Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Ticker News with Holly Stearnes

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

Topics: COVID-19 International vaccination certificate; The National Plan for reopening 

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HOLLY STEARNES:

Australians are a step closer to travelling overseas as the Federal Government starts to roll out technology that proves your COVID-19 vaccine status. Now, anyone who is fully vaccinated can access the digital certificate, which will be called your vaccine passport. Let's bring in Stuart Robert, who is the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills and Small and Family Business. Stuart, lovely to have your time today. Thank you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to join you, especially after your piece on Squid Game.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Yes, indeed Stuart. Now, it is being – this technology is being called some of the most advanced tech in the entire world. Just break it down for us, how exactly will this vaccine passport work?

MINISTER ROBERT:

As you know, Holly, when you travel overseas, you have a passport. Those rules and how that passport is encrypted so it can be read by all the countries of the world, are specified by an organisation called the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO – because we love acronyms in Australia. We – the world has now agreed on a standard. So that's a standard vaccination certificate, which is based on the ICAO standard. It's got a cryptograph, like a QR code, if you like, encrypted to the same level as your passport. It's connected to your passport, generated from the same keys. So when you travel overseas, you'll have your passport for identity, you'll have your vaccination certificate, paper-based or digital. It can be read by all the passport readers, and countries around the world can see who is indeed being vaccinated.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Now Stuart, we are seeing a rise in fake documents circulating at the moment, which was inevitable, I guess. Talk to us a little bit about the depth of this technology and just how advanced it is to prevent that from happening, to sort of pick up on forged documents going forward.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, if you look at the document itself it has a very, very large QR code called a cryptogram, or a visible digital seal, that will contain encrypted – with the same level of keys, encryption keys, and the same strength as your passport. And Australia hasn't had a single breach in 20 years, to give you an idea of how strong it is. 

So when you present your passport, that's your identity, and then your cryptogram, the visible digital seal on your document, contains your name, your passport number, as well as your vaccination details and how you’ve been vaccinated, when, and so on. And the two will be read together with the same strength encryption, by the same readers. There's only one issuing authority in Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs, it'll be the same in the United States and the United Kingdom. Only that authority can issue this document connected to your passport.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Remarkable stuff. Now talk to us, will it be compatible with travel apps and things like that? I know there are calls to have everything consolidated all-in-one. We know people like to make things as easy and simple as possible at the moment.

MINISTER ROBERT:

The great thing about the international travel vaccination certificate, the document, is that it belongs to the citizen, and the citizen can do with it what they will. They can have it in a bit of paper. They can have it on their phone. They can download it into any of those travel apps like IATA. They can do what they want with it, because as a document, it can only be read by a passport reader. It can't be altered in any way. And that will come up and say your name and your passport details, which is almost impossible to forge, because you'll connect that with the actual passport, which will connect it to you.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Now, what about once the pandemic settles down and passes, which it will eventually, will we still have to show a vaccine passport in years to come? Will this now be a permanent feature of our future, I guess?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great question. For those who've been travelling to Africa for 20 years and climbing Kilimanjaro or seeing the great migration of the wildebeest, you've always had to have a little yellow international vaccination booklet because you needed to demonstrate whether you'd been vaccinated against yellow fever. So the idea of a vaccine passport attached to your actual passport has been in existence for decades and decades and decades. So going forward, countries will make their own decisions. Individual countries will decide on individual ways of doing it, so who knows? The key thing with this sort of documentation and this approach is that Australians have got that individual record if they're asked to produce it anywhere in the world. That's the great thing about it. It’s about keeping Australians safe and giving them options when they travel.

HOLLY STEARNES:

And now, how do you feel about opening back up? Obviously you've been watching this closely. And what did you feel when we heard about international borders reopening soon?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Let's go, 1st of November, New South Wales, all vaccinated Australians to be able to travel by right. And I'm expecting other state and territory in Australia to follow suit when we hit 80 per cent. Australians love to travel, Holly. Before the pandemic, Australians spend approximately 60 billion dollars overseas travelling, yet inbound tourists only spent half of that, 30 billion. 13.8 million Australians travelled pre-COVID in any given year. Clearly a number of them travelled once or twice. That gives you an idea of how much Australians love to travel. So many Australians, 30 per cent, born overseas with family. Let's get families reunited. Let's get families connected for Christmas. Let's get Australia free, but do it safely and in line with the national plan.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Yeah, I think everyone is just really hanging out to be able to travel again, aren’t they? Just a quick question before you go. Will there be separate federal and state vaccine passports, or will it be all the same thing?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Federal Government is responsible for the borders in terms of internationally, so we've produced the international vaccination certificate for Australians to travel. Now, domestically, there's also a record of vaccination, which is that little green document you showed up before. I'll bring mine up which shows whether you've been vaccinated or not. In fact, I had to show it last night at a restaurant in Canberra. That's been integrated with state and territory check-in apps. So, states and territories can determine what or how they use their public health orders to ensure their citizens are safe. The Federal Government's responsible for the borders, hence you've got one of the world's most highly encrypted documents attached to your passport.

We've led the way globally, Australia has with the rest of the nations of the world. We’re the first country to issue this credential made available yesterday. So, Australians will be ready to travel from the 1st of November out of Sydney International.

HOLLY STEARNES:

Stuart Robert, lovely to talk to you today. Thanks for your update on this.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you. Cheers.