Disgraced Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone told Laurie Oakes yesterday a new minister would not necessarily get better results in the portfolio. “I don’t know that a new minister would do better, frankly,” she said. How much more contemptuous can you get?

The Palmer Report showed disgraceful lapses of public administration in Vanstone’s department – and in Queensland, too. Yet Peter Beattie restarted the debate over a national ID card last week (here). Vanstone backed it on Sunday.

They want us to trust them with such a scheme?

The prime minister – a leading opponent of the Hawke Government’s Australia Card concept in the eighties – kept his options open over the weekend: “It’s a balance any democratic society requires – a constant readjustment of that balance,” he said. “If you look at it just as a civil liberties issue you would never change anything. If you just looked at it as a protection against terrorism issue, you would authorise many changes that people would regard as unacceptable.”

He’s in Washington today. ID cards will become an even bigger issue when he visits Britain later in the week, where such a scheme has been a hot issue since 9/11.

Michelle Grattan observed yesterday that a London School of Economics report found Blair’s actual proposals were not feasible: they were too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lacked a foundation of public trust and confidence. What she didn’t say is that it will be a user pays card. British residents will pay for one – and the costs keep rising. The LSE estimates the project will cost 19 billion pounds – $700 per person.

Chris Puplick, a member of the parliamentary committee that examined the Australia Card concept, writes in The Australiantoday: “The benefits of national ID cards are grossly overstated and their potential negative impacts on our freedom and way of life remain unacceptable.”

He leaves out one compelling argument. What were the London terrorists carrying along with bombs? ID.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey