Australians need more time to opt-out of My Health Record, say politicians

Australia’s Senate has passed a motion calling on the government to extend an opt-out period for its controversial My Health Record scheme, which has been dogged by concerns about privacy.

All Australians who have not opted out by Thursday will have a My Health Record automatically created in their name, but the vote aims to give more time for people who may have been struggling to contact authorities because of high demand.

The Guardian reported that the motion calls for the opt-out period to be extended ‘until the legislation and any amendments are passed, outstanding privacy and security issues are addressed and public confidence in this important reform is restored.”

The bill received crossbench support after being proposed by the opposition Labor party. The party’s health spokeswoman, Catherine King, said the opt-out period should be extended until concerns over privacy have been tackled by legislation.

King said: “There’s no guarantee the legislation will even pass this year – meaning some Australians may opt out unnecessarily over concerns that are addressed by the legislation.

“The government should listen to Labor and to the Senate and extend the opt-out period.”

Health minister Greg Hunt last week unveiled changes to the scheme to address a range of concerns about privacy, such as whether violent exes would be able to access the records of their former partners.

Other changes include increased penalties, with fines more than doubling to $315,000 or up to five years’ jail, for those who misuse the system, according to the website WAtoday.

The Australian Digital Health Agency will not be able to allow other entities to access the records, health insurers will not be able to access them and employers may not use them to discriminate against workers.

Data from September shows that 1.147 million Australians have opted out of the system, and around six million people already have a record after being enrolled under the previous opt-in system.

 

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