Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Monday, July 06, 2020

Weekly Australian Health IT Links – 06 July, 2020.

Here are a few I have come across the last week or so. Note: Each link is followed by a title and a few paragraphs. For the full article click on the link above title of the article. Note also that full access to some links may require site registration or subscription payment.

General Comment


Well it has been a pretty big week with a major announcement of national cyber-security and significant developments in telehealth and e-prescribing.

Also amazing was a report in Pulse+IT on the results of their recent poll which rather supports mine!

Last week, we asked: Has the $2 billion investment in the My Health Record been money well spent? Er, no, our readers say: 79 per cent said no, 21 per cent said yes.”

Make of this what you will!



Govt reveals $1.35bn investment in cybersecurity over next decade

By Ry Crozier on Jun 30, 2020 6:28AM

After surprise hack threat warning a fortnight ago.

The government has unveiled a $1.35 billion investment to beef up Australia’s cybersecurity capabilities over the next decade, a third of which will go into a new team of 500 specialists.

The investment is being called the “largest ever … in cybersecurity” in the country, and will be known as the CESAR package.

CESAR stands for cyber enhanced situational awareness and response.

“My government’s record investment in our nation’s cybersecurity will help ensure we have the tools and capabilities we need to fight back and keep Australians safe,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.



Tuesday, 30 June 2020 05:07

Morrison to announce $1.3b for offensive cyber security operations

By Sam Varghese

The Australian Government will on Tuesday announce a funding boost of $1.3 billion over the next 10 years for offensive cyber security operations in the wake of accusations by the authorities that China is increasing its cyber focus Down Under.

In a leak to Nine Entertainment newspaper The Age — which Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce later today — the government said the Australian Signals Directorate would share intelligence with private companies and the government in close to real time. At the moment, information is passed on quite a while after it is obtained.

The ASD will get $31 million to disrupt operations offshore. This is the so-called hacking back tactic that the Americans have been discussing for a while.

A sum of $25 million will be used to create a cyber threat sharing platform for government and the private sector to share information.



'Offensive capability': $1.3b for new cyber spies to go after hackers

By Anthony Galloway

June 29, 2020 — 10.30pm

Australia will recruit 500 cyber spies and build on its offensive capabilities to take the online fight overseas in a $1.3 billion funding boost, amid rising tensions with China and a growing wave of attacks against the nation's critical infrastructure.

The Australian Signals Directorate will also share intelligence with government departments and companies in near real time as part of the biggest ever cash injection to Australia's cyber defences.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday announce the ASD will be given more than $1 billion over the next decade to disrupt foreign cyber criminals and better identify malicious hacks.

The funding announcement comes amid an escalating wave of cyber attacks against Australian governments and businesses, including critical infrastructure such as hospitals and state-owned utilities.



PM goes on billion-dollar cyber war footing amid China tensions

Andrew Tillett and Michael Smith

Jun 29, 2020 – 10.30pm

An extra 500 cyber spies will be recruited as part of a $1.35 billion boost to protect the nation's sensitive computer networks and data from an unrelenting wave of cyber attacks which China is suspected of orchestrating.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil the 10-year funding commitment to enhance cyber security ahead of the release of a crucial Defence Department review that is expected to reaffirm the need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on re-arming the military, including acquiring 12 submarines because of a deteriorating regional strategic environment.

With relations between Canberra and Beijing already at a nadir, Chinese state-run newspaper The Global Times published a provocative story on Monday accusing Australia of intensifying an espionage campaign against China.

The accusations have been dismissed by China experts as a joke but, in keeping with long-standing practice, the Morrison government is not commenting on intelligence matters.



Chemist Warehouse-backed telehealth corporate: 'We're not trying to steal your patients'

The pharmacy chain is promoting Instant Consult on TV and radio

30th June 2020

By Geir O'Rourke

A GP telehealth corporate backed by Chemist Warehouse says it is not “trying to steal patients” from their regular GPs.

