Showing posts with label #TurnbullGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #TurnbullGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Great Barrier Reef: $487.63 million to do little more than sit by the bedside of a dying reef system?


The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2018:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has had some good fortune that few environmental NGOs could count on. The $444 million it was granted by the government earlier this year dwarfs its previous budgets by a large multiple. Having worked in two small environmental charities of a similar operating budget and staffing to the pre-windfall foundation, I can confirm getting so much money without even applying for it is far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Still, the biggest questions about the GBRF windfall don’t relate to its good luck in an opaque government decision, or even its connections to the fossil fuel industry. 

These are entirely valid concerns, but they risk eclipsing the bigger significance of the government’s move.

What we also need to ask is: what does the foundation do? What are its outputs, its activities? And why would the federal government be so keen to direct such a huge chunk of funding to those activities?

At best, the government’s massive funding dump is a long-shot attempt to save a few bits of the reef from inevitable degradation. At worst, it’s a distraction from that fate – and a diversion from addressing its causes.

The foundation has standard governance structures, and the support of credible, dedicated scientists. But what it does it essentially triage.

It’s now clear the government understands that even in the best climate scenario, the Great Barrier Reef will not survive in its recent form. The Department of Environment and Energy acknowledged this just last month. Even the Queensland tourism industry has publicly come to terms with the certainty that the reef will continue to suffer from climate change.

Scientists have been telling us since the 1980s that even modest climate change is a threat to coral reefs. Corals are so sensitive to changes in temperature that even in the best case warming scenario – achieving the 1.5 C stretch goal of the Paris Agreement - it’s now estimated that only 10 per cent of the world’s reefs will survive in their current form. At 2C, none are expected to escape “severe degradation and annihilation”.

The foundation delivers projects focused on “resilience, restoration and innovation”. That means doing its best to protect and restore the reef. It notes climate change is the biggest threat, but it does not address greenhouse gas emissions, at either a local or systemic level.

Its activities are similar to those we’ve seen from several other reef-focused initiatives and programs in recent years: breeding resilient corals, establishing small refuges, developing monitoring tools, and supporting species such as turtles and dugongs.

Projects like these have been allocated hundreds of millions of dollars of federal government funding through various programs over the years, including water quality and run-off management along with contentious projects to removing Crown of Thorns starfish, and more radical measures such as underwater fans to drive cooler water from the depths. The foundation, for its part, reported recently on testing of a polymer “sun shield”, noting that the technology would only scale to smaller, “high value or high risk” parts of the reef.

A good case can be made that these experiments are pragmatic. Even if emissions stop tomorrow, locked-in warming will continue to ravage the reef for the next few decades.

The foundation counts respected research institutions among its partners, and scientists such as Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland are on its scientific advisory board. For Hoegh-Guldberg, who sounded the alarm on the threat of climate for coral reefs in 1999, the foundation provides an important opportunity to educate corporations on the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef and climate in general. Again, its scientific review processes have not been questioned.

However, it’s important to remember that there's no guarantee these “resilience” activities will succeed against a backdrop of waters reaching temperatures deadly to coral. Whether portions of a complex marine ecosystem can be preserved, and in what form, is still very much unknown. Professor Terry Hughes, a contender for world leading coral reef expert, is dubious; in a Nature paper he found that water quality and fishing pressure – two key ways of improving resilience - made little difference in the face of devastating warm surges.

BACKGROUND


Sunday, 19 August 2018

The first unintended consequence of Malcolm Turnbull's perverse $487M grant to the small Great Barrier Reef Foundation surfaces


The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 August 2018:

The Turnbull government's claim its $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation would spur private donations has been disputed by a leading coral scientist who says funding for his own venture has dried up in the wake of the cash splash.

Charlie Veron, a marine biologist dubbed "the godfather of coral" for discovering more than one-fifth the world's coral species, said US donors to his Corals of the World website dropped plans to donate $60,000 once they saw "the Australian government was going to pour a fortune" into reef projects.

"My source of funding has completely stopped," Dr Veron said.

