Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Identity Theft Prevention

About this Item
SpeakersDella Bosca The Hon John; Sharpe The Hon Penny; Hatzistergos The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 12342

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General. What is the latest information on preventing identity theft in relation to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages?

      The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: New South Wales will become the first jurisdiction in Australia to apply contemporary information technology to meet the emerging identity security demands of the twenty-first century. A contract between the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Australian company UXC Ltd will see the development of the registry's new computer database, known as Lifelink. Lifelink will realise the enormous task of migrating all the State's registry records together—records which go back as far as 1787 when events were recorded on the First Fleet before it reached Australia.
Lifelink represents a significant innovation in civil registration so far as it moves away from the traditional, event-based model to a citizen-based model. The benefits of Lifelink are numerous—more efficient customer service, reduced processing time and cost, more flexible reporting capability and improved information exchange with other government agencies. Moreover, Lifelink will strengthen security and reduce the possibility of the commission of identity fraud. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which recently marked its sesquicentennial, registers over 190,000 births, deaths, marriages and changes of name each year. It holds over 18 million birth, death and marriage records. It conducts some 3,000 civil marriage ceremonies each year and processes over 500,000 certificates and other customer service products annually. That is why Lifelink's advantage in the prevention of identity theft is of such importance.

Hollywood has envisaged situations where characters travel to graveyards and locate a tombstone of someone of about the same age who had died before their time. The would-be thief then applies for a copy of the dead person's birth certificate and uses it to build the assumed identity. Whilst it would be very difficult to get away with tombstone identity theft in New South Wales because of the proof of identity requirements, the registry is aware of a number of occasions in recent years when people applied for the birth certificates of people who were dead. In 2005 registry staff contacted police after the name given in connection with a birth certificate application was located on the deaths registry. A similar incident also occurred in 2006.
    Lifelink will guard against identity fraud because all the birth, death and marriage events associated with an individual will be contained on a single citizen-based electronic file. However, I point out that registry staff are already trained to be on the look-out for people who act suspiciously, and will ask for additional proof of identification if they suspect someone is attempting to commit fraud. Attempted frauds, aside from tombstone identity theft, have included trying to change the name of a child to avoid losing custody, and changing a name to avoid being deported. The total value of the Lifelink contract is $3.3 million—an investment in better and more efficient registration of life events. Now the people of New South Wales can enjoy these services knowing they are delivered with increased security and identity protection.

        The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I suggest that if members have further questions, they place them on notice.