Instant Consult, which offers access via telehealth to its doctors within 15 minutes, is currently featuring in radio and TV ads funded by the pharmacy giant.

And a video promoting Instant Consult on the Chemist Warehouse YouTube channel has already been viewed more than 1.1 million times since being uploaded last month.

But with the mass marketing push, there are complaints from some GPs about Chemist Warehouse staff promoting the service to patients while they are picking up scripts.



RACGP calls for urgent overhaul of telehealth

A surge in ‘pop-up’ services raises concerns for outcomes and practice viability, according to RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon.

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

30 Jun 2020

It has been four months since the Federal Government introduced unrestricted Medicare rebates for telehealth, a healthcare reform that saw the general practice profession fundamentally change almost overnight.
In addition to supporting GPs to continue delivering important primary care services to their patients while ensuring health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fast-tracked use of technology has presented practices with the opportunity to improve patient access and increase flexibility in service delivery.
The program is due to expire on 30 September, but the RACGP sees value in its continuation – for GPs and patients. In its continued advocacy for members, the college has been meeting with the Government and key general practice peak bodies to discuss the future of telehealth.


Telehealth must remain an integral part of Australian health system

1 July, 2020

AMA Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology

The AMA will today reiterate its call for broader access to Medicare-funded telehealth consultations with GPs and non-GP specialists to remain an integral part of the health system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology at 10.55am today to discuss the AMA submission, which promotes the retention of telehealth initiatives.

Dr Bartone said that around 20 per cent of all Medicare-funded consultations with a doctor are now being provided by telehealth, either over the phone or via video, since temporary Medicare telehealth items were introduced in March in response to COVID-19.

“Patients are clearly making the case for telehealth consultations to become a permanent feature of our health system for both GPs and non-GP specialists,” Dr Bartone said.



MBS telehealth is 'transforming' medical abortion access, doctors say

Professor Danielle Mazza says the funding must to continue to support vulnerable women

1st July 2020

By Kemal Atlay

Medicare funding for telehealth has led to a surge in demand for phone services prescribing medical abortion drugs and should be continued, advocates say.

Previously women accessing medical abortion via telehealth have been paying hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket on top of the price of the PBS-listed abortion drugs.

But that has changed with MBS telehealth, says Professor Danielle Mazza.

The chair of general practice at Monash University in Melbourne says many GPs have for the first time begun bulk-billing their telehealth consults for medical termination, while others have dropped fees.



RACGP urges overhaul of telehealth to ensure high-quality patient care

RACGP 02 July, 2020

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling for an urgent overhaul to telehealth and telephone consultations to ensure high-quality patient care.

It comes after the RACGP warned patients to steer clear of corporate telehealth pop-ups which have proliferated following the Federal Government’s expansionof Medicare-subsidised telehealth and telephone consultations. One new service, a partnership between Chemist Warehouse and telehealth pop-up Instant Consult, enables customers to obtain quick prescriptions via an app after consulting with a GP not connected to their usual clinic.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said telehealth and telephone consultations presented a huge opportunity to improve patient access to care but ensuring quality care was critical.

“The RACGP has long supported expanded telehealth and telephone consultations. They have helped decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 to patients and practice staff and made care more accessible for vulnerable patients.



Doctors call for stricter rules as patients embrace telehealth

By Dana McCauley

July 2, 2020 — 11.44am

Doctors are calling for telehealth Medicare rebates to be restricted to a patient's regular GP or a referred specialist, saying pop-up services are leading to fragmented patient care.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president Harry Nespolon said he was "deeply concerned" to see the rise of pop-up telehealth businesses offering "low-value" medical services provided by doctors who had no connection to a patient's usual clinic.

He said pop-up services posed a danger to patients who were taking multiple medications, as hazardous drug interactions could be missed by a GP who did not know their history.

"Telehealth services should only be accessible to patients through their regular GP, who can offer face-to-face consultations when needed," Dr Nespolon said.



