Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Leon Byner, FIVEaa

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


LEON BYNER:

The Government's developing this app to bolster its ability to trace the contacts of infected Australians, but it will not be effective unless about 40 per cent of us actually do it. So let's talk to the Government Services Minister Stuart Robert. Stuart thanks for joining us today.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Pleasure, Leon how are you?

LEON BYNER:

Good, I presume you going to have a big campaign to encourage us to download this app once it's available?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely we will. The Prime Minister has made it clear that way again to resume economic life and get back to the footy and back to the beach and back to seeing the grandkids, we need to test trace and contain.

LEON BYNER:

All right. If we do this to 40 per cent or more, what in return will the government lift?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well the Prime Minister has linked those three to the quickening of the restrictions. National Cabinet will determine how quick those restrictions are lifted. But the bottom line is this, currently we manually trace and that’s got flaws because it's based on our memory, and a digital app simply replicates that manual process and will give people confidence that they are protected, because if they're in contact with someone with the virus health authorities will call them, and that gives the National Cabinet confidence to begin loosening restrictions.

LEON BYNER:

Okay. Can you can you be somewhat specific about what sorts of restrictions might be considered?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh that's a question for National Cabinet, Leon, and that's why we have a National Cabinet a bit of a world-first there in pulling national leaders together, it's their job to make those decisions. My job to put tools in the hands of the Australian people to protect them.

LEON BYNER:

Because you understand that if you're able to be a little more clear about what's in it for people who do download this app, you're likely to get better compliance aren’t you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

There is no question and the National Cabinet and the Prime Minister will address those in in the coming days in terms of what all that means. The key thing though for your listeners is to know that this has got the highest privacy assurances as a privacy impact statement that will be available for everyone to see, the code will be published, you'll be able to see exactly what the app does. And all it does is just replicate a manual process, there's no geolocation. It's not about seeing where you are or surveilling or tracking it’s none of that. All it does is say you're in 1.5 metres of another person for 15 minutes, the apps will swap phone numbers, and if you're then tested positive health authorities can connect with those people that are connected with you, it's sort of that simply.

LEON BYNER:

Can you be clear on the comparison that's often being used even by the Government on what's happened in Singapore, where they've barely got a 20 per cent compliance, and you're hoping for double that. And as I said, if you, if you want to get anywhere near that you're going to have to tell people give them a sweetener. Put out the honey, aren't you?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, we're gonna have to encourage Australians to say if we want to loosen our restrictions, this is a core part of that step to do it. If we want to get back to the footy and the beach this is a core part of that, and also to give them confidence that because the source code will be published and the privacy statement will be out there that people will know exactly what information is there to protect them so they'll have confidence to download it.

LEON BYNER:

All right, I want to just get to something that you're also as Government Services Minister, very much in control of and that is that I know that Centrelink are getting a lot of calls for people to register on either and in fact the encouragement has been to register for both because you'll qualify for one or the other. And that is JobSeeker, or JobKeeper. Now, we are telling people that they should expect a no-ID phone call, so keep their information, close to the phone so they can answer. We are also aware that in some cases, some people might have thought that they'd be better off with one not the other, and Centerlink have had a good look and thought hang on a minute you'd be better off with say JobKeeper rather than JobSeeker, or vice-versa, and it seems that in some cases people are not answering the call. What would you be saying to those people?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We’ll send you an SMS prior to giving you a call. And if you receive an SMS saying that Centrelink is going to call, it'll come up as that block number. Please answer the phone, because what we're trying to do is encourage you to claim the JobSeeker payment. Many people have put in an ‘Intent to Claim’ and that process of course has finished, and we're now calling, SMS-ing all of those people to say come and now make a claim. Now, we know that many employers will be putting their claims for JobKeeper in the first week of May, or they're doing it now but it'll be processed in the first week of May, but if we're calling you about JobSeeker, it's because we're chasing up your Intent to Claim. And we're really encouraging you to put your claim in you can do all that online.

LEON BYNER:

Now one question. Let's say you qualify for JobKeeper. And the tax office pays the business to which you're connected the full, full amount of money. And then they asked you to do some work. Are you obliged to do that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

That is a question for the Treasurer, to answer in terms of JobKeeper. I was a Treasury Minister but have now moved on into Government Services. So, best for the Treasurer to answer that in terms of JobKeeper is going to work, and the requirement of employment, and that way you've got one source of truth, answering question.

LEON BYNER:

Okay, what's the traffic like on people who are registering for both has it eased a bit so that you have less of a wait?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We do, for example if you think now about people coming on to MyGov in fact there are 79,114 concurrent users as at five minutes ago. We built this system. Three weeks ago, Leon, it could take sort of 6,000 concurrent users. We've now built it for 300,000 concurrent users. That is the amount of investment we're putting in there, 55,130 people right now on the Centrelink Express Plus app, and you can claim for JobSeeker through both of those platforms right now.

LEON BYNER:

Stuart Robert thank you for joining us.

[ENDS]

Page last updated: 20 April 2020