Greg Hunt, thanks for joining us. We understand that you have reached an agreement with the AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners about the business of privacy and My Health Record. Minister, why couldn’t we have got this right in the first place? Why did we have to have this tussle where the Parliamentary Library had to come out and tell us stuff we thought wouldn’t be the case?
Thanks very much Leon. What we’ve done is we’ve worked within a two-week period to strengthen the legislation to match the practice which has been in place for six years, and that is to ensure that no Australian’s health record could ever be accessed by a law enforcement or other government agency without a court order.
That has been the practice for six years since Labor put the original legislation in. The agency responsible for it has had a higher standard of practice than the Labor legislation. The AMA and the College of GPs only in the last two weeks have asked us to look at two things. One is providing that iron-clad privacy guarantee which simply lifts the legislation to the level of the practice. I’ve agreed to and support that, I think it was a sensible and reasonable proposal.
And then the second is a very important one, and that is if somebody at some stage seeks to opt out after they’ve got a record and have their record cancelled, under the Labor legislation it would have been archived for 130 years. Now it will be permanently deleted.
Suggested and proposed by the AMA and the College of GPs, not an issue over the last six years where we’ve had six million Australians, nearly a quarter of Australians on the My Health Record, no breaches in terms of privacy, not one issue of a record to a legal authority. But this is about additional reassurance and additional protection, and people will know if they ask to have their record cancelled under us, it’ll be deleted permanently and forever.
So you’re going to change the law?
Correct, and this is, as I say, Labor’s 2012 law. To be fair, it has been operating without any privacy breaches, without any disclosures, but we’ve worked very closely with the medical authorities who strongly support My Health Record because it can save lives, in the words of the AMA president. It can ensure that if somebody has an emergency situation, their record can be called up in the emergency department. You can see if there are allergies to penicillin, if there are chronic conditions.
So for so many patients, this can potentially make an enormous difference at the moment of absolute need which is why the medical authorities strongly support the system and the move to the national level. But they’ve said, well, in light of some of the concerns that have been raised, let’s provide the extra reassurance by strengthening the 2012 legislation that came in under Labor. And I think they're sensible, reasonable proposals, well thought through, and we responded within two weeks.
That’s the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt.