Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

27 October 2020

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

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

TOM CONNELL:

Joining me live in the studio Government Services Minister Stuart Robert thanks for your time. From what we know the Vic Gov has downloaded data 1800 times, but in that time no new contacts actually established that weren't established already is working as it's supposed to?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely, Tom. New South Wales shows that if you integrate the app as just part of the contact tracing apparatus, they've had 80 close contacts, 17 that weren't picked up through normal manual track and tracing and of course one of those led to a cluster of 544 people that had potentially been exposed so it works in concert with normal tracing and tracking methods

TOM CONNELL:

But 17 out of, out of the total New South Wales, it still seems low I mean, that must be lower than you were anticipating we heard so much about the app early on?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Remember the 17 or the 80 close contacts and 17 that manual track and tracing hadn't shown that’s because when tracers sit down, so if I sat down with you, Tom and said right who have you been one and a half meters from the 15 minutes and you go through all the different people. And then of course with the COVIDsafe it would pick up the same people. So you don't understand while the numbers are reasonably low because you're working with people to say who have you been close too for 15 minutes.

TOM CONNELL:

I mean even the 80 is low, is there an issue at all with storage if you tweak the settings of this and say it goes off, if you're within 1.5 meters of someone for a minute, rather than 15. There's a lot more data, is there a capability issue at all?

MINISTER ROBERT:

There's no question that 15 minutes, which is the health advice - now, the health advice change to say we want to collect everything within 10 minutes that setting can be changed.

TOM CONNELL:

There's no data to see there at all?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Nope, there's there's no data issue remember the, the actual app picks up all the close contacts even from literally the first couple seconds. But in the back end it parses that and only shows up to the tracers contacts within 15 minutes.

TOM CONNELL:

But it at all, and they needs to be stored at some stage. So just to clarify, there's no issue with that, if that were the setting you could change that with the States obviously you've got some you can change that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

If the health advice, Health is the business owner, if they want to change 15 minutes to 10 minutes, that can be done relatively easily.

TOM CONNELL:

What's the privacy issue attaching Brett Sutton spoke about and he's talking about?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We don't believe there is remember the app was launched at the end of April, when it was launched the full privacy impact statement was done, and published for everyone to see. The code was published on GitHub for everyone to see.

So, Victoria had decided 12 weeks later, there was a privacy issue. Maybe I'll leave that to Brett Sutton to try to explain that missing 12 weeks, where the Commonwealth has published its privacy impact statement, but apparently Victoria hadn't read it.

TOM CONNELL:

Have you spoken to, has Victoria asked you about this approach?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's the first I've heard about this potential issue that Victoria raised in a press conference 10 minutes ago, first I heard was 10 minutes ago,

TOM CONNELL:

Will you pick up the phone to speak to them?

MINISTER ROBERT:

My agency will absolutely

TOM CONNELL:

Because, I mean, what have they you know if you think they should pick it up, you want to know what the issue was that doesn't come up again.

MINISTER ROBERT:

I would have thought after we'd publish the privacy impact statement and launched the app that in the next 12 weeks from then to the first of July. If they had a problem, they would have raised it, that there's no indication well I know that didn't raise me I'll certainly check with Department and Agency, whether they raised their decision came as a very large surprise, on your show a few minutes ago.

TOM CONNELL:

All right. Just quickly about the NDIS at the determination of someone's need, bringing in this change in August. That has this one off session. Now, to establish an independent sense.

Why was that needed compared to the old system of going through people that were treating someone already and had a good knowledge of someone?

MINISTER ROBERT:

So we announced in August we're bringing forward independent assessments starting next year, that's been true trials done and we're extending the second trial as we speak.

The Productivity Commission in the original recommendation recommended this as dis the Tune Review, and for one very good reason it brings in equity.

See at present, if you're well off, you can afford to pay $10,000 for therapy reports and go to your planning meeting with the NDIA and put forward your case. If you're not well off you can't do that.

TOM CONNELL:

So the NDIS is being rorted?  So what you're saying,?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I'm saying from an equity point of view, the plan you get shouldn't depend on whether you're poor or otherwise,

TOM CONNELL:

But that would indicate that someone who's wealthy is able to get what reports that suggests they have a bigger problem than they really have and they get more money.

MINISTER ROBERT:

I want everyone to get the same access. I don't want some people to turn up with a whole host of reports and others with nothing.

TOM CONNELL:

Do you have concerns?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I've got concerns when I look at the Productivity Commission estimates that in the ACT for example the number of access decisions is 170% of the Productivity Commission estimates, and that would seem a long way off compared to other states where they're spot on. Now I'm not suggesting the ACT with well-adjusted public servants who are well paid and understand how systems work. I'm simply making the point for me for an equity line I want every Australia to be able to have an independent assessment at the Commonwealth’s cost. So, access is equitable.

TOM CONNELL:

So the implication now is that you look at those figures in the ACT, some people are getting things they don't deserve at the system.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well perhaps some people just know how systems work better than others.

TOM CONNELL:

And then they get something they don’t deserve?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No I am not saying that at all. I just want everyone to have the same access.

TOM CONNELL:

Stuart Robert, appreciate your time today.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.

Page last updated: 29 October 2020