Dr Veron said his website, a decade in the making, would be crucial for any future recovery work on the reef, such as the $100 million reef restoration and adaptation program that will now be under the foundation's stewardship.

Dr Veron said he met last week the foundation head, Anna Marsden, who said she "didn't have any money that could go" to his project despite it needing $200,000, or one-quarter of 1 per cent of the government's largesse, to survive.

"The whole thing is just a mystery to me," he said. "It's a drop in the bucket if ever there was one."....

A foundation spokeswoman said Dr Veron had been one of "a number of organisations [that] have expressed an interest" in seeking funds.

"At a recent meeting, we advised Dr Veron that a process was being established to consider proposals under the Reef Trust Partnership," she said. "We will consider proposals for funding once the governance and advisory framework is established and a process for applications has been approved."

Fairfax Media approached Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, for comment.

"Perverse outcomes are going to be part of a process that wasn't thought through," Tony Burke, Labor's environment spokesman, said. "The due diligence [into the Foundation before the grant was made] was a joke."

Mr Burke said it was possible that less private funding would available for reef projects than before as a result of "decision making with almost no formal process".

The foundation spokeswoman said that the non-profit will continue to make the raising of private funds "a focus and responsibility, so we can amplify the impact of the government’s investment".....

Dr Veron said donors to his site had poured in $2.5 million to build the most complete record of corals that would be critical for efforts to restore reefs in the future. For instance, it has identified and made available information of eight coral species that appear to be able to resist bleaching.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Great Barrier Reef Foundation: waiting for the inevitable crash


Mainstream media reports that Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull (former director Goldman Sachs), Minister for Environment and Energy & Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg (former director Deutsche Bank Australia) and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation & Member of the Business Council of Australia John Schubert (former chair Commonwealth Bank) met on 9 April 2018 to discuss the allocation of a grant valued at in excess of AU$487.6 million to the foundation.

It was also reported that no officials from the Department of the Environment and Energy were present at that meeting when the grant offer was made and apparently accepted.

Less than ten weeks later the grant was formally approved without meeting all relevant provisions in the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation with a staff of only six full-time employees now has no more than 6 financial years to spend this large sum, which represents est. 69.66 per cent of funds held in the federal government operated Reef Trust since 2014 and 97.52 per cent of additional funds received by the trust on 29 April 2018.

Leaving the Reef Trust with an unspecified amount to fulfil other commitments over the next six years.

Due to obvious time constraints, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s board and corporate 'advisers' need to have a detailed financial and project action plan for 2018-19 immediately - if not sooner.

I suspect that I am not alone in waiting for waste of resources, duplication of effort, poorly targeted projects, lack of verifiable outcomes and other instances of  mismanagement to emerge over time, given the slapdash way this grant was put together.

Australian Government, GrantConnect:


GA ID: GA9190
Agency: Department of the Environment and Energy
Approval Date: 20-Jun-2018
Publish Date: 12-Jul-2018
Category: Natural Resources - Conservation and Protection
Grant Term: 27-Jun-2018 to 30-Jun-2024
Value (AUD): $487,633,300.00 (GST inclusive where applicable)

Ad hoc/One-off: Yes
Aggregate Grant Award: No

PBS Program Name: DoTE 17/18 Program 1.1: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment
Grant Program: Reef Trust
Grant Activity: Reef Trust grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Purpose: The project will deliver activities which are consistent with the purposes of the Reef Trust Special Account Determination to achieve the Reef Trust Objectives and assist to protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Internal Reference ID: 100000001841

Confidentiality - Contract: Yes
Confidentiality Reason(s) - Contract: Other:  Aspects of the Co-Financing Plan and the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Plan 
Confidentiality - Outputs: No

Grant Recipient Details
Recipient Name: Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Recipient ABN: 82 090 616 443

Grant Recipient Location
Suburb: Brisbane
Town/City: Brisbane
Postcode: 4000
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA

Grant Delivery Location
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA



Third Sector, 7 June 2018:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) has confirmed one of its board directors will step down as he faces criminal charges for cartel conduct.

