Minister for Health Greg Hunt has signalled changes to the My Health Record, saying legislation will be amended to ensure authorities cannot access records without a court order.
Speaking on ABC radio, Hunt passed the buck for the existing legislation onto the previous Labor government.
“We’ve actually moved very quickly to listen to the concerns of the Australian Medical Association 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,” he said.
“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.”
The proposed changes will also allow someone to cancel their record permanently if they choose to, with the record deleted from the system.
Previously, under Section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012, the Australian Digital Health Agency could disclose information from a record, provided the police or other authority “reasonably believes that the use or disclosure is reasonably necessary to, among other things, prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute any criminal offence.”
Although Hunt was emphatic that no records had yet been released, he explained that these changes will “remove any ambiguity on this matter.”
Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King was quick to respond to Hunt’s proposed changes on Wednesday morning, explaining the changes were too little too late.
“The Turnbull Government’s response to the My Health Record fiasco is completely inadequate and will do little to allay community fears about privacy and security,” she said in a statement.
“Greg Hunt has completely bungled the My Health Record rollout and he must do a great deal more to fully restore public trust in this important reform.”
She went on to say that the “humiliating backdown over police access” is just the first step in earning back the public’s trust.
“For two weeks, Mr Hunt has been insisting there was no issue and that the Australian Digital Health Agency’s policies were enough to safeguard patient privacy.”
Acting Australian Information Commissioner and acting Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk welcomed the strengthened privacy protections.
“The proposed amendments to require a court order to release any My Health Record information without consent will create certainty and enhance privacy safeguards for all Australians,” she said.
Hunt said the government will move to implement and introduce these changes as soon as possible.