Telehealth is a game changer for patients with cancer - it needs to stay

Megan Varlow

Ms Varlow is Cancer Council Australia’s director of cancer control policy.

2nd July 2020

There’s a lot to be said for a face-to-face interaction. We glean as much from body language, eye contact and what’s not said as we do from the words that create our discussion. 

But if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that face-to-face isn’t always necessary. 

Morning tea with our grandma has been converted to a video chat, exercise classes are now online and our pre-schoolers livestream story time instead of attending the local library. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for a permanently socially distanced world in which we live in our own little bubble and only interact with others via video. 

But there’s a real opportunity to capitalise on our pandemic-enforced learnings and capitalise on our newfound familiarity with video. 



Govt expected to act on telehealth 'free-for-all'

Unfettered access to the temporary items is fragmenting patient care say the GP groups

2nd July 2020

By Geir O'Rourke,

Paul Smith

The Federal Government is expected to curtail the telehealth ‘free-for-all’ by changing the emergency telehealth items before they end in September.

Last week, the AMA said unfettered access to the items was resulting in corporates marketing bulk-billed telehealth care despite having no physical practice and no link to patients’ GPs.

“In my mind you can’t even call this general practice because it is so limited in what it can do,” said AMA President Dr Tony Bartone.

He asked Minister for Health Greg Hunt to intervene.



National e-prescribing imminent

Sheshtyn Paola03/07/2020

Token model to go live outside of communities of interest in August, ADHA confirms, while Active Scripts List will roll out across the country in October

E-prescribing is coming to Australia, but what exactly does this mean for consumers?

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) hosted a webinar on Thursday with experts from the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) and other speakers to discuss the e-prescribing model, the current roll-out plan, privacy concerns and the importance of patient choice.

Andrew Matthews, director of the medicines safety program at the ADHA, explained that the agency decided to test e-prescribing through communities of interest first to make sure the system works smoothly before rolling out nationally.

Only the token model for electronic prescribing is currently being tested using the electronic prescribing communities of interest. The Active Script List (ASL) model is to be included in communities of interest from August 2020.



Electronic prescriptions accelerated due to COVID-19

By Helen Carter


The delivery of electronic prescriptions has been accelerated by the Australian Government under its National Health Plan for COVID-19.

E-scripts started to be introduced for General Practitioners from the end of May, 2020 and progressive deployment of electronic prescribing in a steady and managed approach is expected by September 2020.

Optometry Australia’s General Manager, Policy Skye Cappuccio said: ‘Whilst optometrists have been able to use the interim e-prescribing system established during the pandemic period, they are not yet able to participate in this approach as practice management software systems are not yet integrated.

’However, it is important that optometrists are aware of e-prescribing as it’s likely to be something patients ask about.’

Electronic prescriptions are an alternative to paper scripts which allow people convenient access to their medicines and will lessen the risk of infection being spread in general practice waiting rooms.



COVIDSafe app best of class for privacy says study

Tom Burton Government editor

Jul 2, 2020 – 1.08pm

A global assessment of 34 tracing apps has found Australia’s COVIDSafe tracing app one of the best and safest apps, according to University of Adelaide cyber-security experts.

A team from the University of Adelaide’s School of Computer Science has made the claim after assessing Android versions of 34 of the world’s COVID-19 contact tracing apps for security and privacy vulnerabilities.

The study was of Android device tracing apps that have had more than 10,000 downloads each in different countries, as well as apps recommended by official authorities.

About 6.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe app.


'There's no way we're shifting': Australia rules out Apple-Google coronavirus tracing method

By Ben Grubb

June 29, 2020 — 9.13am

Australia's coronavirus contact tracing app will not switch to the model supported by Apple and Google because doing so would not provide the details of potentially exposed people to tracing teams, Australia's deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says.

Several countries have in recent weeks either delayed development of their own contact-tracing apps or decided to switch to Apple and Google's offering, which wasn't ready when Australia first decided to launch its $2 million COVIDSafe app on April 26.

