The Senate has voted to extend the opt-out deadline for the My Health Record until January 31, after a Labor motion to force a one-year extension was narrowly defeated in the upper house.
The Labor motion to push for a legislative amendment in the MHR legislation came after the government ignored the Senate’s vote on Monday calling for a delay in the deadline, which falls due tomorrow.
The Labor motion was defeated 32-30, but a subsequent motion for an extension until the end of January, put up by One Nation, was successful.
Before the vote, Labor’s health spokesperson Catherine King said her party was seeking crossbench support to amend the legislation to extend the opt-out period for 12 months, as recommended by a recent Senate inquiry.
“A 12-month extension will give the Government time to commission and implement a Privacy Commissioner review to address outstanding concerns about system settings,” she said in a statement.
“If they don’t do that, a Shorten Labor Government will.”
A 12-month extension would also give the government time to reach every Australian with a new public information campaign, so that people could make a fully informed choice about whether they wanted to opt out of the scheme.
Ms King also revealed today that she had not opted out herself from the scheme, which was originally developed under Labor as an opt-in model known as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record.
“I’ve chosen to keep a My Health Record and I encourage people to do so, but to actively understand what it is and to make sure that your privacy settings are the ones that you want to do,” she said.
“I’ve gone in and changed my privacy settings, and to be honest, it is quite difficult and does take a bit of time to do.”
She said the electronic health record promised “huge benefits” to Australians who participated.
“But the Liberals have jeopardised these benefits by shifting from Labor’s original opt-in system to an opt-out system without making the necessary legislative fixes – and without explaining this fundamental change to the Australian people.”
Outstanding concerns included privacy settings for minors aged 14-17, the automatic uploading of two years of Medicare data, and default settings that allowed access to a patient’s record by all their healthcare providers.
“Again, we think that the Privacy Commissioner needs to have a look at the settings overall. It’s better to take the time to get the reform right than it is to rush it through, just because the government is being stubborn.”