Telstra will not run cancer-screening database if Labor has its way

Labor has said it will try to ensure that only government or non-profit organisations are able to handle sensitive health data for the National Cancer Screening Register.

A push is on to prevent Telstra from implementing a AU$220 million contract it won prior to the July federal election, with Labor looking to introduce changes that would prevent the telco from handling the data.

In May, Telstra Health was awarded a deal to construct and run the new Australian National Cancer Screening Register for the next five years, with the database to maintain patient records for cancer testing across the country.

Shadow Minister For Health And Medicare Catherine King said on Tuesday that the government signed the contract despite not having legislation in place to establish the Register, and it would allow Labor to make amendments.

"Labor will fight the government's plan to hand private and intimate health data that is usually only disclosed between a person and their GP to a for-profit telecommunications corporation." King said. "In just another example of Malcolm Turnbull's determination to privatise our health system, the government has put Australians' Medicare numbers and Medicare claims information in the hands of a multinational telecommunications corporation.

"At least 27 times during the election campaign, Malcolm Turnbull said that he would never outsource Medicare -- but that's exactly what he is doing here."

King said Labor would move amendments that would ensure the National Cancer Screening Register was only run by the government itself or a non-profit organisation, and thereby protect the integrity of the register.

During the election campaign, Malcolm Turnbull warned against outsourcing too many government services.

"I am not an unalloyed fan of outsourcing," Turnbull said in June. "I think there is a risk that if you outsource too much of government services, you run the risk that you end up with very little talent or capability within government."

Turnbull and the government came under consistent fire by Labor during the campaign for reported plans to have Medicare payments handled by the private sector.

"The Medicare payments system is enormous, obviously, and I believe that we can -- well, it is not a question of belief, there is no doubt that we can -- bring that into the 21st century and do so within government," the prime minister said.

"But my decision is that this payments system will be upgraded and it will be upgraded within government."

The legislation to establish the Register has been referred to Senate committee.