Transcripts → 2024


TV Interview - ABC News Breakfast

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT


Date: Tuesday, 2 April 2024

Digital ID Bill; Independent Parliamentary Standards Committee; Removals legislation.

LISA MILLAR, HOST: Let’s get more on one of the other top stories we’re following this morning. The Federal Government is a step closer to setting up a national, voluntary form of digital identification that could mean private companies need less of our sensitive information. But a Digital ID isn’t without privacy concerns from some quarters. The minister overseeing the plan is Senator Katy Gallagher, she joins us from Canberra now. Minister, good morning, welcome to Breakfast.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Good morning, Lisa, thanks for having me on.

MILLAR: How does a Digital ID work, an expanded version of what we have already with the government?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so you’re right, Lisa. This is a system that exists already in an unregulated way. So, people who use MyGovID, for example, have already got a government Digital ID. But this sets up a way to have a Digital ID that works across the economy. It’s regulated, people who participate are accredited and we have it enshrined in legislation, so those important privacy protections are enshrined in legislation – as is the fact that it’s voluntary and that government services need to continue to be provided in a range of ways so that people who don’t want a Digital ID don’t have to have one.

MILLAR: So, for example, if there’s a bank that you’re applying to get a loan with, could that bank then access the information through the government ID? Or are they just told the information is all correct? What actually happens with that information?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, that's right. So, this is – the Digital ID, the idea behind having it economy-wide, is that it’s not only voluntary, but it’s a secure way and a reduced way of providing a lot of documentation to a range of different businesses or governments. And you know, when you look at local, state and federal governments, there’s a lot of layers to that as well. So, the idea is that you would provide your ID – so, you know, say, your passport, your birth certificate, your driver’s license in time – and that would establish who you were. And then as you engage with other people that will be involved in the system – businesses, private companies, state and territory governments – you'd be able to access the MyGovID system as a way of verifying who you are. So, you don’t have to provide all those pieces of paper ID or emailed ID to all of those different providers, and thereby reducing the amount that you have to share about yourself. And also that you control how you engage with those companies using your MyGovID system.

MILLAR: Yeah, so could any private company access it?

GALLAGHER: Potentially. We expect that once it’s fully operational, there won’t be hundreds of regulated Digital ID providers. There’s already some that exist in the private sector. There’s obviously MyGovID. So, we think that the ones that want to participate – and there will still be those that offer some sort of digital identity outside the system as well. I mean, think about all the times you log in to different things now as we participate in the sort of digitised economy. So, we expect there’ll be probably, 5 to 10, maybe more over time, who participate in the regulated system.

MILLAR: Okay, and you’re guaranteeing that it’s not going to be compulsory. You’ve used the word voluntary a few times there.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, because I know there’s a lot of myths out there about the Digital ID. That it’s somehow government tracking you, or holding all this information about you. And it’s none of those things. And the information you provide can’t be used for any other purpose. So, I am really trying to say to people, if you don’t want it, don’t have one. If you do want it, and increasingly people are – we've got 10.5 million people with a MyGovID in place already – you know, it’s there and it’s safe. And we will review it over time as well, to make sure that we are ensuring that people’s trust is maintained. But you know, a lot of people use it already. This is about enshrining it in legislation and hopefully, providing people with a really convenient way of proving who they are without sharing all their information many, many times over.

MILLAR: Okay, a couple of other things I just want to quickly get you on before you leave us. A headline in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age this morning that I’m sure a few voters might be cheering about, a suggestion that MPs who behave badly could face a 5 per cent salary cut. This is part of this move, of course, with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission that hasn’t yet been set up. Is it possible that we could see MPs having their pay docked if they’re behaving badly?

GALLAGHER: So, Lisa, this is an exposure draft that we put out and unfortunately, because we have been trying to progress this across the Parliament, it’s been shared with the media. Which is fine, we deal with that. But yes, there will be sanctions imposed through this independent commission. That’s the whole point of it. We’ve established the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, that does handle complaints while we’re setting up this other body. But this other body will be set up and part of the whole purpose of this body is to look at complaints and where complaints are substantiated, to implement sanctions against whoever that may be, whether it be an MP, senator or a staff member who works in this place.

