Minister Butler doorstop in Canberra - 28 September 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Butler's doorstop on Optus data breach; consumer's Medicare details; government responses.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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JOURNALIST: Should the Australian Government be helping consumers replace their Medicare numbers? 

MINISTER FOR HEALTH, MARK BUTLER: We're particularly concerned that we weren't notified of the breach of Medicare data until the last 24 hours. Obviously, the breach of Optus data more broadly was known to us or notified to us last week. And we're particularly concerned that only in the last 24 hours that we learned about the breach of Medicare data.  

So, we're working hard to develop strategies for a response to that, as government has been, for example, for some time in relation to passport numbers, as state governments have been in relation to driver's licence numbers. This is obviously a deeply concerning breach of the data of almost 10 million Australians, and across the resources of government and the federal police, a range of other agencies, we've been working nonstop since the original notification of this breach to develop the best possible response for consumers. 

JOURNALIST: You've said that you weren't notified until the last 24 hours about the Medicare numbers being released. Why do you think that was a delay in terms of informing the government? And are there going to be any kind of consequences in that delay? 

BUTLER: I don't want to go into those broader consequences. But the response to this breach has been managed by other ministers, the Attorney General and Minister for Home Affairs in particular, it's really a matter for Optus to explain why they took so long to notify the breach of Medicare data in addition to all of the other data that has been breached. 

JOURNALIST: The Coalition is calling for DFAT in particular to be helping people with replacing their passport numbers. They're calling for the government to essentially foot the bill on that, is that something that your government is going to be willing to do? 

BUTLER: As Minister Wong said in the parliament yesterday, I think we're developing the best possible responses as quickly as we can to the breach of all of this data, including the possible need for renewed identification data, identification material like passports and state level driver's licences and the like.  

JOURNALIST: This is obviously a massive inconvenience for a lot of consumers. You know, these are documents that take many, many days, if not weeks, to replace. What really should Optus be doing? It is their fault, there’s calls for the government to help and for governments to fund things, but what should Optus be doing when it comes to these sorts of things? 

BUTLER: I don’t want to tread into the other area of Ministers, there are other Ministers leading the response to this and developing a position that the government has about what Optus should be doing here. This is more than just an inconvenience for almost 10 million consumers this is a profound breach of their privacy, and their confidence that their personal data, that really is just so important to them, is being held with the best possible security by big companies like Optus. 

JOURNALIST: Should Optus pay? 

BUTLER: I don’t want to tread into the responsibility other Ministers have for developing responses. 

JOURNALIST: Just from a personal perspective, do you think that they should be footing the financial bill? 

BUTLER: Look, this is a deeply concerning breach that that has happened under Optus’ watch. But again, the response of Government will be developed by the Minister for Home Affairs and the Attorney-General. 

JOURNALIST: Different states and territories have different responses to changing things like driver's licences. There are some states and territories that only allow changes in driver's licence numbers if there is a clear example of someone’s details being stolen or breached. Do you think that there should be leniency even in the states and territories in terms of changing those numbers? 

BUTLER: I know there are different arrangements across different jurisdictions about driver's licences in particular, and I know that state governments are all working very hard at what they can do to reassure consumers about the integrity of their driver's licence details. 

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