Woman sues government over licences

The government is facing legal action over its new driver's licences. Lois McInnes hopes to force the government to pay back all the money drivers have paid out for their new licences

The government is facing legal action over its new driver's licences.

Lois McInnes, who stood for parliament in the Hutt South electorate, hopes to force the government to pay back all the money drivers have paid out for their new licences because the scheme breaches both her privacy and liberty.

"The case rests on three things - privacy, liberty and civil rights is the first thing. Non-notification is second and we're going on the fact that this wasn't an act of parliament, it's just been passed over a cup of coffee."

McInnes also wants government to pay back all the fines that have been charged over drivers not carrying their new licence as well.

"I don't object to having a photo on my licence but they should have just got a normal photo. He [Minister of Transport Maurice Williamson] didn't tell the country this was going to be a digitised photo and would be sitting in a databank with the digitised signature for anybody to get at."

According to McInnes, if a "14-year-old boy can get into Fort Knox then anybody will be able to get in".

"I object to being followed 24 hours a day," says McInnes, who believes police will be able to take footage from security cameras and match faces to them automatically with the information taken from driver's licences. This, she says, is the real purpose behind the licences - to better monitor citizens' movements. She believes the new card is a de facto national identity card, something the Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane has also expressed his concern about.

"The provision in this [Land Transport] Bill to issue proof of identity cards to non-drivers confirms my view that there is a deliberate desire to create the conditions for a state-backed identity card without calling it that in so many words," Slane says.

McInnes says the driver's licence scheme is nothing more than Jenny Shipley's "KiwiCard" brought back to life.

In 1991 government announced its intention to introduce a national identity card, known as the KiwiCard. It would be used to co-ordinate information gathered on individuals by all government departments. Controversy surrounding the scheme meant it was dropped amid increasing opposition from the public.

"To have an ID card brought in you need the backing of the people, the parliamentarians and the police. We had no discussion, nothing," says McInnes.

McInnes isn't alone in her opposition - Tony Cranston, a proponent of online voting, also finds the idea of digitised signatures and photographs objectionable.

"Who will have access to it? How will it be stored? How long will they keep the records? These questions haven't been asked, let alone answered."

The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) is the agency responsible for the daily management of the driver's licence records. Spokesman Bryan McDaniel says only LTSA staff are able to access the information - police officers require a search warrant "related to imprisonable road safety offences" before they will be given a printed copy of the digitised photograph.

"Neither police nor any agency or individual has access at all to the signature file", says McDaniel.

McInnes's case is due in court on December 13.

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