[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] said Wednesday that Australia will not implement a compulsory national identity card [press release] when he rolled out plans for a voluntary and comprehensive health and welfare card that will replace the nearly 20 other cards currently provided. Howard, who opposed a 1987 plan for an Australia Card [academic paper], said last summer that circumstances had changed in the wake of the London bombings [JURIST news archive] and that the proposal should be back on the table [JURIST report].
Britain's controversial Identity Cards Act [PDF text] was approved by parliament [JURIST report] last month, though the legislation stops short of requiring ID cards for all British citizens. The legislation had bounced back and forth between both houses of parliament with the Lords objecting to a Commons provision to effectively make the cards mandatory by requiring ID registration for all British citizens applying for passports. The bill was passed with a compromise that allows passport applicants to opt out of taking an ID card [Home Office backgrounder] until January 2010 so long as they register in a national computer database. Reuters has more. Australia's ABC News has local coverage.