Stephen Roberts, an investment banker and GBRF board director, has been charged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly playing a part of a criminal cartel during a $2.5 billion deal.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said: “These serious charges are the result of an ACCC investigation that has been running for more than two years.”

The charges, which included other banking chief executives and senior staff, were laid by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and will be determined in court.

Criminal charges relating to an alleged cartel by Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and the ANZ have been formally laid in relation to alleged cartel arrangements relating to trading in ANZ shares following a $2.5 billion institutional share placement in August 2015.


Sunday, 5 August 2018

Tell me again why the Turnbull Government is insisting My Health Record will become mandatory by the end of October 2018?


It is not just ordinary health care consumers who have concerns about the My Health Record database, system design, privacy issues and ethical considerations.

It is not just the Turnbull Government which has not sufficiently prepared public and private health care organisations for the nationwide rollout of mass personal and health information collection - the organisations themselves are not ready.

Lewis Ryan (Academic GP Registrar)
* 91 % of GP Registrars have never used My Health Record in a clinical context

* 65% of GP Registrars have never discussed My Health Record with a patient

* 78%  of GP Registrars have never received training in how to use My Health Record

* 73% of GP Registrars say lack of training is a barrier to using My Health Record

* 71% of  GP Registrars who have used the My Health Record system say that the user interface is a barrier

* Only 21% of  GP Registrars believe privacy is well protected in the My Health Record system

In fact Australia-wide only 6,510 general practice organisations to date have registered to use My Health Record and these would only represent a fraction of the 35,982 GPs practicing across the country in 2016-17.


UPDATE

Healthcare IT News, 3 August 2018:
The Federal Government’s Health Care Homes is forcing patients to have a My Health Record to receive chronic care management through the program, raising ethical questions and concerns about discrimination.
The government’s Health Care Homes trial provides coordinated care for those with chronic and complex diseases through more than 200 GP practices and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services nationally, and enrolment in the program requires patients to have a My Health Record or be willing to get one.
But GP and former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps claimed the demand for patients to sign up to the national health database to access Health Care Homes support is unethical.
“I have massive ethical concerns about that, particularly given the concerns around privacy and security of My Health Record. It is discriminatory and it should be removed,” Phelps told Healthcare IT News Australia.
Under a two-year trial beginning in late 2017, up to 65,000 people are eligible to become Health Care Homes patients as part of a government-funded initiative to improve care for those with long-term conditions including diabetes, arthritis, and heart and lung diseases.
Patients in the program receive coordinated care from a team including their GP, specialists and allied health professionals and according to the Department of Health: “All Health Care Homes’ patients need to have a My Health Record. If you don’t have a My Health Record, your care team will sign you up.”
Phelps said as such patients who don’t want a My Health Record have been unable to access a health service they would otherwise be entitled to.
“When you speak to doctors who are in involved in the Heath Care Homes trial, their experience is that some patients are refusing to sign up because they don’t want a My Health Record. So it is a discriminatory requirement.”
It has also raised concerns about possible future government efforts to compel Australians to have My Health Records.
“The general feedback I’m getting is that the Health Care Homes trial is very disappointing to say the least but, nonetheless, what this shows is that signing up to My Health Record could just be made a prerequisite to sign up for other things like Centrelink payments or workers compensation.”
Human rights lawyer and Digital Rights Watch board member Lizzie O’Shea claims patients should have a right to choose whether they are signed up to the government’s online medical record without it affecting their healthcare.
“It is deeply concerning to see health services force their patients to use what has clearly been shown to be a flawed and invasive system. My Health Record has had sustained criticism from privacy advocates, academics and health professionals, and questions still remain to be answered on the privacy and security of how individual's data will be stored, accessed and protected,” O’Shea said. [my yellow highlighting]

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Turnbull Government prepares an end run around the Australian electorate?


In 1986 the Federal Government couldn’t get the national electorate to accept the Australia Card, a national identity card to be carried by all citizens.

Likewise in 2007 the wider electorate rejected the proposed Access Card, a national identity card with a unique personal identification number, which was to be linked to a centralised database expected to contain an unprecedented amount of personal and other information.

