The Queensland registry is lobbying the Queensland Government to access to the Commonwealth’s MyHealth Records system to use the information it holds against shooters.
Meanwhile, the New South Wales registry is duping our veterens into providing medical information in exchange for free firearm licences.
Our advice is that:
- If you live in Queensland and suspect your licence has been knocked back because of a medical condition, make a complaint to your privacy commissioner (https://www.oic.qld.gov.au/about/privacy/make-a-privacy-complaint)
- If you live in NSW and are a veteran, think twice before going for a free licence – because the information on your DVA record will be used against you.
Access to Commonwealth records
In March last year the NSC revealed legal limitations to which confidential medical information held by the Commonwealth Government can be used.
The advice we received from the Australian Digital Health Agency, which manages the Commonwealth’s MyHealth Record database advised:
Any third party, such as a firearm registration body, seeking access to information in a My Health Record would require the consent of the individual or an order from a court, tribunal or coroner that has been issued under the framework set out in the MHR Act.
Firearm registration bodies are not participants in the My Health Record system engaged in providing healthcare to individuals. As noted above, if they wished to access My Health Record information for an individual, they would need to obtain consent or go through the formal process in the MHR Act. We are not aware of any requests to date from firearm registration bodies for access to My Health Record information.
Its clear with that information that our registries cannot gain access to MyHealth Records. Yet that’s exactly what they want.
A few days ago, the NSC received a tip that “the QPS have been given permission by the Qld health minister to access the “confidential” Commonwealth online health records, and based on this they are arriving on the doorstep of shooters with the documents to cancel licences and seize private property”
The fact this has been said does not mean the story is true. However, if it was true, it would raise serious legal questions which is why we could not let it go.
So we wrote to the Queensland health minister asking him for his advice on the matter by 31 March. No response was received.
New South Wales
Around the same time, we became aware that veterans holding a Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) card are being duped into exposing their medical information to the registry.
Card holders are entitled to fee exemptions for licences and permits to acquire if they provide a copy of their card.
The problem is, once our vets get this exemption, they can expect a call from the registry asking about what medical conditions are attached to their cards.
Or they might get an email, such as this one, which requires vets to get medical proof they are fit to posses and use firearms. This is despite the fact there was no evidence that the vet was not fit and proper in the first place.
While perhaps not perfect, the DVA provides considerable post-service support.
This means those who may be discharged for a medical condition – including psychiatric, are well looked after. It means the odds of anyone ‘slipping through the cracks’ are low, probably lower than in the broader population.
One vet we spoke with held licences in other states before moving to NSW where this became an issue. The vet served 10 years, of which 8 was spent on deployment in Afghanistan where he trained other soldiers and was involved in several incidents. He received treatment for this and is now enjoying a normal civilian life.
The vet took advantage of the free licence concession, which led to a call from registry that required him to reveal his medical history. He must now provide psychiatric reports every time he wants to renew his licence.
While he can get the reports at no cost through the DVA scheme, the fact is, it is outrageous and deceptive for NSW Police to be treating him this way because he is a vet.
This affects every vet in NSW who shoots – whether they served in Somalia, Timor, Iraq, Solomons, peacekeeping, Korea, or Vietnam. Simply put, it’s a disgrace that the NSW registry should dupe our vets in this way.
The conduct of NSWPol creates a real disincentive for vets who may need help, from getting that help because it may be used against them.
We put this allegation to the NSW health minister also for a response by 31 March.
Again, no response was received.
If you are a vet in NSW, we’d like to get your email address to coordinate an approach to the NSW Police Minister to put an end to this practice. To sign up to that, please click here (for DVA vets only).
Enter the Commonwealth Government
The fact we have these problems in two states prompted us to not only write to the Qld and NSW health and police ministers, but the Federal Minister for Health and the Australian Digital Health Agency. This will make them aware of the allegations and have any robust conversations that they may think appropriate behind closed doors, if they wish to do so.
Given the sensitivities that exist around the confidentiality of medical records – including the clearly strident protection of our data by the ADHA – we’re confident that any legal or ethical concerns will be dealt with, one way or the other.
At a minimum, we would be happy to see our registries issue guidelines which make it clear what information they will and will not use, and for what purpose – which most government privacy organisations require anyway.
In the meantime, we hope those agencies will eventually get back to us. We’ll let you know what they say when we hear from them.