is in nearly every Western country. 'Oh, surprise! 'No, it's in Australia. It's only an Australian proposition.' No, it's not an Australian proposition; it is worldwide. We are following along, tagging along, with the Americans and other countries on this bill.

We just heard the member for Cowper outline the community concerns about this bill, and what the community is on about is freedom of activity, freedom of engagement and freedom of being part of the Australian community without encumbrances like a digital identity bill. If you want to hide the bill, what you would do is introduce it in budget week. But the first thing you would do is rush it through the Senate on the last day of sitting, helped by the fact that coalition members didn't turn up to vote against it. I know why they didn't, because they proposed it themselves and put in the legislation. As a backbencher, I didn't see that legislation; I didn't see that come before the party room. I didn't see it; I wasn't told about it. But, when I did find it, it was in some obscure corporate legislation—set out here—that would have gone through the party room without comment. It would have been an uncontroversial bill. Well, it became controversial for us.

From where I sit, there's something exceptionally sneaky and suspicious about the bill and how the government is handling it. Accordingly, debate on this bill is as a pesky and insignificant piece of legislation—no big deal! Well, it isn't. To the contrary, it's one of the most heinous, overreaching and disturbing bills I've seen in the 25 years that I've spent in the parliament. Adding to my suspicion, consultation about this important bill was stifled. A quiet notice went out: one month to provide feedback. This was just before Christmas, when people were distracted and rightfully preparing to switch off—not switch on. Then, to top it off, as I said, it was rammed it through the Senate without any committee consultation. There's nothing surer than this bill having the capacity, in one fell swoop, to imprison us all as servants of the state. Have I gone too far?

There's been too much. This Digital ID Bill is already mandatory. Take the requirement for digital identity for directors of superannuation funds. I explained the situation with my wife before. We could have faced a serious fine if we hadn't done what we were told. Other people have told me that they just signed up using paperwork. How they did that I don't know. That wasn't our instruction. The reason 10 million Australians have to have a myGovID is that 10 million Australians were coerced into getting one and Centrelink won't or can't talk to you without one. Recently, in Western Australian, there was a payment to be made, but you couldn't access the payment without a digital ID. As one commentator put it:

Why should the Government have any more of our data than they already have? They don't deserve it. They have not proven that they can be trusted to handle information about their citizens responsibly.

Well, it's too late. The game's up. Australians can see through this nonsense. The Australian people will never forget the extent to which their human rights—which I screamed about every day—were violated during the pandemic, nor will I. It's clear we're already living in Orwellian times, with 24/7 surveillance through satellites, banks and facial recognition technology. How do I know about facial recognition technology? I have an in with Coles supermarkets. Bunnings tried to bring in facial recognition for their customers and dropped it because it was against the law. It's still against the law, but Coles have put in all the facilities and all the cameras for facial recognition throughout all their stores. Whether it's throughout all their stores yet, I don't know, but they're just waiting for the time when they can switch it on. What it will do is get your face against the products you're buying. It doesn't even wait until you get to the checkout; it puts it against the product you are putting your hand up on the shelf to buy. They will know everything about you.

A pregnant mother was called by her bank after their transaction algorithm picked up that she'd visited a medical centre and had had a pregnancy scan. Apparently they were offended that she and her partner had negotiated their mortgage based on having one child. Their crime, it appears, was that she and her husband didn't consult the bank before conceiving their second child, thus affecting the loan and their ability to pay it.

Then, as you know, there's the move towards a cashless society. The Digital ID Bill is yet another bill supporting the government and the banks to move us into a cashless economy. Just imagine how dangerous the ID becomes when the money in your bank account is inextricably tied to it. What worries me is that, if they give you a digital identity, the digital identity can be taken away. We just had an enormous storm go through Mirboo North. It was a unique, unprecedented storm. It smashed huge forest trees to the ground as though they were matchsticks. There was only one apparent death caused by the storm—one farmer, who was hit by flying debris—but how the rest of the town survived without death, I don't know. There was no communication, no power, no electricity, no water and no food available. As one lady said to me, we went back to 200 years. But I make the point that, because they were so reliant on cards, they couldn't get fuel, supplies et cetera. They're saying this digital ID is not mandatory, but it is, and I've been against mandatory everything through the whole of my 25 years, whatever that mandatory might be. But in this case I believe that, if it's given to you, it can be taken away. I know of a personal instance. A friend of mine was deemed by a bank to be not a suitable customer. The bank were the judge and jury, and they said, 'We and other banks will no longer deal with you.' Now his whole business operation has to go through his daughter.

We saw the government's willingness to override our human rights during COVID. We saw the closing of bank accounts, the police storming in to arrest a pregnant woman who had posted her views about a lockdown on Facebook and the censoring of social media posts put up by people sharing their heartbreaking stories of vaccine injury. When I say no to the next vaccination mandate, which I will—as I did to the COVID mandate—how might my digital identity be used to encode, punish or penalise me? Might it prevent me from paying for my shopping prevent me from travelling by cancelling my drivers licence or switch off my electricity? I think the worst part on former minister Jane Hume's was: 'A director ID will be attached to a director permanently, even if they cease to be a director, change their name or move interstate or overseas.' It will be like a tattoo! I haven't got a tattoo, but that would be a digital tattoo.

I am concerned about this; I'm concerned about freedom and the huge risks. I want to say to the people in this room that every time I've made a decision or looked at legislation, I've made that decision and looked at the legislation in the knowledge that the decisions we were making may affect you, your children and your grandchildren. Just like a tattoo, they're permanent: the legislation is permanent. Yes, this can be repealed, perhaps, by a future government chasing freedom. But every bit of legislation can be turned around and can be used by authorities. Will it be your children or your grandchildren affected by the legislation that we move today? Boring? It works. I'm with Senator Canavan, Senator Rennick, the member for New England and others who have stood up here and opposed this bill. And they've opposed it for very good reason.

We all read books. There was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where she was an expert hacker. That book tells the future of how they can hack, what they can do and how they can move money and all sorts of things. It's a fictional story, but it exists today. Hackers make us look like fools. We have all talked about the scams that are happening, where $3 billion is lost every year in Australia through hacking and scamming. How can the government be so confident that we can put all this information into one bank—myGovID or whatever it is—and that they won't be hacked? Or cut out—hacked to the point where, as the member for Cowper said, you don't exist. The government didn't do it, but somebody decided to take you on and the way they can attack you now is through your digital ID. It's an Australia Card on steroids. People today want the opportunity to have control over your life—more control. So it isn't about keeping people safe, it is about control. There is no redress here in the case of fraud or cybersecurity. They've said, 'We'll find the people,' if they can find the people who did the cyberattack. They could find them, but are they likely to be in this country? I don't think so. This government today have said that we have been under cyberattack from our so-called friends and people who we trade with. That has happened already.

The government have failed to demonstrate the need for digital ID and they have failed to convince us that they are trustworthy enough to keep this information secure. I heard everything in the second reading speech that it was designed by the Public Service to say. I saw all the new commissioners they're putting in place—I saw all of that. But that won't mean one thing to the individual who is crucified under this legislation through his digital ID being attacked. I listen to my constituents, and they tell me they don't like it. They're telling the government they don't like it. The backbench of the Labor Party is telling them they don't like it and the backbench of the Liberal Party is telling them they don't like it. I heard what the shadow minister said today—I thought it was pretty wishy-washy. If you are really going to protect freedoms in Australia, you oppose this bill and you oppose it with all your strength and all your arm.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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