26 April 2020

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH:Thanks for coming today. There are reports today that the Federal Government will be launching the app to help track people who have been in contact with people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. We've consistently said this app could play a constructive role in helping to defeat COVID-19. So this is a step forward. We've also consistently said that the Government needs to work hard to address the very valid privacy and other concerns of the Australian people. And of course, we look forward to more information from the Government on that.

I note that the Minister of Health has overnight activated his powers under the Biosecurity Act as an interim step before legislation is enacted. Of course, we haven't yet seen that legislation, but we'll look at it very constructively, because constructive engagement is what the Australian people need at this time of pandemic. We will engage very constructively with the Government on the privacy legislation.

There have been discussions between the Government and the Opposition on the legislation, but we have not yet seen it. Also, we have suggested to the Government that the legislation and the privacy aspects of the app be referred to Katy Gallaghers Committee, the Select Committee examining COVID-19 matters, the Senate Select Committee, I'm pleased to say, to announce that the Government has accepted that suggestion from us and I thank Minister Hunt for his engagement on that.

The Senate and the Parliament need to provide the opportunity for the Australian people to see the privacy concerns and other concerns about the app worked through and for those assurances to be given to the Australian people. And just as we have on other matters in relation to COVID-19, we'll be engaging constructively with the Government on this, I've said, for example, that I would download the app, if it helps defeat COVID-19. The only people I've seen any Members of Parliament I've seen so they won't download the app, are Liberal National Members of Parliament, not labour Members of Parliament. There are legitimate concerns to work through, legitimate issues that have been raised and will be raised. But this app can play a constructive role, if handled correctly, if implemented rightly, in managing the defeat of COVID-19 and we will engage with the Government on making sure that's the case.

Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much for your time on aSunday afternoon. I wanted to ask you, you said before that you would download the app. Will you be downloading it first thingthis afternoonbefore legislation goes before the Parliament?

BOWEN: As I said, I'd be happy to download the app and if the app is availablethis afternoon, I think that there will be strong interest, and I'll certainly download it when it's available. The legislation is important. I do note that the Minister has activated powers under the Biosecurity Act, as an interim step. But the legislation will be important to give Australians the assurance that they need, hence we've suggested it be referred to the Gallagher Committee.

JOUNALIST: Mr Bowen, have you had any indication about when legislation is likely to be introduced?

BOWEN: My understanding is that the Government will seek to see it through the Parliament when we siton May 11.The week ofMay 11.Any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, what sort of safeguards do you think need to be in place in terms of privacy to build or have security confidence using the app?

BOWEN: I think that it is as simple as ensuring that any data that's stored on the app is only used, only used for the purposes of tracing contacts for COVID-19 in a positive diagnosis. Not for any purpose, by any other agency. Only by state health agencies for that purpose. Not by any court, not by any tribunal, not any department, or any government, other than for that purpose and that purpose strictly alone. And also that it not be the case that any institution can insist on the app having been downloaded. This is a voluntary app and it needs to be voluntary in every sense of the word. It can't be that any business or institution can say, "you must download the app". It must be 100 per cent voluntary.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

BOWEN: Ultimately, it will be the Government of the day that has to provide the reassurances to the Australian people. The role that the Opposition can play is a constructive one, is a positive one, but a constructive one. And ultimately provide the appropriate role for the Opposition to facilitate passage of good legislation through the Parliament. To ask the right questions. To ensure that the right matters are being addressed, and to, as I said, the only people I've seen say that they won't download the app are Liberal and National MPs. Labor MPs and the Labor Party are engaging very constructively in the process.

JOURNALIST: Finally, just on the Senate Select Committee hearings. How important do you think that they will be in trying to build that community reassurance about the app?

BOWEN: Well, of course, it's essential that there be some sort of parliamentary role, and some parliamentary oversight of the legislation. And some opportunity for the Parliament to examine the legislation before we actually vote on it. Our suggestion was that the Select Committee be the appropriate committee to do that because it has been set up for the purpose of COVID-19 management. Obviously, that's a matter for Katy Gallagher and her committee. There will be a hearing, an opportunity for the Government to put its case, questions asked about the privacy implications, and that will be an important step for the Australian people to see whether their concerns have been addressed.

Thank you.