Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) (13:53:19) — The Service Victoria Bill 2017 that we are debating this afternoon has been on the notice paper for quite some time. It has been the subject of quite a long series of discussions between us, the government and the various parties in the chamber as to its merits and in fact the need for it in essence. Consequently the original bill has passed its commencement date. Hence the need for the government to move in committee for a new commencement date for this bill.
In overview, the bill provides for the delivery of government services to the public by Service Victoria rather than, as is the case now, through various agencies — for example, VicRoads, the agriculture department and certain functions of Victoria Police. Under this bill there will be an opportunity for Victorians to access those services provided by agencies at the one place, Service Victoria, which is already being rolled out by the government.
The bill also provides for the functions of the CEO of Service Victoria. As I said, a 'service agency' as defined under the bill as any of the following:
(a) a public service body;
(b) a public entity;
(c) Victoria Police;
(d) a Council;
(e) a person holding an office or position established by or under an Act … or to which the person was appointed by the Governor in Council, or by a Minister …
The government, in its advocacy for Service Victoria, says that 55 million transactions are completed every year through various customer service agencies for things including licences, permits, updating contact details, paying fees and licences et cetera. Under the bill relevant ministers who have responsibility for the agencies whose functions will now be able to be accessed via Service Victoria may agree — and the bill says 'may' agree — in writing to transfer customer service operations to Service Victoria. This is one of the questions that we have raised with the government, because if the word is 'may', then the word is not 'must'. That does allow for a minister, and consequently an agency, to not agree to transfer customer service operations to Service Victoria.
One of the essential issues with regard to this bill and to Service Victoria itself is if it is going to be, as the government has said, a one-stop shop but there is no requirement under the bill for agencies to transfer their functions, then, ipso facto, it is not necessarily going to be a one-stop shop. Whether or not Victorians really want a one-stop shop is a debatable point. I know Mr Rich-Phillips spent a long time outlining the problems with the legislation as the opposition sees it, and certainly I think one of the questions is what else might have been done rather than setting up Service Victoria, which, as I have said, has already been set up and is operating, albeit to a very small degree. The government tells us that 10 000 people have used Service Victoria so far. In a state with 4.5 million people that is not very many. But the essential question could be, and it is one I have raised with the government, why, if there are problems with the way the agencies are delivering their services, they cannot just be brought up to speed, so to speak.
The bill allows for progressive transfer and new types of transactions. Service Victoria will operate on different tiers of interaction, so some tiers will require less verification of identity than others. It creates what has been called an electronic identity credential for each individual. This credential may be used by the individual only once or it can be saved to be used over and again. I think under the bill the electronic identity credential will last up to 10 years or until a person decides they do not want to maintain it any more.
The electronic identity credential, which has a somewhat Orwellian name, has been the subject of much discussion between me and my colleagues and between me and the government. I am not even sure if I could say I am totally certain as to what an electronic identity credential is. I am more sure than I was at first, but it did take quite a lot of discussion to actually come to an understanding of what an electronic identity credential is, how it may have a life of 10 years and how it can be used by Service Victoria to assure other agencies that an individual has established their identity to such a level of certainty that they will not have to repeatedly establish their identity either through Service Victoria or through other agencies that require this.
It is fair to say that this is the crux of the issues with the bill. As I say, I have explored this issue with the government at some length in discussions with departmental advisors and a meeting the government held with staff of Service Victoria et cetera, but I still think that for the public record, if the bill gets into the committee stage, this is an issue that does demand more scrutiny and further explanation from government. I do agree with Mr Rich-Phillips that the public at large is not very aware of Service Victoria at all or of the establishment of what is being called an electronic identity credential.
To read more in the committee stage, click here.