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Consultation opens on new Digital ID Bill

by Josh Needs13 minute read

The federal government has opened a three-week consultation on a new bill that aims to provide more security for businesses and individuals, according to the Minister for Finance.

The Department of Finance has launched a consultation on the exposure draft for the Digital ID Bill and Digital ID Rules, which aim to strengthen privacy and security rules for Digital ID providers and expand the Australian government Digital ID System to include private sector organisations that choose to opt in.

Work on a national Digital ID System began in 2014, with over 10.5 million Australians currently having a Digital ID to access government services (myGovID), with the legislation to move it to a nationally regulated system that will be accessible across both the public and private sectors.

It aims to allow users to verify a person’s identity online by checking IDs against existing government-held identity sources without having to hand over any physical information.


The draft exposure bill aims to:

  • Introduce a voluntary accreditation scheme for Digital ID service providers
  • Allow the federal government to partner with states, territories, and private sector companies “to create a better digital experience for Australians” thereby facilitating more choice of providers for creating a Digital ID and where it can be used
  • Enshrine additional privacy safeguards, such as prohibiting tracking of an individual’s online behaviour and extra protections around sensitive data
  • Establish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as the initial independent regulator to oversee the Digital ID accreditation scheme and operation of the Australian government Digital ID System and enable it to manage and regulate a ‘trustmark’ for accredited Digital ID provider

Consultation on the Digital ID draft bill closes on Tuesday, 10 October 2023 with survey responses considered in refinement of draft legislation before it is introduced to Parliament. The introduction of the final bill expected to be released this sitting year.

‘Online equivalent of being carded’

Announcing the consultation and release of the exposure draft bill during a speech to the Australian Information Industry Association on Tuesday (19 September), the Minister for Finance, Katy Gallagher MP, said the new Digital ID was “the online equivalent of being carded at the nightclub”.

Ms Gallagher said the current system – operating without legislation – allows people with a Digital ID to verify their identification without having to repeatedly provide copies of their most sensitive documents, such as passports, birth certificates, and driver’s licences, for certain online services.

However, she stated: “The current system has limitations. It is not national – the Commonwealth can only verify people biometrically against their passports, not against their drivers licence or other ID documents issued by state and territory governments.

“MyGovID can only be used to access government services, limiting the choice that people may have and private sector providers can’t currently verify people biometrically against their government-issued ID documents.

“This falls short of our vision for a national, economy-wide system once fully operational,” noting that one in five Australians have been victim of an identity crime.

A proposal of 4 phases

Ms Gallagher added that the bill was structured to see a four-phase expansion of Digital ID across the nation first and then throughout the economy.

She revealed: “Firstly to legislate for Digital ID, establish the rules, the regulator and protections and continue expanding use across government and also the accreditation of public and private providers. We are calling this phase one.

“Phase two is to allow state and territory Digital IDs to be used to access Commonwealth services

“The third phase will be to allow myGovID to be used in the private sector; for example, myGovID could be used to open a new bank account with an Australian bank, or verify you when signing a telco contract or real estate lease.

“Fourth will be to allow accredited private sector Digital IDs to verify you when accessing some government services.”

According to the Minister for Finance, the expansion of the Digital ID system could also help protect and assist those in strife.

She explained: “Put yourself in the shoes of one of many thousands of Australians who has recently been affected by a natural disaster. After losing your home and business to a fire or flood – the last thing you would want to do is try and hunt down original copies of birth certificates and identity documents to prove who you are so you can get an emergency payment and start rebuilding your life.

“There are real benefits of Digital ID in other emergency situations such as when a woman and her children escape from domestic violence situations. Often, women leave this situation in a crisis and are lucky to leave with a phone.

“A Digital ID could allow for improvements in how we provide support and assistance in these situations. These examples make one thing very clear – people need to be able to prove who they are and verify their identity – sometimes at a moment’s notice – in an easy, safe, secure and voluntary way.”

New VOI bill introduced

The release of the exposure draft of the Digital ID Bill comes less than a week after the federal government introduced the Identity Verification Services Bill, which aims to support the operation and security of identity verification services and protect the privacy of Australians while helping organisations securely verify a person’s identity.

Commenting after the release of the bill last week, the chief sales officer at digital mortgage law firm Galilee Solicitors (Galilee), Blake Albones, said the proposed framework was a welcomed addition to the identity information space as it “positions the government as the central aggregator of identity information”.

“A current headache for the mortgage industry is that brokers, real estate agents and conveyancers are all required by their separate regulators to effectively maintain their own, duplicated ‘honey pots’ of their customer’s ID documents, Mr Albones said.

“The proposed new framework paves the way for there to be one central, secure repository of ID information. If – as we hope – this new framework is passed into law, we would like to see the dismantling of these separate retention requirements.”

[Related: Brokers ‘left behind’ by slow digital ID adoption: Broker]

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