Federal Government also failed to have everyone embrace the idea of MyGov, a data sharing, one-stop digital portal for access to government services created in 2013. To date only 11.5 million people out of a population of over 24.9 million hold an account with MyGov.

When after three and a half years the populace did not register in sufficient numbers for the so-called Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR), an intrusive opt-in data retention system, government changed tack.

It relabelled PCEHR as My Health Record (MHR) in 2016 and broadened the number of agencies which could access an individual’s personal/health information. Decreeing it would become a mandatory data collection system applied to the entire Australian population, with only a short an opt-out period prior to full program implementation1.

However, it seems that the Turnbull Federal Government expects around 1.9 million people to opt-out of or cancel their My Heath Record in the next two months. Possibly with more cancellations to occur in the future, as privacy and personal safety become issues due to the inevitable continuation of MHR data breaches and the occurrence of unanticipated software vulnerabilities/failures.

So Turnbull and his Liberal and Nationals cronies have a backup in place in 2018 called the Data Sharing and Release Bill, which Introduces legislation to improve the use and reuse of public sector data within government and with private corporations outside of government, as well as granting access to and the sharing of data on individuals and businesses that is currently otherwise prohibited.

The bill also allows for the sharing of transaction, usage and product data with service competitors and comparison services. An as yet unrealised  provision which is currently being wrapped up in a pretty bow and called a consumer right - but one that is likely to be abused by the banking, finance, insurance, electricity/gas industry sectors.

The bill appears to override the federal privacy act where provisions are incompatible.

This is a bill voters have yet to see, because the Turnbull Government has not seen fit to publish the bill’s full text. Only an issues paper is available at present.

Notes:

1. Federal Government may have succeeded in retaining the personal details of every person who filled in the 2016 Census by permanently retaining these details and linking this information to their future Census information in order to track people overtime for the rest of their lives, but this win for government as Big Brother was reliant on stealth in implementation and was limited in what it could achieve at the time. 

Because not everyone ended up with a genuine unique identification key as an unknown number of individual citizens and permanent residents (possibly well in excess of half a million souls) as acts of civil disobedience deliberately filled in the national survey forms with falsified information or managed to evade filling in a form altogether. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A trio of Great Barrier Reef Foundation directors decline to appear before a senate committee inquiry


On 19 June 2018, the Senate referred the 2018-19 Budget measure Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report on 15 August 2018.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation made a written submission on 2 July 2018.

Yesterday it sent one of it newest directors (who apparently joined the board in the second half of 2017) and its managing director to give evidence before the inquiry.

However, three directors are seeking to avoid attending this inquiry  - John M Schubert (Chair), Grant King and Paul Greenfield.

This unwillingness is likely to be less about scheduling problems and more about close associations with petroleum, gas, mining* and finance industries, the foundation's membership list as well as the identity of donors who gave over $1.4 million to the foundation in 2017.


Three directors of a Great Barrier Reef charity entrusted with almost half a billion dollars in public money have refused to give evidence to a Senate inquiry scrutinising the controversial deal, raising the prospect they will be forced to appear.

Confidential Senate committee documents seen by Fairfax Media show that despite being offered five dates at which to attend the inquiry, the directors of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation say they are unavailable for questioning, variously citing overseas travel commitments, medical appointments, board meetings and other unspecified engagements.

The inquiry was launched following the Turnbull government’s decision to grant the small, business-focused charity $443 million to help rescue the reef.  The foundation has previously said it would “fully co-operate” with the probe.

The contentious Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant is to be spent on projects such as water quality improvements.

The Senate committee had specifically requested their attendance. The trio comprises the organisation’s chair John Schubert and board members Grant King and Paul Greenfield. Mr King is president of the Business Council of Australia and Dr Greenfield chairs the foundation’s scientific committee.

The foundation has advised that managing director Anna Marsden and another director, John Gunn, will give evidence.

The grant was awarded without a tender process and the government’s own expert agencies were not invited to apply.

