It's not often that we admit that a politician has done a sensible thing but that is what Health Minister Greg Hunt did this week, announcing he would introduce an amendment to the My Health Record act to enshrine a requirement for a court order before allowing law enforcement officials to access the system.
This is already the policy and usual practice anyway and has been for six years, but the 2012 legislation does not makes this explicit. Now, it will. Added to the announcement on Thursday at the COAG Health Council meeting that the opt-out period would be extended by an extra month, and a unanimous agreement that the jurisdictions were committed to opt out, the decision already seems to have already taken the heat off the potential Hindenburg that opt-out was becoming.
Just as we thought some of the gas was escaping from the My Health Record opt out Hindenburg, yet another drama exploded at the start of the week as the media and the privacy lobby seized on the wording of section 70 of the My Health Record Act, a couple of paragraphs of legalese that is either quite straight forward or a stain on humanity depending on your point of view.
Various interpretations of exactly what s70 means abounded, but it in effect lays out the circumstances under which the My Health Record system operator, namely the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), would be authorised to release health information to law enforcement officials, including the police and the immigration department.
One day in the not-too-distant future, communications and business students in universities across the land will sign up for a course called Marketing Disasters 101 and be presented with a case study about the utter train wreck that was the great My Health Record opt-out launch of July 2018.
Pretty much the only thing that could have made this week's debacle worse would have been an actual breach of the system itself. On Monday morning, a huge gang of online activists were just waiting for the clock to tick over to opt out before they let all hell break loose, and my word did they succeed. Social and mass media were dominated in the morning by stories about long delays and system collapses, and by the afternoon it had turned into a veritable production line of tinfoil hats.
One absolute hero got on the phone at 7am to opt out and then for the next few hours martyred himself to the cause by giving 10-minute updates on Twitter about how long he had to wait on the hotline. In the afternoon, he took to claiming that the use of the reCaptcha plug-in on the opt-out website meant everyone's identity verification information was now being flogged off to Google.