Opposition Senator Sue Boyce has taken the sledgehammer to the Federal Government's electronic health policy, claiming the planned system had a "snowball's chance in hell" of being delivered by its planned introduction date of 1 July.
In early February Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon introduced legislation into Federal Parliament that would introduce a National Health Identifier to be implemented by the middle of 2010.
But in a statement issued late yesterday, Boyce pilloried the plans.
"This system, which is supposed to be a state-of-the-art nationally integrated system to provide all Australians with their own identifier number, is crippled by inept management, hopeless dithering and a complete lack of any political leadership," she said.
The senator said she had questioned government bureaucrats on the issue during a Senate Estimates session on the issue on 10 February. "I was assured then by a senior Health Department bureaucrat that trials of the e-health system were already underway yet only days ago a Health Department spokeswoman was quoted as saying that work is yet to begin on the system," Senator Boyce said.
"I have written to the Health minister, Nicola Roxon, asking her to explain why what I was told on 10 February in the Senate hearings appears in retrospect to have been so wrong and so utterly misleading, given the statement by the Health Department spokeswoman published recently," she said.
Boyce further attacked the government for not yet introducing the e-health legislation into the Senate. "The fact that we are only 10 weeks or so away from the 1 July implementation date and the Rudd Government hasn't even got around to having the legislation required to establish the system introduced, speaks volumes about how badly the whole process has been mismanaged," Boyce said.
"This is another example of how the Rudd Government handles the implementation of its grand schemes — big promises, massive spin and then hopeless bungling. Clearly, there is a pattern of failure across the board."
She concluded her statement by noting she would not be surprised to see the nation head into the next Federal Election with — at best — a patched together and incomplete system.
In a statement issued through her office, Roxon herself said that if Boyce was so interested in the issue, she would have checked the parliamentary record — which, she said, would show the legislation was introduced more than two months ago.
"It is important that this legislation is not blocked by Senator Boyce and her colleagues, just as they have blocked another important bill that would have established the Preventative Health Agency," said Roxon. "She and her colleagues also delayed legislation that gave nurse practitioners and midwives access to the MBS and PBS for the first time."
"Health reform, including action to establish a secure e-health system, should be beyond such politicking, so I look forward to Senator Boyce's support for this important legislation."