Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Alan Jones, 2GB/4BC

20 April 2020

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
Topics: 
Australian Government’s coronavirus contact tracing app
E&OE

 

ALAN JONES:

Stuart Robert Good morning.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Alan how are you?

ALAN JONES:

Not too bad, thank you. Now this is not easy to understand. What if don’t have a mobile phone on you?

MINISTER ROBERT:

There is all of that. A bit over 90 per cent of Australians have got a mobile phone so any use of an app still has worth. Remember Alan, this is just digitising a manual process. Right now lots of very hard working state officials will sit down with someone who has tested positive to virus, you or I, and say who have you been with, who did you speak with, who did you spend time with? And we wrack our memories trying to work it out. All we are trying to do now is speed it up. We are trying to make sure that the ninety year old lady in the shopping queue behind you or I, we don’t know her name Alan, but we don’t want her left out and not to receive appropriate treatment. If she was running the app and you or I were running it and we were infected, health would be able to call her. This is just protecting the community, only for health, only voluntary, digitising and speeding up a manual process.

ALAN JONES:

Okay now you’ve obviously done a bit of homework on this. Let me go back. And you're dealing with some dumbbell like me and you know, on this technology supposing right, you've got an app you've got a mobile phone I’ve got a mobile phone, we’re at Woolworths, now, does this app work if one of us has got the virus? Is that is that what it's about?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It is designed to help with tracing so if we’re both running the app and we are in proximity so more than 15 minutes within 1.5 meters using Bluetooth we will swap name and mobile number securely encrypted on the phone.

ALAN JONES:

Well hang on, just go back. Neither of us, just talking about you and I, we’re at the supermarket right forget you’re a Minister and I am a broadcaster, forget all that we’re just two ordinary people at the supermarket neither has got the virus, so nothing will happen. Now we're both at the supermarket and you've got the virus so nothing will happen? And I’m there within what distance of you?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well one and half meters for 15 minutes, we’ve both got mobiles, we swap securely name and number from app to app and it sits there for 21 days.

ALAN JONES:

So this just happens automatically, this happens automatically?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Automatically from app to app, as long as you are running the app and I am running the app.

ALAN JONES:

Now when you say running the app, what does that mean? I've got the app on?

MINISTER ROBERT:

You’ve just got the app on that’s right.

ALAN JONES:

Ok, so I don't even speak to you at the supermarket, I’ve got the app on, you’ve got your app on, and I think I am perfectly safe from you but I don’t know that you've got this virus and you may not know you’ve got the virus.

MINISTER ROBERT:

That’s it. And in a week’s time, if I test positive and I go ‘goodness positive’ and I hit enter on the app the names and numbers of people that I’ve been within one and a half meters for 15 minutes goes to a national data store and then to the state and territory health authorities, all encrypted. Then, the state and territories will check the data and they would see that Stu has the virus and here are the five people he has been in contact with and they will start calling.

ALAN JONES:

Okay can we go back to the supermarket. So there was a bloke behind me in the queue, and he wasn't within one and a half meters of you, he was three meters away from you. So it'd be no app to app in relation to him.

MINISTER ROBERT:

That's correct. It would only be one and a half meters for 15 minutes. That's the only data set that we are interested in. Because it is all about the proximity and the capacity for community transmission. It doesn’t matter where you are there is no geolocation, this is not about tracking or surveillance. This is about digitising a manual process. And trying to overcoming the failings of, especially my memory Alan, if I were to be asked who have I been with over the past 10 days goodness hard to know. The beauty of the app is it will list all the names and numbers of those people.

ALAN JONES:

Right were getting closer. Just get back into the supermarket. Now you and I are standing there in the supermarket. But you haven't been tested, nor have I and don’t know you've got the virus. So why would the app to app operate then?

MINISTER ROBERT:

This is the magic of it because you get the virus, you might have had it for 10 days before you become symptomatic. So who have you been in contact with in the last 10 days. So the app connects with people you've been in close proximity for 15 minutes on a rolling 21 days. So on the 22nd day the 1st day drops off. So a rolling 21 days encrypted on your phone and then if indeed you are found positive for the virus the last 21 days’ worth of contracts is provided to state health and they can rapidly chase up the dear old lady behind your new queue, the family on the bench next to you.

ALAN JONES:

So what is the relationship between the app and the virus? I don't quite understand how the app is activated by the virus.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Because what we want is every Australian to run the app on their phone and on a rolling 21 days it grabs the names and numbers of those close to you.

ALAN JONES:

Oh I see so anyone comes within one and a half meters then that app to app will then be going into a database. Even if you don’t know if they’ve got the virus or not.

MINISTER ROBERT:

In fact it will go onto your phone, securely on your phone. That information only leaves your phone if you’ve tested positive for the virus.

ALAN JONES:

Say that again.

MINISTER ROBERT:

All that data will stay on your phone securely encrypted and it will only go to the national health store once you’ve tested positive for the virus. So a health professional would call you and say Alan, you are positive please send your data to the national data store. Up it goes and then the state in which you live, New South Wales, only they’ll have access to your data. They’ll monitor their portal as people test positive and as that information comes in they will be able to see the close contacts and rapidly call them.

ALAN JONES:

So okay we are within one and a half meters of someone therefore then app to app something happens and that operates and that information about me goes into a national database, I later down the track test positive then all the database will know the people who have been within one and a half metres of me…

MINISTER ROBERT:

…for 15 minutes for the last 21 days. 

ALAN JONES:

So what are you saying to all those people who talk about Big brother here? Where is all this information going to go?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well right now if you test positive of course state officials do all this manually, this just digitises a manual process plus the data stays on your phone it doesn’t go anywhere until you test positive then it only goes to state health it does not go to any commonwealth agency.

ALAN JONES:

And then they track down all these people that you have been in touch with.

MINISTER ROBERT:

They give them a call, normally you would manually try and tell the officials who you’ve been in contact with but our memories fail us, well maybe yours doesn’t, but we are all getting old, but this ensures we don’t forget the dear old lady behind us in the queue.

ALAN JONES:

Okay well I can’t remember who I spoke to at 20 to seven on Friday so there you are. Many thanks Stuart, if we still don’t make sense of it we’ll come back to you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Thanks Alan.

[ENDS]

Page last updated: 20 April 2020