The foundation plans to use the grant to leverage additional funds from the private sector.….

Fairfax Media understands the committee will ask the directors to find suitable dates to give evidence and advise them that the committee has the power to summon witnesses. According to the Parliament website, Senate committees rarely need to exercise such powers as witnesses are “normally very willing to place their views and the information they possess before the Senate to assist in an understanding of issues”…..

details of the deal show the foundation will receive almost $45 million to cover administration costs incurred by disbursing the funds. Fairfax Media previously reported the foundation would receive an upfront payment of $22.5 million plus interest. The recently published grant agreement shows the interest will be capped at $22 million, and any additional interest will be spent on reef projects.

The agreement also shows many aspects of the deal will remain confidential, including the strategy used by the foundation to attract private sector funds.

Greens oceans spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson criticised the secrecy and questioned the influence businesses would exert over how the grant was spent.
“How much of it is going to be used to promote the companies and essentially greenwash some of these businesses that are key polluters?” he said.

Businesses involved in the foundation include heavy polluters such as AGL, Peabody Energy, Shell, Rio Tinto and Qantas.

In a statement, the department said it accepted that the foundation “does not wish information about who it might approach or the strategies it might employ in its fundraising to be made public”.

The administration costs were “ reasonable given the scale of the grant” and any entity, including a government agency, would need adequate funds for such purposes, it said.

The department said the attendance at Senate hearings "is a matter for the foundation".

* The Great Barrier Reef Foundation classes Rio Tinto's RTFM Wakmatha (a Post Panamax bulk carrier on the Weipa to Gladstone run) as the foundation's research vessel in its so-called mission to save the reef.

UPDATE

As of 7.35pm 31 July 2018 the transcript of yesterday's public hearing has not been published.

However, mainstream media is reporting that Ms. Marsden gave evidence that in April 2018 Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull and Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg met privately with the Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, John Schubert.

At this meeting an unsolicited and unscrutinised offer of over $45 million as a lump sum grant was made to Schubert as chair of the foundation.

This private meeting goes a long way towards explaining Schubert's reluctance to be questioned during this Senate inquiry.

Three former bankers meeting to carve out a large chunk of taxpayer dollars, probably felt comfortable enough to speak freely on a number of subjects.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Australia 2018: the Coal War continues


It should come as no surprise that in the Coal War being conducted by right-wing ideologues and climate change deniers consumers are predicted to be the losers under the Turnbull Government's National Energy Agreement (NEG) and, that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is offering the same illusory $550 per annum saving on electricity costs per household promised but not delived by his predecessor Tony Abbott. 

A COAG Energy Council Ministers meeting on August 2018 will reveal the final NEG design - a design which won't be published until after this meeting.

What is already broadly known about the NEG design appears to support allegations that the aim of this agreement is to cement the dominant position of fossil fuels in the national energy mix at the expense of renewable energy technologies.

REneweconomy, 20 July 2018:

As pressure mounts for Australia’s states and territories to finalise their position on the National Energy Guarantee, a new report has warned the federal government’s policy would fail to achieve its most basic and important function: to lower energy costs for consumers.

The report, commissioned by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, says the Coalition’s NEG would in fact do the opposite – raise electricity prices; as well as bringing investment in large-scale renewables to a halt, and do nothing to combat climate change.

Based on analysis conducted by energy and environment analysts RepuTex, the report models the impact of the NEG under the government’s 26 per cent emissions reduction target, compared to a more ambitious 45 percent target.


In both scenarios, as shown in Figure 17 above, electricity prices are forecast to fall through to 2020 as more than 6GW of renewable energy enters the NEM under large-scale renewable energy target (LRET).

“The increase in low cost solar and wind generation will see the electricity supply steadily become more competitive, with average prices less influenced by high priced gas, and subsequently falling toward $60 MWh in 2020,” the report says.

But under the NEG, new investment in renewables falls off a cliff after 2020, while the impact of the reliability guarantee drives an increase in gas generation, prolongs the phase-out of coal, and makes it harder for key new technologies, like battery storage and demand management to compete.

