The Opposition has today announced it will seek a Senate inquiry into the Federal Government’s My Health Record, with the Shadow Health Minister claiming, “It's time to clean up this mess.”
Labor’s health spokesperson Catherine King and Senator Jenny McAllister said in a joint statement the Opposition would give the Senate notice today that it will be moving a motion to establish an inquiry into the My Health Record “fiasco” amid an ongoing privacy and security backlash.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has called the move a “stunt” that places politics above patients.
According to the statement, Labor supports the national health database but the government has botched its implementation.
“We remain deeply concerned that the government’s bungled roll out of the My Health Record opt out period has severely undermined public trust in this important reform.”
Labor will this week canvas crossbench support for an inquiry into the laws, regulations and rules underpinning My Health Record.
The developments follow a number of concessions made by the government over the last two weeks, including an extension of the opt out period, additions to the public information campaign, and legislative amendments to prevent government departments and law enforcement agencies from accessing individuals’ My Health Records without court orders.
Following Labor’s announcement, Health Minister Greg Hunt and King embarked on an extraordinary Twitter spat in what was a dramatic departure from Hunt’s generally more measured messaging.
[Read more: Chronic care patients forced to have My Health Records to access government's Health Care Homes program | Greg Hunt announces legislative changes to tighten privacy and security protections for My Health Record]
“It's time to clean up this mess,” King tweeted while sharing the announcement on the social network.
Hunt responded by describing Labor’s move as a stunt.
“Labor knows we were already going to refer the My Health Record legislative changes to the Senate as a matter of ordinary business. This is a stunt and they know we were writing to the Senate and they were just trying to get in ahead,” Hunt tweeted.
King replied, claiming the government’s concessions hadn’t gone far enough.
“This inquiry isn’t limited to your inadequate changes. It’s a broader inquiry into the whole My Health Record system.”
Hunt then accused Labor of politicising a major health infrastructure project that has so far cost $2 billion.
“Labor unanimously voted for the opt-out legislation in 2015. @CatherineKingMP said only a few weeks ago “now the My Health Record is something we’ve supported. We’ve supported the Government in having an opt-out approach.” (18.5.18). Labor cares about politics not patients.”
But King tweeted in reply that today’s move was also driven by the government’s handling of other troubled tech projects.
“If only we’d known then what we know now as a result of censusfail, robodebt, the NBN and the NDIS – you lot botch the implementation every single time,” she said.
Labor also repeated its call for the suspension of the My Health Record roll out until privacy and security concerns are resolved.
Every Australian will be provided with a My Health Record unless they opt out by November 15. About 6 million currently have a My Health Record.
The news is another setback for the Australian Digital Health Agency, which has continued to defend the system in the face of strident criticism from a cavalcade of opponents, including data privacy advocates, cybersecurity experts, domestic violence campaigners, unions, doctors and mental health groups.
The disastrous start to the opt out period has seen tech meltdowns and the discovery by many people that My Health Records had already been created for them without their consent. There were also numerous claims of incorrect information in records, including wrong data relating to doctors’ appointments and medications. Users attempting to delete a document from their My Health Record are asked by the system to select a reason, with the options including “incorrect identity”.
According to the Opposition, the Senate inquiry would examine the government’s decision to shift from an opt in system to an opt out system and whether it adequately prepared for the change.
It would also examine privacy and security concerns including the adequacy of the systems’ log-in procedures and default settings, as well as the potential for health insurers to gain access to My Health data.
Labor intends to request that the Senate inquiry report before the end of the opt out period in November.
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