Date published: 
1 August 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KIM LANDERS:

After weeks of confusion and a public outcry, the Federal Government has bowed to pressure to address privacy worries about the My Health Record. That’s the digital health record that’ll be set up automatically for everyone unless you opt out. It follows crisis talks last night between the Federal Health Minister, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of GPs. The Health Minister is Greg Hunt and he joins me on the line. Minister, good morning.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning.

KIM LANDERS:

Do you conceded you made a mistake by digging in your heels and insisting that there was no need to change anything to address these privacy concerns?

GREG HUNT:

Well, we’ve actually moved very quickly to listen to the concerns of the AMA and the College of General Practitioners, not about anything which has occurred, but about the need for additional reassurance and additional protection to ensure that Labor’s 2012 legislation is strengthened to match the ongoing policy over the last six years, which has covered six million Australians, of no release of any documents without a court order.

KIM LANDERS:

So what have you agreed to do?

GREG HUNT:

We will do two things. Firstly, we will strengthen the legislation to ensure that there will be no release of any documents without a court order. After six years and with six million records, there haven’t been any releases.

So it’s to deal with a question that some have raised, could this ever happen. It couldn’t. But we will make that iron-clad, crystal clear and unbreakable in legislation by strengthening Labor’s 2012 legislation.

KIM LANDERS:

So that says that no police or any government agency can access the documents without a court order?

GREG HUNT:

Correct. That's exactly right. And no police or government agency will be able to access any records without a court order. That's the existing policy. But the legislation from 2012 under Labor will be strengthened to do that. Secondly, and I think this is an important reassurance which has been asked for, and I think it's very important that we listen and then respond, we will also ensure that if somebody seeks to cancel their record, it will be deleted from the system permanently.

That's an issue which had been raised and the medical groups have also said that would assist with additional reassurance and additional protection. So if somebody seeks to cancel their record it will be deleted from the system permanently and forever.

KIM LANDERS:

So none of this keeping it for the rest of your life and even well after your dead?

GREG HUNT:

No. If somebody opts out before a record is created, obviously they never have a record. Secondly, if at some stage if they have a record, they then opt out or cancel their record, it will be deleted permanently.

I think that that's an additional reassurance. That was part of Labor's 2012 legislation. But I think that when you have a sensible and reasonable proposal from the medical groups, I'm very inclined and we’ll take steps to do that. I think that provides additional reassurance and additional protection.

KIM LANDERS:

Will the amended legislation be introduced when Parliament resumes in a fortnight?

GREG HUNT:

Yes, we're looking to do this in the very near future. We'll obviously consult and I think most importantly it's about ensuring that any changes to that 2012 legislation are effective. But I'm very confident that we’ll do that. And so we’ll be looking to implement and introduce these changes as soon as possible. And critically, if somebody does seek to cancel their record at any stage, it will be deleted from the system forever.

KIM LANDERS:

Okay. At the moment Australians have until mid-October to decide whether to opt out. Given that you're making these changes, people may want to see what actually happens if the proof is in the pudding so to speak, will you extend that deadline for opting out?

GREG HUNT:

So, the medical groups have asked if we could extend for an additional month. I am disposed to that. I will have final discussions with my Council of Australian Government colleagues over the next two days. But that's certainly the intention, subject to no opposition or working with the state ministers. Some may say we just want to get it done immediately.

But my position will be- I think the request of the medical groups to get it done this year, they are very, very clear of overwhelming support for a system which will save lives, as the head of the AMA Tony Bartone wrote only last week, protect lives, improve health, be a fundamental part of the system (inaudible).

KIM LANDERS:

Okay. Do you think the reputation of My Health has been irretrievably damaged by all of this?

GREG HUNT:

No. I think importantly that when we have almost a quarter of a population, six million Australians, who have already signed up and been part of it, have operated for six years without incident, without breach, without court release of materials, I think it's a very important part of the system.

And most significantly, the medical groups reaffirmed last night a deep belief in the value, the importance of how this can help save lives and protect lives and improve the quality of care for people with chronic conditions, for children, for older Australians, for people who are dealing with lifelong conditions.

KIM LANDERS:

Okay. Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.

GREG HUNT:

It's a pleasure. Cheers.

KIM LANDERS:

That’s the Health Minister Greg Hunt.