Roger Clarke's TFN Letter of 19 Nov 1999

Letter to House of Reps. Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration (EFPA) re Yet More Proposals for Yet More TFN Extension

Roger Clarke

Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Letter of 19 November 1999

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1999

This document is at

19 November 1999

Ms Bev Forbes

Committee Secretary

Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration

House of Representatives

Parliament House


Dear Ms Forbes

Some time ago your staff drew my attention to the TFN Enquiry that your Committee is currently conducting.

Privacy advocates have been drowned during the last year or so, responding to a large number of extremely privacy-invasive proposals emanating from government agencies. All of us are busy people, many of us are self-employed, and some of us earn our livings performing consultancy work in these areas, and hence have to carefully balance how much gratis work we perform in the public interest.

The statements to your Committee by some public sector lobbyists have been quite extreme, not least the ATO's submission, a report on which is reproduced below.

The Australian public is being repeatedly taught by senior public servants that:

  1. (a) the public service doesn't trust the public;
  2. (b) the public service wants to apply every available industrial control
  3. technology to social control as well; and hence
  4. (c) the public should distrust the public service, and obstruct it in every

way available to it.

I've enlarged on this argument in a succession of papers that I've placed in the public domain, indexed at

I've also presented the argument to, and analysed its implications for, clients in various agencies of various governments, on a professional basis.

I regret that I cannot at present find time to prepare a more substantial submission to your Committee.

Yours sincerely

Roger Clarke


The Australian Tax Office has thrown its support behind a push to cross-match tax file numbers with other government agencies to help crack down on fake identies. The ATO has told a parliamentary inquiry it plans to examine the feasibility of what it calls a whole-of-government number. It which would link federal and state government identity information. But the ATO says the number would only be used to check on identity details and not to cross-match other data such as health records. The parliamentary inquiry into tax file numbers has been called after a report found more than $500 million a year in tax isn't collected because of weaknesses in the system. The ATO submission is likely to outrage privacy groups, who have complained that extending the tax file number system would be like introducing an identity card by stealth. The Labor government's attempts to introduce an Australia Card in the late 1980s polarised the community, and the government was eventually forced to abandon the plan.


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Created: 19 November 1999

Last Amended: 19 November 1999

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