There are calls for the Federal government to extend the My Health Record three-month opt-out period, as the fallout over the controversial new system continues.
On Monday, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King, urged the Turnbull government to rethink the measures.
“Labour is calling on the Government to extend the three-month opt-out period to give every Australian enough time to make an informed choice about their own records,” she said.
King’s comments come after more than 20,000 people chose to opt-out on the first day of the three-month window last Monday.
“The Government must also launch a new comprehensive information campaign to educate the public about the My Health Record.
“There has been significant and growing community concern about the My Health Record since the beginning of the opt-out period on 16 July.”
She called on the government to offer the public greater transparency on the matter, explaining that the way it has been rolled out so far has “undermined public trust.”
“The Government has failed to effectively communicate with the public about what the My Health Record is and the potential benefits it could bring,” she said.
“It has also failed to explain to people how their rights will be respected and their privacy protected.
“This approach has fuelled suspicion and skepticism.”
Chair of the Privacy Foundation’s health committee, Dr Bernard Roberston-Dunn, said Australians must be given more information about the system before they can decide whether to opt-in or opt-out.
“The government gives no advice to people about when they might consider opting in and why they might consider opting out – it is all about how good it is and there’s nothing to help people make an informed choice,” he told Information Age.
“If you look at the material the government is producing it’s all about the benefits, there’s nothing about the costs to the person who holds the health record.”
He also questioned the long-term impacts of the record.
“There are a lot of unknowns about this system and any assurances that the government gives about how safe it is and what they will not be doing with it are meaningless, because another government can change those rules,” he said.
Bipartisan no more?
In a letter to Greg Hunt’s office, King reminded the Minister for Health that “Labour supports e-health and the My Health Record.”
Hunt echoed this, telling Fairfax Media last week “this opt-out approach has bipartisan support and is overwhelmingly supported by consumer and health groups in Australia.”
But mounting criticism from the ALP in recent months suggests that bipartisanship could be dwindling on the matter.
Earlier this year, King took aim at the coalition’s checkered track record of digital transformation projects.
“Given this is the same Government that gave us census fail, stuffed up robodebt, and allowed Australian’s Medicare data to be sold on the darkweb, we have concerns about their ability to properly implement this reform,” she said.
“Put simply, this is a Government with a woeful track record on IT security and privacy. And now they’re asking all Australians to trust them with their most personal information.”
The bill received bipartisan support in 2015 when it was introduced to parliament.
Liberal MP opts-out
Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson announced on Monday that he had chosen to opt-out of the scheme.
“I don't think it will surprise anybody that my instinctive position should always be as a Liberal that systems should be opt-in and people should be able to freely choose to opt into a system rather than have to go through the process of opting out, and that includes myself,” Wilson told Sky News.
“I have opted out of the system and ultimately it’s up to everybody to choose what to do, because of course people who don’t currently have access to their medical records, there is some benefits to the system in terms of efficiency and access to your medical records under the new system put forward by My Health Record.”
The opt-out window concludes on 15 October.