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Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Page: 2219


Senator BRAGG (New South Wales) (10:58): This is Australia's ticket to normality in the form of an app. Before I touch on the app, I do want to reiterate the remarks made by other senators about Australia's performance in the face of this pandemic. There is no other jurisdiction, no other country, you'd rather be living in than Australia at this juncture, based on all the health factors, whether that be transmission or whether that be fatalities. We've been able to do that while keeping large parts of the economy open, which I think is very encouraging and obviously a better result than some other jurisdictions.

In terms of contact tracing, which is something that I've experienced as someone who unfortunately contracted the coronavirus, it is a very manual process. It does require you to sit down with state health officials and try to piece together where you've been and who you've been in touch with so that other people can be made aware that they need to self-isolate. In my case, I had basically 10 days between transmission and actually being diagnosed with coronavirus. In that time I travelled throughout the metropolitan and country areas of New South Wales, and I came in touch with many, many people. The level of anxiety that you have when you think that you may have infected someone with coronavirus is quite high. If the speed and accuracy of contact tracing can be improved through an app, then that is going to relieve the anxiety and really improve health outcomes. In the case of my interaction with Senator Patrick, if the app had been already up and running and we'd both had it on our phones, it's a fair case to say that I probably wouldn't have been able to pass on the coronavirus. That is a real-world example of the app in practice.

It doesn't track your geolocation. It does not use location services. It uses bluetooth technology to do a digital handshake when you have come in touch with someone—really close personal contact—for 15 minutes. We're talking about a metre and a half apart. It makes a digital record, and then that's able to be stored away in the case that someone is diagnosed as a positive case.

The privacy safeguards, I know, are very important to people and have been the subject of some debate. This bill establishes that the OAIC will run the arrangements. It establishes rules for the collection, use and deletion of data. Very importantly, it ensures that the data is only available to the health workers in each state and territory. That means that it is only people who need to undertake contact tracing who will be able to access the data. We have established it as a criminal offence for anyone to use that data in any other way.

There has been some discussion this morning in the chamber about the question of whether or not this data could be transferred to another jurisdiction. There is no case to be made for that in any way. The laws that would be passed by this parliament if this bill is endorsed by this chamber would make it a criminal offence for the data to be transferred to another country. Just because a company, Amazon Web Services, which is doing business in Australia happens have a US parent, it doesn't mean that Australia's laws don't apply. Australia's laws always apply. Frankly, this sort of nativism and anti-international agenda, whether you're looking at migration or foreign investment, has no place in a modern society like Australia.

I just want to thank the state health workers, because, having been through the coronavirus, I know that the contact tracing the state health workers are doing is quite a stressful and challenging task. In New South Wales, which is the biggest jurisdiction and has had the most cases—probably because Sydney is Australia's global city—they have really done an amazing job. Yesterday was International Nurses Day. A lot of the people who are doing the contact tracing are nurses by profession. I have a number of nurses in my family, and I'm very proud of them, and I owe a great debt to the people who looked after me and my family in the state health system.

Often people want to think about the esoterics of legislation. This app will relieve the burden on the state health workers who are having to perform manual contact tracing, so the more people who download the app, the lighter the load will be on the nurses and the health workers. But of course it will also have the dividend of providing more accurate and up-to-date information about people who have come in touch with a positive case of coronavirus.

Technology improves lives. I see that every day in the fintech inquiry that I chair. This is another great example of technology giving us a much faster ticket to freedom and consolidating our efforts as a jurisdiction—and this is the jurisdiction, the country, you want to be living in as the world faces this shocking pandemic.