Amid the privacy concerns on another story that we’ve been running this morning on the My Health system, the Health Minister has announced changes overnight. Let’s go live to Melbourne Airport, we’ve got him briefly now with us.
Greg Hunt, thanks so much for your time. What changed your mind on this? Because up until this announcement, you seemed to be not so concerned about access to people’s files.
No, we’ve always had very strong protections where there could be no access without a court order on the basis of the agency’s policy. But what the AMA and the College of General Practitioners asked for was whether we could strengthen Labor’s 2012 legislation to match the policy. And we will do that and that means that there will be a legislative guarantee that no agency or body will ever be able to access anybody’s record without a court order, none have done so in six years and with almost six million records and a quarter of Australians almost covered.
The other thing that we’ll do at the very sensible request of the AMA and the College of GPs is ensure that if somebody wants to cancel their record, it will be deleted from the system forever. Until now it could have been kept for up to 130 years, again, part of the 2012 Labor legislation. But where there are sensible and reasonable requests from bodies such as the AMA and the College of GPs, then we’ve listened and responded within a matter of weeks.
So can you clarify for our viewers then, what’s the change here that you have sought- that you see is necessary, given that up until this point The Parliamentary Library, the Queensland Police Union, among others have said that files- people’s files could have been obtained without a court order, you maintain that that’s not the case?
No, the agency’s policy, which has been the case ever since the 2012 legislation came in under Labor, was that no materials could be released. But to provide additional reassurance and to put it beyond any shadow of a doubt that no records could be released without a court order, we will lift the 2012 Labor legislation to the standard that a court order is required.
Again, after six years with six million people involved and enrolled, operating well, no incidents, no releases, no privacy breaches as confirmed by the agency only this week, and ultimately protecting and saving lives.
But it’s important if the medical community is asked for that, to provide that additional reassurance. And it’s easily done and I’m very happy to respond to their requests. And the other thing is, of course, to ensure that if somebody does want to have their record cancelled, it’s deleted from the system forever. And that would be a second change to the 2012 Labor legislation. Both sensible, reasonable requests from the medical community, which we’ve responded to within two weeks of them making it.
And so, with this opt-out period, it’s going to be extended then indefinitely. What are the benefits of that?
Well the first thing is that anybody can opt-out at any time. What this does now is we’ll extend the period where no record is created for a month, subject to a final discussion with state ministers. So, anybody can opt-out at any time and if they do that – and we’ll extend that period now for a month – there will never be a record created, if they do that subsequently not only will the record be cancelled but it will be deleted from the system permanently and forever.
And both of those things provide the additional reassurances, we move on what’s been a 15-year national project to provide people with access to records in the case of emergency, access to records so as they can see if there are allergies to assist with the management of older Australians or children or people with chronic conditions.
And as the head of the AMA said in an article only last week, this record can save lives. And that’s such a powerful thing that it can protect people, it can give them control over their record but now those additional reassurances address what the medical community asked for and we’ve responded very quickly. And I thank them for their work.
Health Minister Greg Hunt, I appreciate your time there from Melbourne Airport, we’ll talk to you soon.