The countries have made the switch because of technical issues that have plagued nations such as Australia and have resulted in not all potential close contact data being collected.

Testing data provided to the Senate showed the effectiveness of the Australian app, particularly on Apple iPhones, remains an issue. The app only worked 25 to 50 per cent of the time during locked iPhone-to-iPhone testing on May 26. At launch, it was worse, working only 25 per cent of the time or less for locked iPhone to locked iPhone. When running in the background, it also didn't work well.



Can the COVIDSafe app help contain a second wave?

New Australian data shows uptake needs to double for the app to be effective cutting the infection rate

30th June 2020

By Carmel Sparke

A second wave of coronavirus infections is coming, but the number of cases could be halved if more people download the COVIDSafe app, says a leading Australian public health institute.

The Sax Institute's data reveals that by May 27% of Australians had downloaded the app, which was also experiencing technical difficulties.

The app has not led to the detection of a single case of COVID-19 yet.

However, modelling by the institute suggests that the number of new infections could be reduced by 55% by December if twice as many people download the app and technical hitches are resolved.



MedAdvisor surges 14pc after US deal

Yolanda Redrup Reporter

Updated Jul 1, 2020 – 4.06pm, first published at 12.51pm

Virtual pharmacist small cap tech company MedAdvisor has inked a deal with NASDAQ-listed HMS, which will let up to 100 million Americans access its technology via their insurers.

The company, which listed on the ASX via a backdoor listing in November 2015, is used by pharmacists and doctors to help people take their medications safely and on time.

HMS, with a $US2.86 billion ($4.1 billion) market cap, has a health-engagement solution called Eliza that helps health insurers communicate with millions of American patients each year to improve health outcomes. A new three-year strategic alliance with MedAdvisor means its virtual pharmacist will be embedded in the platform.



NSW Health deploys Microsoft Teams to all 140,000 staff

By Justin Hendry on Jun 30, 2020 6:35AM

Completes fast-tracked rollout.

NSW Health has equipped more than 100,000 staff with Microsoft Teams since the federal and state government ramped up their public health response to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The department’s digital arm, eHealth NSW, on Monday said all of its more than 140,000 staff now had access to the unified collaboration platform, as well as Skype for Business. 

When the government’s pandemic shutdown began in mid-March, this figure stood at 34,000 - or less than a third of its total workforce.

Like most other workplaces, NSW Health, including local health districts and speciality health networks, have been directed to work from home where possible to limit the spread of the virus.


HIMSS Dialogue Series – July to Sep 2020

What does it take to make one of the best health systems in the world even better?

ustralia has one of the best health systems in the world – on any measure. It has been a pioneer in use of digital health to empower patients, citizens and the care professionals who serve them – promoting new approaches to virtual care, interoperability and co-ordinated care planning while empowering consumers with My Health Record.

The Australia Digital Dialogue series explores the opportunities for digital health today to support the ongoing response to COVD-19 and the improvement of clinical, social and economic health and care outcomes. We travel virtually across the country to learn from system leaders on how they are accelerating the digital health transformation and making it the new norm.

Hosted by:

Tim Kelsey

Senior Vice President, HIMSS Analytics International



Black Dog Institute taps AI to deliver best mental health treatments

By Matt Johnston on Jul 1, 2020 7:01AM

For fast, tailored therapy.

The Black Dog Institute, UNSW Sydney and Deakin University have secured $5 million for a project that uses AI techniques to determine which psychological therapies work best for different people.

The project specifically addresses the extensive strain on mental health young people in universities experience.

The first study as part of the project will have students choose from a suite of potentially effective mental health programs.

AI-powered adaptive trial methods will then be used to determine which of a series of therapeutic interventions led to the best outcomes in the group.




Australian government sinks AU$19 million into AI health research projects

The funding will be divvied up between five research projects.