“The result is the continuation of a coal-dominated market with a fairly static picture for large-scale renewables investment, with gas providing flexibility to meet evening ramp ups,” the report says.

“As a result wholesale prices rise above $70 per MWh after the closure of Liddell, and $80 per MWh after the expected retirement of Yallourn in 2028.”

A more ambitious emissions reduction target, however, of 45 per cent, would provide a signal for investment in more solar and wind, driving prices down by around $20/MWh.

“The competitive pressure from higher solar and wind energy is modelled to push wholesale prices lower, eventually resulting in the closure of excess coal capacity” – around 9GW, in total, by 2030 RepuTex says.

Published on Jul 23, 2018

The crucial make or break meeting of State Energy Ministers is on 10 August. So if we want block Turnbull's dirty energy plan, we need to move right now.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt is not being truthful about My Health Record and he knows it


On 16 July 2018 the Australian Minister for Health and Liberal MP for Flinders, Gregory Andrew 'Greg' Hunt, characterised My Health Record as a "secure summary" of an individual's key health information.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) tells a rather different story.

One where at least 242 individual My Health Records have been part of mandatory data breach reports in 2015-16 to 2016-17, with nine of the 51 reported breach events involving "the unauthorised access of a healthcare recipient’s My Health Record by a third party".

A story which also involves at least 96 instances of Medicare uploading data to the wrong digital health records and also uploading claim information to another 123 My Health Records apparently without the knowledge or consent of the persons in whose names these My Health Records had been created.

There were other instances where MyGov accounts held by healthcare recipients were incorrectly linked to the My Health Records of other healthcare recipients.

Prior to the database name change and system change from opt-in to opt-out there had been another 9 data breaches of an unspecified nature reported, involving an unknown number of what are now called My Health Records.

More instances are now being aired in mainstream and social media where My Health Records were created by DHS Medicare Repository Services or other agents/agencies without the knowledge or consent of the individual in whose name the record had been created.
Healthcare IT News 16 July 2018


If this is how the national e-health database was officially functioning malfunctioning by 30 June 2017, how on earth is the system going to cope when it attempts to create millions of new My Health Records after 15 October 2018?

On the first day of the 60 day opt-out period about 20,000 people refused to have a My Health Record automatically created for them and at least one Liberal MP has also opted out, the Member for Goldstein and member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport Tim Wilson. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull has stated his view that mass withdrawals will not kill the national digital health records system - perhaps because he and his government are possibly contemplating adopting the following three coercive recommendations found amongst the thirty-one recommendations included in the Siggins Miller November 2016 Evaluation of the Participation Trials for the My Health Record: Final Report:

20. Use all mechanisms available in commissioning and funding health services as vehicles to require the use of the My Health Record to obtain funds where practical.

21. Consider ways to require the use of the My Health Record system by all healthcare providers and how to best use the Government’s purchasing power directly (e.g. in the aged care sector), via new initiatives as they arise (such the Health Care Home initiative) or via PHNs commissioning clinical services (e.g. require use of the My Health Record system in all clinical and aged care services that receive Commonwealth funds). Such requirements should have a timeframe within which healthcare providers need to become compliant.

22. Explore with health insurers how they could encourage preferred suppliers and clients to use the My Health Record system as part of their push for preventive care and cost containment.

That the My Health Record is not about improving health service delivery for individual patients is indicated by the fact that a My Health Record is retained by the National Repositories Service for between 30 and up to 130 years after death and, even during an individual's lifetime can be accessed by the courts, police, other government agencies and private corporations listed as research organisations requiring medical/lifestyle information for what is essentially commercial gain, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Health or the Digital Health Agency Systems Operator. See: My Health Records Act 2012 (20 September 2017), Subdivision B - s63 to s70

To put it bluntly, this national database will allow federal government to monitor the personal lives of Australian citizens more closely, enforce civil & criminal law, monetise collated data for its own benefit  and, weaponize the personal information collected anytime it feels threatened by dissenting opinion.

