While not dissenting from the Committee's recommendations, the
Australian Greens express caution that this legislation may represent a minor
improvement instead of the necessary solution.
The Committee has heard ample evidence of community concern over issues
with the My Health Record (MHR) system. These concerns relate to privacy and
security, as well as the authorised handling of sensitive health data by
parties for whom it is valuable for reasons other than the protection and
promotion of health.
The purpose of this legislation is to address these concerns.
Item 6 of the Bill proposes to amend section 17 of the MHR Act through
the addition of two new paragraphs which would require the System Operator to
permanently destroy any record uploaded to the National Repositories Service,
which includes health information that is included in a healthcare recipient's MHR,
if that healthcare recipient has requested that the System Operator cancel
The Australian Greens support this amendment in principle.
The Committee heard evidence that this amendment is valuable but key
questions remain over how easily this destruction can be achieved. It is
standard database management practice to routinely create backups and cache
files that capture and preserve a moment in time, as the database existed at
that moment, and retain these backups offline.
It is unclear if this amendment requires the System Operator to
additionally and permanently destroy any saved version of a person's MHR,
including in historical backups, although at face value it does not appear to do
so. Furthermore, there remain unanswered questions over whether such backups
remain accessible to law enforcement agencies, which, if so, would be both
inappropriate and unsafe.
The collection, use, or disclosure of the health information included in
health recipients' MHRs is restricted by section 59 of the MHR Act.
Section 70 of the Act authorises the System Operator to use or disclose
information in a recipient's MHR to enable a law enforcement body to undertake
specified law enforcement activities. It also authorises the System Operator to
use or disclose health information if the System Operator suspects that there
has been unlawful activity in relation to its functions, and reasonably
believes that the use or disclosure of the information is necessary for
investigation of, or report to, an authority.
Section 70 of the MHR Act does not currently specify that a court order
is required for the System Operator to use or disclose healthcare recipients'
MHR information for law enforcement or related purposes.
Items 10 and 12 of the Bill have the effect of restricting the System
Operator from disclosing a healthcare recipient's information to law
enforcement or government agencies without an order from a judicial officer,
and confirming that MHR information will not be released to law enforcement
agencies or government bodies without a court order.
We support this provision as an improvement on the status quo, but it is
an insufficient and disappointing one. There remains significant scope for
The University of Melbourne noted that healthcare recipients' trust of
disclosure provisions of the MHR system could be enhanced if, under proposed
subsection 69A(4), the System Operator was required to notify a healthcare
recipient if their MHR information had been disclosed under proposed new
section 69A. The Australian Greens support such a requirement, although note
that such a notification would require current and up-to-date contact
information for a healthcare recipient be maintained, and this is a challenging
Further improvements to recipient privacy should also include making
security access PINs the default, opt-out option, restricting all access to a
healthcare recipient's MHR. The opt-out period should be extended and a larger
investment in community awareness of the program should be rolled out as a
matter of urgency.
The Australian Greens are supportive of the intent of My Health Record,
and we share the in-principle belief that there are substantial public health
benefits to be gained from such a model.
Nonetheless, we recognise also that there are legitimate and serious
concerns that have not yet been fully addressed. This legislation goes some way
to addressing them but in and of itself is insufficient to satisfy these
Siewert Senator Richard Di Natale
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