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Labor fights against Telstra register

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Elise Scott

Federal Labor is trying to stop Telstra running a new national cancer screening register, upset sensitive health information will be handed to the private sector.

But the party has so far failed to amend legislation to restrict the management of the register to government agencies or not-for-profit organisations.

From May 1, the two-yearly Pap test will be replaced by an improved five-yearly cervical screening test administered by one national register, along with the bowel cancer screening program.

The bill to establish the register passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Labor supports the register but insists it's a disgrace the government signed a contract with Telstra before legislation had been presented to parliament.

Opposition MP Julie Owens said "extremely private" health data like cervical cancer texts, cancer precursors and Medicare details had never been handed over to a corporate company.

The government was treating the register like a guinea pig by giving sensitive patient data to Telstra, she said.

But Health Minister Sussan Ley said the protection of personal information in the register was of "paramount importance".

Labor's attempt to restrict the management of the register would be an "extraordinary" restriction on government ability to partner with companies.

"Successive governments have successfully partnered with the private sector to deliver many programs," she told parliament.

But the government did alter the legislation in response to concerns by the privacy and information commissioner.

Ms Ley said changes would force the contractor to notify the information commission and health department secretary of any breaches of data.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where Labor would have to convince the Greens and at least four crossbenchers to support the amendment to get it through the upper house.

Labor failed to change the bill to:

1. Prevent Telstra from running the register (mandating it be run only by a government agency or not for profit)

2. Ensure consumers are notified of data breaches

3. Impose more severe penalties for data breaches.

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