NOTES

OAIC annual reports:


The Guardian, 22 July 2018:

Australia’s impending My Health Record system is “identical” to a failed system in England that was cancelled after it was found to be selling patient data to drug and insurance companies, a British privacy expert has said.

My Health Record is a digital medical record that stores medical data and shares it between medical providers. In the UK, a similar system called care.data was announced in 2014, but cancelled in 2016 after an investigation found that drug and insurance companies were able to buy information on patients’ mental health conditions, diseases and smoking habits.

The man in charge of implementing My Health Record in Australia, Tim Kelsey, was also in charge of setting up care.data. 

Phil Booth, the coordinator of British privacy group Medconfidential, said the similarities were “extraordinary” and he expected the same privacy breaches to occur.

“The parallels are incredible,” he said. “It looks like it is repeating itself, almost like a rewind or a replay. The context has changed but what is plainly obvious to us from the other side of the planet, is that this system seems to be the 2018 replica of the 2014 care.data.” [my yellow highlighting]

North Coast Voices , 22 July 2018, Former Murdoch journalist in charge of MyHealth records –what could possibly go wrong?

UPDATE

Australian Parliamentary Library, Flagpost, 23 July 2018:

Section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012 enables the System Operator (ADHA) to ‘use or disclose health information’ contained in an individual’s My Health Record if the ADHA ‘reasonably believes that the use or disclosure is reasonably necessary’ to, among other things, prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute any criminal offence, breaches of a law imposing a penalty or sanction or breaches of a prescribed law; protect the public revenue; or prevent, detect, investigate or remedy ‘seriously improper conduct’. Although ‘protection of the public revenue’ is not explained, it is reasonable to assume that this might include investigations into potential fraud and other financial offences involving agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare, or the Australian Tax Office. The general wording of section 70 is a fairly standard formulation common to various legislation—such as the Telecommunications Act 1997—which appears to provide broad access to a wide range of agencies for a wide range of purposes. 

While this should mean that requests for data by police, Home Affairs and other authorities will be individually assessed, and that any disclosure will be limited to the minimum necessary to satisfy the request, it represents a significant reduction in the legal threshold for the release of private medical information to law enforcement. Currently, unless a patient consents to the release of their medical records, or disclosure is required to meet a doctor’s mandatory reporting obligations (e.g. in cases of suspected child sexual abuse), law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s records (via their doctor) with a warrant, subpoena or court order....

It seems unlikely that this level of protection and obligation afforded to medical records by the doctor-patient relationship will be maintained, or that a doctor’s judgement will be accommodated, once a patient’s medical record is uploaded to My Health Record and subject to section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012. The AMA’s Guide to Medical Practitioners on the use of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record System (from 2012) does not clarify the situation.

Although it has been reported that the ADHA’s ‘operating policy is to release information only where the request is subject to judicial oversight’, the My Health Records Act 2012 does not mandate this and it does not appear that the ADHA’s operating policy is supported by any rule or regulation. As legislation would normally take precedence over an agency’s ‘operating policy’, this means that unless the ADHA has deemed a request unreasonable, it cannot routinely require a law enforcement body to get a warrant, and its operating policy can be ignored or changed at any time.

The Health Minister’s assertions that no one’s data can be used to ‘criminalise’ them and that ‘the Digital Health Agency has again reaffirmed today that material … can only be accessed with a court order’ seem at odds with the legislation which only requires a reasonable belief that disclosure of a person’s data is reasonably necessary to prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute a criminal offence…..

Although the disclosure provisions of different agencies may be more or less strict than those of the ADHA and the My Health Records Act 2012, the problem with the MHR system is the nature of the data itself. As the Law Council of Australia notes, ‘the information held on a healthcare recipient’s My Health Record is regarded by many individuals as highly sensitive and intimate’. The National Association of People with HIV Australia has suggested that ‘the department needs to ensure that an individual’s My Health Record is bound to similar privacy protections as existing laws relating to the privacy of health records’. Arguably, therefore, an alternative to the approach of the current scheme would be for medical records registered in the MHR system to be legally protected from access by law enforcement agencies to at least the same degree as records held by a doctor.