THE HON BARNABY JOYCE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND
- January 2024
VETERANS SHOULD BE GIVEN FACTS ON PRIVACY BREACH: NOT MEALY-MOUTHED WORDS
All veterans should be personally sent a clear and concise factsheet, free of any mealy-mouthed wording, explaining a personal data privacy breach between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the University of South Australia.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, said the Government had failed to restore confidence with veterans that their personal data, including medical records, had not been inappropriately accessed or disclosed.
He said the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner had last year awarded $5,000 compensation to an individual whose privacy had been breached with the sharing of information as a part of the MATES program, Medicines Advice and Therapeutics Education Services.
“The Department has said this was an isolated incident and that they have paused the exchange of information with the university while a review is underway including how to better ensure veterans are aware of their participation and opt-out avenues”, Mr Joyce said.
However, Mr Joyce said the government had failed to explain how in-depth its review had been and how it had been able to establish that the incident was an isolated one.
He also said veterans wanted evidence that the Department had ensured their personal information was – and has always been – de-identified as a part of the information exchange.
“This issue is causing great angst in the veteran community. The Department’s assurances are vague and couched in carefully crafted bureaucratic wording”, Mr Joyce said.
“The Minister needs to ensure that all veterans are given a clear and concise factsheet free of the normal mealymouthed wording. It needs to clearly answer questions about how the individual breach occurred; how the Department has satisfied itself it was an isolated incident and, if it is not, how they are openly and honestly communicating with affected participants. They also need to be clear about what failsafe measures are being put in place before there is any recommencement”, he said.
Mr Joyce reiterated that the breach was not a malicious act, but rather a mistake.
“The problems occur when veterans are not being provided all the information in an open and clear way. It’s compounded even further when veterans are not convinced that the Minister is on top of his portfolio and know that, under Labor, their Minister doesn’t even sit at the Cabinet table to ensure their concerns are treated as a priority”, he said.
Mr Joyce said the MATES program had operated for 18 years and underpinned research and programs aimed at veteran medicine usage and access to veterans’ health services.
“No one wants to see that work compromised because veterans have lost confidence in the government’s handling and honesty on this issue”, Mr Joyce said.
Media Contact: Heidi Williamson 0436807792