MEDICARE SMARTCARD TRIAL
Mr FINCH (Question) - Mr President, again my question is to the Leader. Leader, does the Government have any concerns about the trial in Tasmania of a Medicare smartcard which could give the Federal Government or even another citizen access to a person's entire medical history? Secondly, does the Government accept the assurance from the Special Minister of State, Senator Abetz, that the smartcard trial has no relationship with any national identity card?
Mr AIRD - Mr President, I thank the honourable member for his question. It is not for me to agree with Senator Abetz or not. I am highly unlikely to agree with anything that he says. But I can indicate that -
Ms Thorp - I like his accent.
Mr AIRD - It is going to be interesting to see how Hansard records that sound, Mr President.
In answer to the honourable member's question, Tasmania was chosen as the smartcard trial because the HealthConnect trial is being conducted in this State and the objective of the smartcard trial was to see in the HealthConnect context whether the card would be useful in the future to improve access to health services and health information. I am advised by the Australian Government that there are no current additional - that is different from Senator Abetz, by the way - privacy implications for the smartcard and it does not contain any more information than the current Medicare card has written on the front and stored on its magnetic strip.
Consumers over the age of 15 have the option of having their photograph included on the smartcard if they wish and this is the only addition to the content of the current card. Card security features have also been improved. Take-up of the card is optional. Consumers who are renewing their card are asked if they wish to participate and be issued with a smartcard and advertising material in Medicare offices also invites consumers to participate in the trial.
Entry to the trial is therefore a matter of choice. I am advised that the consumer is always in control. I am also advised by the Australian Government that during the consultation process of the trial consumers have highlighted the opportunity to in future include additional information on the card such as emergency information on next of kin, medications, adverse drug reactions, allergies and organ donations, as this would improve access to and quality of services received.
However, I am advised that additional items will not be included on the card until appropriate consultation has occurred with consumers. Given the current limited information contained on the card, its voluntary uptake and consumer control of what information is included on the card in the current Medicare smartcard trial, it does not have the features of a national identity card. Let me add that if I am given the opportunity as a consumer to take up this option, I will certainly be doing so.
Ms Thorp - If you do not take the smartcard, what is the other one called?
Mr AIRD - Not very smartcard.