Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Peter Stefanovic, AM Agenda, Sky News Australia

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


PETER STEFANOVIC:

Joining me now is Government Services Minister Stuart Robert. Minister, good morning to you, we will get to Barnaby in just a second, but this all comes down to privacy doesn't it? So how do you ensure that people's private data will stay that way?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We'll be publishing the Privacy Impact Assessment on the website. We will be making sure that the app is fully disclosed in terms of making the code available so completely and utterly transparent, so all Australians can see. Remember this is simply digitising a manual process. Right now if you contract coronavirus state health authorities manually sit down with you and, ask who you've been in contact with and when. It's hard to remember, the digital app simply digitising what is already going on manually.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Will that information be available to police?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No it will not. The information about whether you've been within 1.5 metres of another person with the app for more than 15 minutes will sit on your phone encrypted. And that will only go to state health authorities once you confirm contraction of the virus. It will only be used by state health authorities. Commonwealth agencies will have no access at all, nor will any other agencies, just state health.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So it could never be used in a court of law?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The intent is this will only be available for health authorities, not for any other purpose.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But intentions can change?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Not if we seek to legislate or seek to regulate that intention, and those discussions are ongoing now to give Australians absolute certainty that this data will only be used for health purposes to protect citizens.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

When would that be finalised?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well these are discussions that are going on as we speak. The Prime Minister made it clear last week, we're a week or two away from finalising all aspects of the application, but he's also made it clear that this is just for the purposes of state health to protect Australians, so we can get back to economic activity, get back to the footy get back to the beach as quickly as possible.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

The Prime Minister has said that it won't be mandatory, might that change?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No, this is about a big Team Australia moment. This is about voluntarily saying hey we want to protect lives of our citizens, we want to protect our physical health, we want to protect the 90 year old lady standing in the Woolies line behind me on the weekend. That's what the app is all about. It is digitising the manual process and speeding up a tracing process rather than taking two or three days, it can take minutes, and that'll allow us to get back to work quicker, back to church quicker and back to the beach quicker.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Well I mean it's so important you know to continuing to flatten that curve, why not just make it compulsory?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Because we think Australians will rise to the challenge. We want Australians to voluntarily lean in to protect their own lives and the lives of citizens around them by ensuring tracing happens quicker and we think Australians will do it. And we are going to back in Australians on this, we're going to back in Australia that they'll want to quickly get back to economic activity.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Just not including Barnaby Joyce.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well can't possibly comment on Barnaby and what he's up to.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Well, he says he's not going to download it, he says he's putting and this is his tweet last night, he says he's putting his faith in the Imperial College of London, and the malevolence of those who hack and mine databases, has he got a point?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

That's it.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah. In fact he said on Sunrise this morning that he hasn't sought information, he hasn't sought a briefing, he hasn't been briefed and he hasn't spoken to government ministers about it. I'm happy to speak to any colleague, anytime, about a simple application that is looking to digitise a manual process, and I'd expect all colleagues if you've got any concerns, give me a call we’ll provide every bit of information possible to you. But remember, this is being looked at by the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, from the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the Australian Signals Directorate are going through it. The code will be published transparently for everyone to see. All universities and others who wish to have a look at it. The privacy impact statement will be put up on the website for everyone to see. We'll be absolutely and utterly transparent, as we seek to digitise this manual process. The information is only going to state health officials, so they can quickly and efficiently, save lives. That's what this is all about.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Is it worth reminding people Minister, at the moment that, you know, companies like Google have got your data, anyway?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well they do and of course if you go to the Sky News website you'll be sent off to 15 or 16 different locations where data is collected and you’ll collect 10 times more data than this app will. All this app gives us is your name, your mobile phone number and age range, and your postcode so that we know which state health officials can call to seek to help you. The amount of data that our media channels collect on websites is extraordinary. The amount of data, this application will collect is very small, it will reside on your phone. It won't go anywhere unless you contract the virus. And of course, when the pandemic is done, you just delete the app, and all the data disappears, and then I'll delete the secure government store and get independent third party assurance that that's being done,

PETER STEFANOVIC:

I guess minister, I mean, it all comes down to trust and you know the critics are circling at the moment. They say that your government has got a real problem with transparency, it’s got a real problem of trust. So for that reason might that come back and bite the government here?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well that's why we're going to show you the source code actually show the app, people can actually look at it how it’s built. It doesn’t get more transparent than actually laying out every line of code, so people can see exactly what government is collecting and why. And remember, it's staying on your mobile phone, you're controlling the data. You can delete it at any time although we want Australians to run the app. When the pandemic is done, you delete the app, we’ll delete the data store and get independent assurance of that. And that way people can have absolute guarantees, and absolute assurances.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay I mean you need 40 per cent of people taking it up for it to proceed, what's your confidence level at the moment, you know, it's a Team Australia moment to keep the sporting thing running what are the odds of this proceeding?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I think the odds are pretty good because Australians want to get back to the footy, and we're not going to get back to the footy until we can keep the curve down as the Prime Minister said increase testing, continue to trace and then contain. So this is a core pillar, this app, which is about augmenting the current manual processes not replacing them, just augmenting, speeding them up, making them quicker. And if we can do that we can get back to the footy quicker, we can get back to the beach. Millions of Australians get back to work and families can get back to economic life. So I'm betting right now that Australians will want to do that. And we'll all pitch in together to make it happen.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay, just one more issue should Malcolm Turnbull be banned from the Liberal Party?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh, I'm sure I'll let others deal with that in New South Wales.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

You don't have a view?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Not really.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Do you care?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

All right, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Cheers.

[ENDS]

Page last updated: 20 April 2020