Senate backs Telstra-run Cancer Register — but calls for action on data breach bill

The Senate has passed government legislation to create the National Cancer Screening Register, which will be established and operated by Telstra under a $220 million contract announced earlier this year.

Although establishing the register has bipartisan support, the government has come under fire for the decision to outsource it to Telstra. In particular, the decision to award the contract to the telco before parliament passed enabling legislation has been criticised.

Telstra has argued it is “well placed” to establish the register, and has said that it will deliver a platform that meets the government’s privacy and security requirements.

The ALP and the Nick Xenophon Team passed amendments to the second reading motion for the National Cancer Screening Register Bill 2016 and National Cancer Screening Register (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2016.

Those amendments called for the Auditor-General to scrutinise the process of awarding the contract and also condemned the government “for outsourcing Australians' most sensitive health information to Telstra before the Parliament even saw the necessary legislation”.

In addition, the Senate called on the government to legislate a mandatory data breach notification scheme “by the end of the 2016 sittings”.

The government has previously released an exposure draft of a bill to create such a scheme, in line with the recommendation of the parliamentary inquiry into the data retention scheme.

The exposure draft, made public in December, would oblige businesses to report a “serious data breach” to the Australian Information Commissioner and notify individuals whose data is affected by a breach.

In August, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released list of legislation proposed for introduction in parliament that included the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill, with a note indicating the government’s intention to seek passage for the bill during the spring sittings of parliament.

However, the bill has yet to appear on the list of legislation cleared by the Coalition party room for introduction into parliament.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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