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Access Card draft legislation 'full of holes': AMA.

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Australian Medical Association Limited ABN 37 008 426 793

42 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT 2600: PO Box 6090, Kingston ACT 2604 Telephone: (02) 6270 5400 Facsimile (02) 6270 5499 Website :


AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today that the Government’s draft legislation for the Health and Social Services Access Card is full of holes and does not adequately address concerns about privacy and function creep raised by the AMA and other organisations.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA was also disturbed by the timing of the release of the Exposure Draft of the legislation to stakeholders and the short deadline for submissions. The draft was circulated the week before Christmas with a 15 January 2007 submission deadline - a period during which many organisations had reduced capacity to respond.

“Nevertheless, the AMA has identified a lot of problems with the draft,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“For a start, we are concerned that the legislation does not set out clearly the purpose of the Access Card number,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“Nor does the legislation set out the type of information to be held on the Card, explain how the information on the Card is to be verified, or indicate how people are going to be identified.

“It all looks like legislation on the run.

“The purpose of the Access Card number must be specified in the legislation to prevent future use for other purposes, and greater protection is needed to prevent any attempts to extend the use of information or identifiers contained on the Card.

“Our concerns in this area are heightened by Clause 30 of the draft Act which allows for administration of the legislation by Ministerial policy statement independent of the legislation, which appears to be an extraordinary circumvention of usual democratic processes for such a sensitive piece of legislation,” Dr Haikerwal said.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA is opposed to the section of the Government legislation that plans to limit the Access Card to individuals aged 18 years and older, thereby hindering their ability to access services and benefits independently.

“It would restrict young people’s privacy by making it harder for them to make life and health decisions free of interference.

“It is difficult to fathom the motivation or rationale for this move when the Medicare Card is available from 16 years of age or even younger in some special circumstances.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA will raise these and other issues relating to the draft Access Card legislation with the Government at the earliest opportunity.

The AMA’s full submission on the Access Card draft legislation is available on the AMA website.

22 January 2007

CONTACT: John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761