By Aimee Chanthadavong | June 29, 2020 -- 00:46 GMT (10:46 AEST) | Topic: Innovation

The Australian government has announced it will invest AU$19 million over three years into artificial intelligence-based health research projects designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat a range of health conditions.

There are five projects in total that will receive funding as part of this announcement.

The Centre for Eye Research Australia and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will each receive nearly AU$5 million for their research projects.

The Centre for Eye Research Australia has developed an AI system to detect eye and cardiovascular diseases, while UNSW is focused on using AI to understand and improve the treatment of mental health, including stress, anxiety, and depression.



How APIs helped NSW Health Pathology respond to COVID-19

By Justin Hendry on Jun 29, 2020 7:10AM

Reusable microservices key to fight.

NSW Health Pathology relied on its investment in API-led connectivity over the past four years to rapidly build out “world-class” public facing services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Enterprise architect Tim Eckersley told the MuleSoft CONNECT digital summit last week the agency was able to move with speed in the early stages of COVID-19 thanks to its “large library of healthcare microservices”.

The “library of API-led microservices” has been developed over the past four years to allow “seamless integration between a very broad range of healthcare systems”.

He said that “each wave of delivery” had built up a “groundswell of microservices” which - although not always reusable straight away, “the reusable components gradually take a much more dominant posture and provide a really solid launching place to have this rapid response”.



Cochlear calls for low-risk health apps to be exempt from TGA register

By Emma Koehn

July 3, 2020 — 12.00am

Hearing implant giant Cochlear has called for some low-risk health apps to be exempt from the therapeutic goods register, joining a push by medtechs for greater certainty on the regulation of medical and healthcare software.

Over the past two years regulators have been grappling with the oversight of medical software amid a boom in healthcare apps, clinical products and health trackers.

Last year a new set of requirements was established that categorised software based on the level of risk the product poses to patients. In June, the government flagged it would delay the rollout of new medical device regulation, including for software, until next year due to COVID-19.

It is not clear which health app products are set to be excluded or exempted from regulation, however. In March the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) asked businesses where they thought the line should be drawn.


1 July 2020

New Project to Improve Aged Care Technical Data Specification  

The ‘Aged Care Data Compare’ project, which began last month, will help to improve access and exchange of information used to measure the levels, quality and results of services provided to residents in aged care facilities across Australia.

Project outcomes include developing a technical data specification for the healthcare data shared by residential aged care facility (RACF) providers, and building a prototype data hub so providers can exchange data, and benchmark the care they provide.

Dr Michael Costello, Interim CEO of the Digital Health CRC, said the project will help to pave the way for aged care providers to introduce a new era of continuous quality improvement.

“Through this project, we will have a prototype for how we can effectively share information across aged care providers that use different IT systems,” he said.  


Alcidion signs contract with Sydney LHD for Miya Precision to support virtual care

Melbourne, Australia: Alcidion Group Limited (ASX: ALC) is pleased to announce it has signed an initial 12 month contract, valued at $560k with Sydney Local Health District (Sydney LHD) for the implementation of the Miya Precision base platform to support the delivery of virtual care. 

Sydney LHD is one of the leading metropolitan Local Health Districts in New South Wales, servicing the centre and inner west of Sydney.  With around 12,000 staff, Sydney LHD is responsible for the health and wellbeing of more than 700,000 people. The LHD oversees five hospitals including the Royal Prince Alfred and Concord Hospitals and a range of in-hospital and community-based support services. 

Implementation to support management of COVID-19 
The implementation, which is already underway, will see Miya Precision deployed to support Sydney LHD’s virtual hospital (rpavirtual) which is currently being used to monitor patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in home isolation. This innovative virtual care model reduces the risk for health workers, as well as the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), by enabling remote, automated monitoring and communication with patients.

Miya Precision will enable the rpavirtual Care Centre to remotely monitor patients of the virtual hospital by displaying their status in near real-time alongside other relevant information about the patients to the registered nurses providing 24x7 care from the Care Centre. 

