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AMA concerns on smartcard legislation failing privacy test

13 March, 2007

AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, has urged Federal MPs to vote against the Government’s proposed Health and Social Services Access Card (Smartcard) legislation because it fails to offer adequate protection of private information and discriminates against younger Australians.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA recognises and supports the potential benefits of the Access Card but is dismayed that the deficiencies of the legislation undermine these benefits.

The AMA’s major concerns are:

- Future function creep
– the legislation gives such broad powers to the Minister and Secretary of the day to allow almost anything to be added to the list of uses and purposes of the Card and the Card number

- Age discrimination– automatic access to the Card is available to people aged 18 years and over, with those aged 16-18 having to make special application [the Medicare Card is automatically available to people aged 16 and over]
- Ownership– the Bill states that the individual owns the Card but actively disguises the fact that the individual does not own the information contained on the Card. Dr Haikerwal said the legislation provides inadequate protection against the misuse of personal information and any possible future uses of the card other than those that the Government has already specified.

“The AMA has serious concerns about the privacy and security of people’s personal details that would be contained on the Card,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“Others, including the Chair of the Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, Professor Allan Fels, and the Federal Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, have raised similar fears over privacy.

“And there are also reports of Government members who are very worried about future misuse of the information contained on the Card.

“The Government should produce a Bill that respects and protects the privacy and rights of all Australians.”

Dr Haikerwal said the Government is also yet to explain why the Bill raises the age of automatic access to the Card to persons aged 18 years and over, while the current Medicare Card is automatically available to people aged 16 and over.

“The Government must tell the Australian people why it is seeking to restrict the privacy, independence and health choices of young Australians,” Dr Haikerwal said.

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