Smartcard delay no surprise for privacy advocates

Laws to be re-introduced to parliament

Confirmation the federal government's smartcard project is already facing serious delays came as no surprise to privacy advocates who issued a warning more than 12 months ago that current timelines and costings are totally unrealistic.

Pointing out that IT projects tends to be "grossly underestimated", David Vaile, the executive director of the NSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, predicted serious hiccups to implementation of the $1.1 billion Access Card as far back as April, 2006.

Vaile warned the card could not be introduced within the government's 18-month timeline and that its introduction is likely to be billions of dollars over budget.

Registrations for the Access Card were expected to begin in May next year but the federal government has conceded the deadline has been pushed back by up to six months with commencement likely in late 2008.

The delays began when Access Card legislation was rejected by a Senate committee in March amid fears it lacked security and privacy safeguards.

This obstacle has led to legislative changes that will be re-introduced to parliament later this month.

Under the original plan the new laws were supposed to be passed by the end of April.

Faced with fierce opposition from the Senate including claims by Democrat senator Natasha Stott Despoja that the legislation is fundamentally flawed forced the government to make the amendments.

It is an embarrassing situation for the government as the Office of the Access Card cannot award contracts for the card until the legislation is passed.

This is despite tenders being issued at the beginning of the year.

The Access Card will streamline health and welfare benefits and is aimed at reducing fraud. It will replace 17 existing cards issued by the Department of Human Services.

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