MercyAscot Deploys InterSystems TrakCare in the Cloud During New Zealand Lockdown in First Phase of Digital Transformation

Remote go-live support and videoconferencing keeps clinical information and transformation initiative on track to deliver full benefits of digital health strategy

SYDNEY, Australia, June 29, 2020 – InterSystems, a creative data technology provider dedicated to helping customers solve the most critical scalability, interoperability, and speed problems, today announced that leading private healthcare provider MercyAscot has gone live with InterSystems TrakCare’s Patient Administration and Billing functionality during New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown, with a full clinical deployment to follow.

The final preparations and go-live itself were supported remotely using videoconferencing and other tools to complete the first phase of the organisation’s ambitious digital transformation. The virtual go-live was a global first for InterSystems, and MercyAscot is one of the first organisations worldwide to deploy TrakCare on the Microsoft Azure Stack hybrid cloud computing platform.

MercyAscot’s digital health strategy will see the InterSystems TrakCare unified healthcare information system manage both patient administration and clinical care based on a shared electronic medical record (EMR). It will provide actionable insights from patient data, transforming care delivery and streamlining operational and clinical processes.



Study identifies dementia medication management barriers

Monday, 29 June, 2020

A study conducted by Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) has identified barriers to effective medication management in people with dementia.

The study investigated the obstacles and complexities in medication management for people living with dementia through qualitative research involving four key stakeholder groups: carers, general practitioners, nurses and pharmacists.

The main barriers identified were:

  • poor communication and relationships between stakeholders;
  • infrequent medication reviews and a lack of practitioner training; and
  • evidence and guidelines to navigate prescribing and deprescribing decisions.

CMUS researchers recruited focus-group participants from a wide range of communities and healthcare settings, including those in carer roles who are carrying the majority of the burden and often experiencing high levels of stress, perpetuated by complicated healthcare systems and medication regimen complexity.

Lead author Dr Amanda Cross explained that medication management for those with dementia becomes particularly complicated in the context of polypharmacy (the concurrent use of multiple medications), increasing cognitive decline, changing goals of care, multiple stakeholders and multimorbidity (the co-occurrence of two or more chronic conditions).



Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:47

Fisher & Paykel attackers release second lot of company documents on dark web

By Sam Varghese

Attackers who used the Nefilim ransomware, that works on Windows systems, to attack appliance maker Fisher & Paykel have posted links to a second lot of documents which were stolen from the company during the attack, security sources have told iTWire.

A first lot of documents was released early in June with links being posted on the dark web.

Links to the new documents have been released as a text file and a zipped archive as the first lot were. They appear to again contain mostly financial documents.

Fisher & Paykel, which is based in New Zealand, operates in 50 countries and does its manufacturing in Thailand, China, Italy and Mexico, according to Wikipedia.



Over 82,000 Aussies' details leaked in crypto scam

By Juha Saarinen on Jul 1, 2020 11:43AM

Victim's details show up on the web.

Personal details of tens of thousands of Australians who fell for a fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scheme that used fake media sites and celebrity endorsements have been leaked onto the web.

Singaporean security vendor Group-IB discovered 248,926 sets of personally identifable information, of which 82,263 records were from Australian users, leaked by an unknown party.

Details leaked include names, email addresses and phone numbers.

Apart from Australian victims, Group-IB also found details on Britons, South Africans, Americans, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Spanish and citizens of other countries.

The scam operates under different names, including Crypto Cash, Bitcoin Rejoin, Bitcoin Supreme and Banking on Blockchain, Group-IB said.


Hacked: Thousands of MyGov accounts for sale on dark web

Ronald Mizen Reporter

Jul 3, 2020 – 10.10am

Logins for more than 3600 MyGov accounts are for sale on the dark web, potentially exposing thousands of Australians to fraud and identity theft.

The MyGov accounts are among a list of more than 150,000 hacked ".com.au" logins available for sale on dark web marketplaces, where logins are sold for as little as a few cents and as much as several hundred dollars.

