Digital ID bill expected to pass after raft of amendments

digital id

The Federal Government has agreed to a slew of amendments to its Digital ID Bill 2023 and the Digital ID (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023 to advance their passage through the Senate.

The bills, which were referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report last November, are a key milestone in the development of an online identity verification system in Australia, which obviates the need for physical credentials such as drivers’ licences, passports and Medicare cards.

Among one of the key amendments sought by various dissenters, including the Greens and cross-bench independents, was for the fast-tracking of private sector businesses into the scheme.

The Committee said it recognised “the clear appetite of the private sector to be involved as early as possible in a digital ID system and is pleased to see this enthusiasm to implement digital ID across the economy”.

Banks, credit card operators and Australia Post will be among the first to offer online identity verification services.

The amendment comes after several industry players, including Australian Payments Plus (AP+), Equifax, NAB, the Commonwealth Bank, the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) and the Australian Retail Credit Association, advanced submissions to the senate inquiry advocating for earlier access and a more definitive schedule of when private sector entities could enter the scheme.

Other amendments included:

  • further protections to ensure the scheme was entirely voluntary for individuals;
  • a requirement to report access by law enforcement or security agencies to one’s digital identification; and
  • a guarantee that deactivated digital IDs can not be reactivated without consent, and that personal information is not retained.

“On considering the evidence, the Committee believes the bills strike the right balance between facilitating businesses to participate in the system, while ensuring that individuals have a free, voluntary choice whether they choose to obtain or when they use a digital ID,” the senate report said.

“The Committee notes the importance of access to government services and welcomes that digital ID will continue to be voluntary for individuals accessing government services and that Australian Government entities will be required to provide services for those without a digital ID or choosing not to use a digital ID.”

It also welcomed what it said was the “strong interoperability provisions in the digital ID bill”, giving consumers greater choice of providers when using a digital ID as well as the ability to enjoy recognition across verification services in the public and private sectors.

“The Committee is of the view that the current proposed phasing is important and welcomes evidence that the approach will be non-linear.

“Ensuring the system can upscale and transition smoothly and enabling the most user-friendly experience possible for businesses and individuals will be critical to its expansion across the economy,” it added.

AP+, which oversees the private sector-run ConnectID digital identity solution, welcomed the passage of the reforms through the Senate, with the firm’s chief executive Lynn Kraus, declaring the framework a “stride towards building a more efficient and secure digital ecosystem where businesses can thrive, and consumers can navigate the digital space with ease and confidence”.

“Once in place, the digital identity framework will open new opportunities for productivity and provide enhanced security for people’s personal information,” she said.

Officially launched last October, the ConnectID solution enables users to select a preferred identity provider – for instance, a big four bank – that is trusted by the individual to verify their identity.