Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Leon Byner, FiveAA Adelaide

16 July 2020

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
E&OE

LEON BYNER:

So let's talk to the Government Services Minister Stuart Robert, Stuart what do you say?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well first off how are you?

LEON BYNER:

Good thank you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

What I will say quite conclusively is the app doing exactly what it was designed and intended to do. It's designed to augment manual tracing… it's done that over 300 times now. It's found over 200 specific cases of contact tracing where people have actually helped professionals who have used it to contact other Australians that may have been impacted, and it's designed to augment manual tracing. And that's what it's doing.

LEON BYNER:

Well Minister, so when we were sold this by the Prime Minister, and I can remember, well, the words in his press conference. If you want to go down the pub on a Friday and have a drink with your friends. You download this app, right, it created the impression that this was going to be the bee's knees of detection. Now what seems to have happened here Minister is that whilst it might augment what other tracing has done, it doesn't appear to have picked up anything exclusively itself.

MINISTER ROBERT:

That simply means that Australian memories are actually working quite well. Manual tracing, Leon, is when a health professional sits down and says, righto Leon where have you been the last two weeks have you spent more than 15 minutes with, and you'll roll out the four names. And then, by the way, if, if you've got your COVIDSafe app and they've got it as well it would also show the same four names.

So right now with a small number of cases we have got, not like Florida where there's 15,000 per day, the manual tracing is picking up the same things as the COVIDSafe app. So the app is doing exactly what it's intended to do.

Now remember Leon this is the long haul. Until we get a vaccine this is the new normal. And I don't know how long this will go for. Praise God, we get a vaccine in six months, but what if it's six years?

We don't know.

So we need every tool in our lockerbox to fight this, and Mr Shorten and Labor coming out and damning something in their ignorance doesn't help.

The Chief Medical Officer says the app is good and to use it. State medical authorities say to use it.  The Sax Institute, a world renowned institute, Leon, 15 days ago came out and said, and they're known for doing health studies and putting research into policy, and they say the modelling shows the tracking app is critical containing the second wave. Your own university in Adelaide, Leon, comes out and says out of the 34 apps globally, this one is the best.

So the health professionals, your own universities and world renowned research centres all say this is great, but Bill Shorten and Labor says it isn't? Come on Leon, come on.

LEON BYNER:

You've heard what Nigel Phair said about the iPhone, it is designed not to talk to each other. So the app is doing intuitively what the phones are designed not to do, but I'll make the point again. And that is that we have all the cases we've detected the app doesn't appear to play the significant role it's only in a very minor number, wouldn't we expect more than that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

In the small number of cases we're getting per day, in the hundreds per day in Victoria and before that it was in the tens, you would expect the app to be operating in those sort of percentages. So it has been used 300 times.

6.7 million Australians that have downloaded and registered for it. Australians need to ensure it is running in the background on the phone. And remember this is designed to augment and was designed for the long haul of this pandemic. We have only been in it for a few months, there's many, many months, and perhaps years to go if a vaccine is not found. And with health professionals, research bodies saying the app is not only useful, but as the Sax Institute says the truth is, it is critical to containing a second wave, I suggest Labor either gets on board or frankly just be silent, if they are going to explain their ignorance by coming out and saying it’s not working.

LEON BYNER:

How many updates we had since it was first released, three or four?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We've had seven and we will continue to do that.

LEON BYNER:

Is it still sucking the batteries like in the beginning?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Leon, Facebook puts out an update every fortnight, iOS and Google was putting out one every month and you can't tell me those companies are failing. Putting out updates is all about how we improve it as the tech community finds potential bugs we solve them.

The last update put it out in five different languages, updates are put out and changed for all international numbers so international phones can be used. Of course we're trying to extend the number of phones that can be used so updates to include a wider range of telephones, especially for older Australians.

So we're improving all the time. We put it out quickly at the start, expecting six months of hibernation. And we're now taking our time to improve, improve, improve and as your own university has shown it is the finest app in the world of its kind at present and we should be proud of that.

I'm really disappointed that Labor is not on Team Australia on this one.

LEON BYNER:

Are you hopeful to get more people downloading it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah always, 415 people are currently downloading it an hour which is great.

LEON BYNER:

If that's the case, why are we still 6.6 million we were that a week ago.

MINISTER ROBERT:

I think it's 6.7 but I can get the exact number for you if you would like. But work on 450 an hour, increasing. It has the highest density of any contact tracing app, anywhere in the world maybe and Iceland might have higher. That’s not bad, Leon.

LEON BYNER:

Stuart, good to talk to you. I wanted to get your point of view on this.

Page last updated: 16 July 2020