MyGov, which was launched in 2013, acts as a portal to a range of sensitive government services including the Tax Office, Centrelink, Medicare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Records.

"Each member service has its own fraud detection capabilities," Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen said, adding services had to be connected to a person's MyGov account to be accessible.



Leveraging the opportunity of Covid-19

Tuesday, 30 June 2020  

eHealthNews.nz editor Rebecca McBeth

The Ministry of Health and chief information officers are committed to not reverting to old ways of working following the rapid digitisation of services due to Covid-19, the deputy director general data and digital says.

Shayne Hunter spoke at the online Healthcare Conference 2020 on 25 June where he told attendees that Covid-10 has “been a great catalyst for some serious progress” in the data and digital space.

"It's really exciting what we've been able to achieve, we absolutely have to leverage this opportunity," he said.

Hunter described the “very dynamic and fluid situation” the Ministry dealt with as the Covid-crisis unfolded and how technology needed to be applied to the response.



Mission accomplished for Ziggy Switkowski as NBN finally completed

David Swan

After seven years helming Australia’s most contentious and ambitious infrastructure project, Ziggy Switkowski can take a breath. The high-speed, highly politicised national broadband network is complete.

Nearly 12 million premises across the country can now connect to the NBN, an enterprise that has enabled unprecedented collaboration and productivity, frustrated large swathes of the population, and served as a political football for virtually its entire existence.

“This is already a much-studied project around the world, because of the scale of what we’ve tried to do, which is to provide affordable ubiquitous access to high speed internet for every Australian, no matter where they work or live. It was a very ambitious goal and it has been delivered,” NBN Co chair Ziggy Switkowski tells The Weekend Australian.

“It’s kind of heroic, and although people will draw attention to the shortcomings of what we’ve done, we should not lose sight as to the magnitude of what has actually been delivered. This is something that will stand as a bit of a benchmark for a very long time.”



Telstra gets two more years to upgrade or sell its residential fibre networks

By Ry Crozier on Jul 2, 2020 5:30PM

Earns rebuke from the government.

Users in Telstra fibre areas face up to two more years with limited retail choices and service quality issues after the government decided Telstra could stay exempt from rules that would otherwise force it to make its fibre areas wholesale only and open access.

The move represents a reprieve for Telstra, one that was largely opposed by NBN Co and also - it seems - by the government, which rebuked Telstra over its inaction.

Telstra either needs to upgrade its fibre networks - branded ‘Velocity’ estates and the South Brisbane exchange area - or sell them, most likely to NBN Co.

It was meant to have done so by July this year, but applied to the government in April for more time, adding that it would “be the last time we seek an extension.” [pdf]



Thursday, 02 July 2020 10:39

TransACT builder says best option for NBN is to remain in government hands

By Sam Varghese

The best way forward for the national broadband network is for it to remain in government hands and be managed for strategic advantage, rather than commercial gain, a network expert has told iTWire.

Robin Eckermann, an adjunct professor at Canberra University and one of the people behind the TransACT network, was invited, along with a few others who have been prominent in the discussion around the network over the past several years, to offer his views about the next stage of development of the NBN. The views of telecommunications consultant Paul Budde were aired recently.

Eckermann said he was always concerned when a near-monopoly asset was put into private hands. “And the NBN is now a fixed broadband monopoly in many areas,” he said. “The government has paid to buy the customers of Telstra and Optus, and NBN Co has intentionally or otherwise inflicted substantial damage on many rival network operators. If one of the motivations behind the NBN was to break Telstra's strong grip on the Australian market, the government needs to be very careful that it does not complete a full circle and end up replacing the past situation with a bigger and uglier monopoly!”



Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:39

Vodafone joins NBN 250 and Ultrafast club

By Stephen Withers

Vodafone is the latest RSP to give customers the option of NBN Co's recently announced 250Mbps and 500-1000Mbps services.

