Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Interview with Gareth Parker, Breakfast, 6PR

8 February 2021

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

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

GARETH PARKER:

It's been an interesting weekend of developments on the vaccine front. It was revealed that the first group of workers who will get their- or first group of people in society will get the vaccine before the end of this month includes hotel quarantine workers, airport workers who face international travellers, also transport workers who ferry flight crews and passengers back and forth. In parallel, the Federal Government will start to roll out the vaccine in aged care. But we also learnt about plans for a digital vaccine passport. And I wonder what it will be used for. I wonder what you'll be required to present it. Will there be privacy concerns here? Is this a common sense good idea? Something that's easy to demonstrate that you have been vaccinated? Or is it something that's going to cause sort of unanticipated problems? And I do think it's interesting, we just heard in the news that the UK are not going to go down this path. On the line, the Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert. Good morning.

MINISTER ROBERT:

G'day, Gareth. How are you?

GARETH PARKER:

I'm good. Thanks for your time. Before we come to the vaccine, you have got some right up to the minute information on bushfire assistance.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah, indeed. It's a pretty sad state over there and everyone's got their heart reaching out for you. But the key thing, if anyone is impacted at all, they just need to call one 180-22-66. That's Services Australia. We've paid out 222 payments now for disaster assistance. So if you're impacted in Mundaring or Swan, there's a $1,000 per adult, $400 per child. We'll have our bus, our mobile service centre. That'll be rolling into town from lunchtime today. And that'll be at Percy Cullen Oval at Gidgegannup. So anyone who needs special services, you can go there or go into a service centre. But the key thing is if you're impacted in those two service areas, Services Australia will have funds available to pay you. It'll be 15 minutes on the phone and that's all that will be required to get disaster recovery payments.

GARETH PARKER:

Good information. I'm glad to see that money is already flowing. So why do we need a digital vaccine passport, Minister?

MINISTER ROBERT:

[Indistinct]- we've always had it. We're one of the few countries in the world that has got a national vaccination registry. See, Great Britain hasn't, that's why they can do it. And we've now made it mandatory for the reporting of the COVID vaccine, and again, Great Britain can't do that. And you've been able to get your vaccination certificate or immunisation copy for years and years, and years through Medicare and myGov. So there's no change there at all. We'll just continue to make that available to Australians and refine that product so it becomes more certificate-like in case you're required to use it, for example, like international travel, if that's the direction other countries go.

GARETH PARKER:

Okay, but would anyone be able to insist that they see your certificate here in Australia?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's a good question. It's a question for the states and territories. So the Federal Government, the Morrison Government, we're not doing this because the next step is a whole bunch of these type of insistences. Public health orders are [indistinct] to the states and territories, so the states and territories are responsible for workplace health and safety. So what they're going to do will be up to them. And each state, as we've seen, is different. But the Prime Minister will try and coordinate through National Cabinet. But the certificate is there just as an assurance. So if people, if they need to, they can demonstrate they've been vaccinated in exactly the same way they do that right now using the Immunisation Register that the Federal Government runs.

GARETH PARKER:

But shouldn't there be a nationally consistent approach to this, like, it would be crazy if one state insisted before you can come to Western Australia or Queensland or New South Wales or whatever that you've got to show your vaccination certificate under public health orders, or you need to show it to go into a pub or you need to show- it means you don't have to wear a mask. I don't know. There's all sorts of possibilities you can envisage. Shouldn't it all be nationally consistent?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It should. We should have a nationally consistent view on hot spots. We should have a nationally consistent view on border openings. And you would know better than most, Gareth, that states and territories, even though there's been an agreement on hot spots at National Cabinet, the states and territories have still done their own things where it suited them. So I agree with you completely that the states and territories should all work together with the Commonwealth to get national consistency right across everything, from hot spots to borders through to vaccinations.

GARETH PARKER:

But why make this available on someone's mobile phone if it's not so that you can pull it out and show it to people all the time if they request it? I mean, is that is that the direction this is all going?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No, because it's available right now. We're not doing anything that doesn't exist right now. The Australian Immunisation Register is the central authority for this and it's available right now. You can go to your Medicare app or go to myGov now and access yours, Gareth's, or your children's if they're under 14, and you can access their immunisation record right now. We're just improving it and making it available for COVID vaccine, which is done. It's ready to go. So there's no change to what's available right now.

GARETH PARKER:

Okay. But would you be pleased or displeased if this started to become like showing your driver's licence for proof of age to get into a pub, for example, or at the bottle shop. I mean, if it becomes a sort of a regular feature of moving around the community, is that the direction that the government wants this to go and is that is a desirable thing or an undesirable thing?

MINISTER ROBERT:

They're all good questions and they're best directed at your health minister because the states and territories are responsible for that. We've already said in the past where there's been health directions that you'd have to have a flu vaccination to work in aged care facilities. So, there are already some precedent [indistinct] public health orders.

GARETH PARKER:

Okay. What about employers? Could they insist on seeing your vaccination certificate?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Again, states are responsible for workplace laws, so it'll be up to states and territories. Now, the Attorney-General is connecting with and working with interested parties in this space to try and do as much as possible consistently. And that's why the Prime Minister has put together National Cabinet as well. But again, the Federal Government is simply making sure that people have got an assurance that they'd be vaccinated and a demonstrable assurance using the vaccination register that's been ubiquitous for many, many years.

GARETH PARKER:

At what point does the Federal Government sort of take a firmer line with the states here, to get some national consistency around these questions? Or is that just a fight that you've given up on?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, we've been trying that with hot spots and borders, Gareth. And how's that going for us?

GARETH PARKER:

Well, that's what I'm wondering. Have you given up the fight or are you going to have another go at it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, the Prime Minister, I think, has had over 30 meetings of National Cabinet working with the states and territories, respectively, on this, and we'll continue to do it. The Prime Minister has made it very clear he'll continue to work constructively with states and territories. But it's also important to understand where authority sits for various areas of the federation. And in this case, workplace laws sit with states and territories.

GARETH PARKER:

Alright. Stuart Robert, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.

[ENDS]

Page last updated: 9 February 2021