Last-ditch bid to extend My Health opt-out period
EXCLUSIVE: MILLIONS of Australians will have My Health Records created for them starting from tomorrow without extra privacy and security protections unless the Senate signs off on the measures today.
The Opposition will make a last-ditch attempt today to force the government to extend the opt-out period for 12 months before it ends tomorrow, delaying the automatic creation of records for 17 million Australians for another year and giving Parliament time to introduce the extra security and privacy measures.
But if the Senate does not pass the legislation, the opt-out period will end without the extra protections in place.
That includes amendments to prevent law enforcement agencies from accessing any My Health Records without a warrant and to allow Australians to delete part or all of their record permanently, rather than records being kept on a government site for 130 years which is the case under current legislation.
The extra measures include:
• Boosting fines for misuse of a My Health Record from two to five years' jail;
• More than double fines for individuals to $315,000;
• Stronger protections against the misuse of records in domestic violence situations;
• Prohibiting employers from accessing potential employees records.
The Australian Digital Health Agency has told News Corp that My Health Records won't be created for those Australians who haven't opted out immediately from Thursday but will be established within weeks.
"The records will be created before the end of 2018, following the end of the opt out period on 15 November," an ADHA spokesman said.
"The Agency will advise on the exact date following the end of opt out period, and following the reconciliation period for the processing of paper forms."
Labor has yet to confirm if it will block the My Health Record changes if it is unable to secure the 12-month extension or if it will still pass the legislation.
But Parliament will not have a chance to legislate the protections after tomorrow until it sits again from November 26, well after the opt out period ends.
Former Australian Medical Association president and newly elected independent member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps is urging Australians to seriously consider opting out of the My Health Record until Parliament deals the privacy and security concerns.
"There is widespread confusion surrounding the rollout of My Health Record," Dr Phelps told News Corp.
"There are serious questions over privacy and security that need to be debated and legislated by the Parliament.
"The Government has so far refused to delay the rollout and it's important that we get this right.
"The simple reality is that the House of Representatives doesn't sit again until November 26 and that is beyond the current opt-out date.
"The Government needs to take seriously the decision of the Senate to recommend an extension of the opt-out date.
"Anyone who has legitimate concerns over My Health Record now has little choice but to opt out until these problems are addressed."
Shadow Health Minister Catherine King added: "The My Health Record opt-out period must not end until the clean-up legislation has passed the Parliament."
"A 12-month extension will also give the Government time to reach every Australian with its new public information campaign, so that people can make a fully informed choice about whether they want to opt-out of the scheme - or participate in the system and enjoy the benefits of a properly implemented My Health Record."
Crossbenchers from across the political divide are likely to back Labor's call for a 12 month extension given One Nation, the Greens and other crossbenchers voted on Monday for the delay, with the non-binding motion passing 33 votes to 22.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has so far rejected calls to extend the opt-out period beyond November 15.
A spokeswoman for the Minister previously told News Corp: "My Health Record was designed to save lives and has the backing of all the major medical groups including the AMA."
She added: "With My Health Record, patients have complete control over their medical records for the first time.
"Patients can direct their health care professional not to upload a particular record.
"They can also set pin blocks on particular records as well as restrict access on who view a certain record.
"In addition, they can subsequently delete certain parts of their records once they have been upload."
The My Health Record legislation is set to go before the Senate today.
If it is delayed, Labor can still seek crossbench support to put the bill onto the agenda.
About 1.147 million have opted out of the system so far. Six million already have the record and a further 300,000 opted in the past four months.