MILLAR: Why is it taking so long? Because there’s been real concerns over the delay here given how long ago Kate Jenkins came up with her report.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so we’ve been pretty up front about that. There was a lot of work that went into establishing the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, and that was enshrined in legislation and started operating on 1 October last year. And that is the real work horse. It’s doing an incredible job across the Parliament. And then we got that right, we landed that, because that required legislation as well, and then the minute that was established, we started work on the IPSC, which is this independent body. And we flagged at the time that it would probably take until around 1 October 2024 to get up and running. It is something new. We haven’t done it before. We’re trying to get agreement across the Parliament. We’re working really well with the Opposition and with the Crossbench on this, and I’m very hopeful that we will have probably a draft that we would release publicly pretty soon.

MILLAR: Something that hasn't been moving as slowly, much to the criticism of others, is the emergency migration laws or the attempts at least by the government to rush this through. Lots of criticism from various quarters. And now including from three of your own colleagues, who are saying that this is all about huge powers that are going to be invested with the immigration minister, and there needs to be way more thought about it.

GALLAGHER: So, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee is a slightly different committee to other Senate committees and it always looks at the technicalities of drafting of legislation and I don’t think it’s any surprise. Most scrutiny of bills reports raise concerns about legislation or raise recommendations about ways to strengthen or amend or things they don’t like. So, I don’t – it’s not that surprising to me that there’s a scrutiny of bills report about this legislation. The government’s advice from our advisers around how to ensure that we’ve got the most robust migration system was to pass this bill, to pass it last week. That didn’t happen and we’ll work with the Senate about getting it done as soon as possible.

MILLAR: What was the rationale for trying to rush it through Parliament like that?

GALLAGHER: Well, it was the advice from agencies about making sure that we had all the tools that we needed ready to go to keep our migration system as strong as it can be. And this was identified as a potential gap in legislation and that once those gaps are identified, it is pretty important when you’re dealing with the migration system to work to close them as soon as possible. We tried to work with the Opposition on this. They chose to play politics and not to respond to the advice that we had from our agencies. Now, the Senate had a view on that. We’ll work with the Senate and get it done as soon as we can.

MILLAR: You’re trying to get ahead of this High Court case that’s due in the middle of April. That’s what you were trying to do, weren’t you?

GALLAGHER: Well, there’s a number of cases that are always before the courts, Lisa. And it’s not helpful for me to be in a position where I comment on them. The advice from our advisers through to government were that this was a gap, it was a hole that had been identified and we should work quickly to close it. We tried to do that, the Senate had a different view and we will now work through to try and get it done as quickly as possible and while it remains stuck in the Senate, obviously that gap in our laws remains.

MILLAR: And it doesn’t worry you that you’ve now got three Labor senators who are joining with others to say that they have concerns, that there’s this extensive list of concerns about the legislation?

GALLAGHER: Well, what I’m saying is that I don’t think it’s a surprise that the scrutiny of bills committee, which is a particular committee that looks at legislation and particular about the technical drafting and where powers exist, has provided feedback on that bill. We’ll work through that as well.

MILLAR: Alright. And just finally, we had the boss of Treasury Wine Estates on the program just half an hour or so ago, he says that he’s going to be sending wine off as early as this week to China, courtesy of the tariffs being removed. China’s said that the tariffs are going to go. How confident is everyone that this is going to go smoothly, given the relationship that we’ve seen in the past?

GALLAGHER: Well, look, I think it’s been a key priority for us to stabilise the relationship with China. We’ve been working through methodically all of those areas where tariffs had been imposed, whether it be barley and now wine. And you know, I think from the feedback I’ve seen over the weekend since this announcement’s been made, certainly for the wine producers of this country, this is excellent news, and they’re gearing up and can’t wait to start exporting to China again. And so again, great for our economy, but also for all of those small, medium businesses that work around the country producing the world’s best wine.

MILLAR: Katy Gallagher, thanks for being on the program this morning.

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much, Lisa.