ABC NEWCASTLE BREAKFAST WITH JOHANNA NICHOLSON AND ADRIAN RASCHELLA
SATURDAY, 21 JULY 2018
SUBJECT: My Health Record, Craig Kelly’s comments on MH17, Emma Husar.
ADRIAN RASCHELLA, PRESENTER: Backlash was loud and clear. This week the government was forced to defend its new online health record system, My Health, with concerns about data privacy and criticism that people have to opt-out of the service rather than opt-in.
JOHANNA NICHOLSON, PRESENTER: To discuss this and the week's other big political stories, we are joined in the studio by Liberal MP Craig Kelly. From Newcastle, we are joined by Labor MP Pat Conroy. Thanks both of you for coming in.
CRAIG KELLY: Great to be with you.
NICHOLSON: Craig, we will get to the My Health story in just a moment but to address your interesting week that you've had this week, the comments that you made about, specifically about MH17, and the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Would you choose to rephrase those comments if you had the choice?
KELLY: I think I would but I want to make...
NICHOLSON: What would you say?
KELLY: Context is important in everything. The context I was talking about was that it is important there should be meetings between the leader of Russia and the leader of the USA. Dialogue is important. The debate was whether that meeting should go ahead or shouldn't go ahead. I always believe it's best if you have a foe or an adversity, your best to try and sit down and discuss things with them. That was the point I was trying to make.
NICHOLSON: But why, To have those discussions between world leaders, does certain things have to be looked over?
KELLY: They don't have to be looked over. The fact that the meeting is all about should the meeting go ahead - yes or no. I was arguing the case that it's very important for the leader of the USA, whoever it is, whether its President Obama or President Trump, whoever the next leader of the USA is, that that leader sits down and has a dialogue with the leader of the USR, or, sorry, Russia as we should say, as we call them today.
RASCHELLA: Pat Conroy, Labor also had a bit of a dodgy end to the week as well with your colleague, Emma Husar, facing claims from some of her staff of bullying and misconduct. Have you spoken to her about that?
PAT CONROY: I haven't, to be honest. I've only seen reports in the media. I think it's important that we acknowledge that Emma has been a formidable representative for Lindsay over the last two years. She has been passionate and enthusiastic in representing the interests of Western Sydney people around the Penrith area. There is an investigation going on, as I understand it, and we should let that investigation run and see what the conclusion comes from Mr Whelan, who is a very responsible and experienced lawyer.
NICHOLSON: Pat, was Bill Shorten or anyone else in the Labor Party aware of these allegations at all?
CONROY: I've seen public commentary by Mr Shorten's office that he wasn't aware and I accept that. I certainly wasn't aware of these accusations until they surfaced in the media. I think the key thing is, like all these things, they need to be tested through a thorough investigation to see what the conclusion is. I've known Emma for about two years. In that period, I have seen her as a very enthusiastic and passionate advocate for the interests of people in Lindsay and so far that's the only experience I've had of Emma.
RASCHELLA: Notwithstanding the investigation is under way, the idea that perhaps political staffers should be doing certain personal assistant type work - picking up the kids - I understand there were other allegations about expectations of work to be done that were outside the role of political staff. Should political staff be subjected to those expectations?
CONROY: Well, I'm not going to comment on unsubstantiated allegations at this stage or engage in hypotheticals, there is an investigation. It's important that all workers, whether they work for MPs or the ABC or a local factory or cafe are treated with respect and dignity and they perform the duties that are reasonable for that position. That's always been my policy. I have seen nothing in Emma's performance to contradict that. I think we should let the investigation run its course rather than speculating about hypotheticals. That would be very premature.
NICHOLSON: Let's move on to the My Health record. Craig, I'll start with you. Are you happy to put your health data on the record?
NICHOLSON: No concerns about hacking?
KELLY: I've looked at it, and obviously there are concerns, people should be concerned, we should look at this in detail but if I'm in a state or overseas somewhere, especially over Perth or Melbourne and I'm in an accident, I want the medical professionals to be able to look at my record immediately to find out. The medical professions have looked at this and they said this move will save lives. If people have concerns, they have the ability to opt out.
NICHOLSON: News out this morning, The Singaporean government says hackers have broken into the health database in a deliberate, targeted and well-planned attack. What's to say that couldn't happen in Australia?
KELLY: We have security measures in place. There is always that risk. But against that risk, you've got the fact that someone is in a state away from the normal doctor and their medical data is needed very quickly to save their lives. I think when you weigh things up, it is far better that that data is available than not. I'm more than happy for my records to be on that database.
RASCHELLA: We have all been able to get along without it up until now, haven't we?
KELLY: Well I don't know if we have or not. If we look at the medical experts we have to listen to the experts in this field. They say by having this process, we will save lives. I'm prepared, on that case, take that advice. And as I said, I'm more than prepared to have my records on that database.
RASCHELLA: Pat Conroy, what do you make of the way this has been handled? Am I right in thinking that the initial plan with this was it was meant to be an opt-in system and then somewhere along the way it's turned into an opt-out system?
CONROY: That's my understanding. The rollout of this has been mishandled from the start by this government. In theory, having this system is a good thing, it has the potential to save $7 billion. My wife's a nurse and she has been very enthusiastic about the ability of this to improve clinical outcomes for patients having everything centralised. But this is a government that mismanaged the census collection online. This is a government that allowed Medicare records to be stolen and put on to the deep web, the dark web. So I've got zero confidence this government can manage this properly. We've seen the rollout of the opt-out process being mismanaged. I'm really worried about the confidentiality of my data and my constituents' data. In theory, this is a good system but I think we need to do a lot more before I have any confidence this government can manage this.
NICHOLSON: Pat, do you think it should be opt-in rather than opt-out?
CONROY: Certainly at this stage I'm probably not going to put my data on there because I don't have confidence in the system. I'm relaxed about it being opt-out once we've got the confidentiality and the IT systems ironed out. At this stage we don't have that confidence so maybe it should be opt-in but if we go back to basic fundamental foundations for this, and that is that the confidentiality of the data must be assured and, at this stage, I've got zero confidence in this government managing the confidentiality.
RASCHELLA: The NHS in the UK scrapped a similar system back in
2016 because it found that data systems just could not be secure enough.
CONROY: Absolutely. You've already got suspicions about medical professionals who might have some sort of link with an ex-family member or someone else they don't like accessing data through these systems. I'm very nervous about this. The vast majority of health professionals are good, honest, hard-working people and we want to make sure that the IT systems are there so that no-one can be accused of doing the wrong thing.
NICHOLSON: Craig, is the government doing enough to sell this system to the public?
KELLY: I think we could possibly do more discussion in this space but the reality is the medical professionals are saying this will save lives. We shouldn't be playing politics with this. We should be taking their advice. We should be implementing the system. Those that have concerns, they have the ability to opt out. I myself am more than happy...
NICHOLSON: My apologises Craig, I will have to interrupt you because your leader, the Prime Minister, is speaking in Queensland. We will take you there live.
MEDIA CONTACT: NATASHA LLOYD JONES