Veterans’ health information bill raises concerns

2 minute read

A proposed law would give the government power to disclose otherwise protected health records


Concerns have been raised over a proposed law that gives the government power to disclose otherwise protected personal information of veterans, including sensitive health records.

The Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures) Bill 2016, if passed, would give the government the ability, legally, to release personal information of veterans if it deemed disclosure was in “the public interest”.  The legislation defines public interest as any “threat to life, health or welfare” but also includes “mistakes of fact” and “misinformation in the community”.

There are fears that the last two clauses could allow the release of private information about veterans who criticise the government.

Doctors have warned that this could include mental health records, or information about HIV or STI status.

“Any measures undertaken that impact the trust and confidence of the veteran community have the potential to jeopardise the uptake of services,” the Commonwealth Ombudsman warned in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry.

The ALP signalled it might withdraw support for the bill, which it originally helped pass in the lower house at the first reading.

The draft laws face more scrutiny in the wake of the controversial release of personal information to journalists by the Department of Human Services.

The department released details about the welfare history of blogger and single mother Andie Fox in March. Ms Fox wrote a column for Fairfax Media claiming she was “terrorised” by Centrelink debt collectors.

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