Vodafone's NBN 250 plan costs $135 a month, and the Ultra NBN plan costs $155.

Both are on a month-to-month basis and include unlimited data. 4G backup is provided if the customer purchases the Vodafone Wi-Fi Hub.

"Around 40% of our customers have chosen our Premium NBN plan (100Mbps) so we know that there is strong demand for higher speed plans in the Australian market," said Vodafone chief customer officer, Ana Bordeianu.



Wednesday, 01 July 2020 11:04

New legislation ‘guarantees’ broadband access for all Australians, says Government

By Peter Dinham

New legislation has just come into force in Australia, enshrining in law access to broadband services for all Australians regardless of where they live, and which the Federal Government says "guarantees" broadband access for everyone.

The Australian Government’s new Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) regime, which came into force on Wednesday, underpins the Universal Service Guarantee, meaning there is now a legislated framework for access to broadband as well as voice telephone services and payphones.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said that new laws reinforce the Government’s commitment to providing “21st century telecommunications services to all”.

“These historic laws mean that all Australians can access high-speed broadband, no matter where they live or work," Minister Fletcher said.



NBN Co expects to sustain some of its traffic uplift

By Ry Crozier on Jun 30, 2020 5:31PM

More evidence that bandwidth bonuses might be hard to unwind.

NBN Co is expecting to sustain some of the uplift in the amount of traffic running across its network post-COVID, a prediction that could make it harder for the company to completely wind back bandwidth bonuses laid on since March.

The network builder and operator has provided retail service providers (RSPs) up to 40 percent more bandwidth over their February consumption levels for free to cope with traffic growth due to the pandemic.

The company is under political and industry pressure not to fully unwind the bonus, especially as NBN Co’s own research suggests bandwidth-hungry habits developed during COVID-19 are likely to continue once the bonuses are meant to expire in August.



Monday, 29 June 2020 19:03

Who will bell the cat? Sorry, make that who will upgrade the NBN?

By Sam Varghese

A 32-page study titled The Gigabit Gap, released by Huawei Australia, the Telecommunications Association and consultancy OMDIA (formerly Ovum) on Monday, has come to the conclusion that it is time for the Coalition Government and the NBN Co to begin planning for the next stage of the national broadband network upgrade.

iTWire made the same point some days ago and it was driven home by telecommunications consultant Paul Budde a few days later.

The paper does not offer a great deal that is new, merely trawling through the broadband while avoiding any fixing of blame. But it is educative and takes a very neutral position on all issues.

It is part of Huawei's campaign to try and persuade Canberra to have a second look at its 5G status, hoping against hope that Scott Morrison - or some future prime minister - will give the ban on the company's participation in the rollout a second look.



Fixing fibre-to-the-node across Australia could cost the NBN $7 billion: study


By Alison Branley and Amy Donaldson

29 June, 2020

Sick of his internet dropping out simply because of heavy rain, Matt Hall decided there was only one solution: he would pay to have it upgraded himself.

Key points:

  • The national NBN rollout is almost complete
  • Many still question whether the $51 billion NBN is value for money
  • It is estimated it will cost $7 billion to upgrade all FTTN NBN connections

The Brisbane software developer, who works from home, spent $11,000 through a special program run by NBN Co to pay to have his house upgraded.

After a few months, a visit to his local MP, and a lot of construction work, Mr Hall was upgraded from fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).



NBN Co may have its costs examined in the back half of 2020

By Ry Crozier on Jun 29, 2020 6:49AM

As competition watchdog sides with Telstra.

NBN Co could wind up having its costs examined in more detail in the back half of the year following a call by Telstra for greater scrutiny.

The ACCC said Friday last week [pdf] that it agreed with Telstra that existing accounting mechanisms used to track NBN Co’s expenditure “do not provide for the identification of costs and revenues associated with different services.”

As iTnews reported back in April, Telstra had been angling for a breakdown of NBN Co’s costs “by technology type and customer type” to expose the presence of any cross-subsidies between internet products.