Digital ministers’ in vaccination certificate pact

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Australian governments are working to incorporate federal vaccination certificates into state and territory check in apps and are cooperating on home quarantine for fully vaccinated people as states and territories prepare to ease COVID restrictions.

It follows varying support from premiers and chief ministers on requiring vaccination proof and questions about how to integrate such proof into existing digital services – all in the absence of a national approach.

The challenge was discussed at a Data and Digital Ministers’ Meeting on Friday, while the National Cabinet is expected to include more talks on the issue later this week.

Minister for Digital, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello shows a trial version of vaccination proof being integrated into the Service NSW app. Image: LinkedIn

Since June Australians have had access to digital proof of vaccination certificates through myGov or the Medicare app, but the digital documents are easily forged.

At a National Cabinet meeting earlier this month, all jurisdictions agreed to integrate an individuals’ record of COVID-19 immunisation history into state and territory check-in apps

On Friday, most of the country’s data and digital ministers met to discuss including digital vaccination records their apps, an approach which offers more convenience and potentially security than standalone federal certificates.

“Data and Digital Ministers are working to provide an easy and secure way for citizens to show their vaccination status when entering a venue by using their existing state or territory check-in app,” the meeting communiqué said.

“This will support easing of restrictions and economic recovery.”

The federal government says it has been working with state and territory counterparts for at least a month on integrating data from the Australian Immunisation Register into state-based check-in apps.

The New South Wales government had been exploring the option since August, and will begin a pilot in regional areas early next month, where users can prove their status during a single venue check in using the Service NSW app.

The Victorian government has also flagged its Service Victoria app as the most convenient way for individuals to prove their vaccination status but the function will not be part of its “vaccinated economy” trials next month.

National Cabinet will meet on Friday, where the issue of digital vaccination certificates will reportedly be on the agenda again.

At the Data and Digital Ministers’ Meeting on Friday, ministers also discussed an expansion of home quarantine trials to fully vaccinated Australians as New South Wales prepares for a pilot program in greater Sydney next month.

It follows home quarantine trials in South Australia and Western Australia. However, ministers from the two states, as well as Tasmania, were not present at Friday’s meeting.

Despite concerns from digital rights groups about the use of facial recognition and geolocation technology in the South Australian trial, it was quickly expanded. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also flagged a technology reliant home quarantine system for a national system.

The Western Australian home quarantine trial uses similar technology to allow interstate travellers arriving from medium to low-risk states and territories to self-quarantine. International arrivals to Western Australia are still required to use hotel quarantine.

New South Wales will also use an app with facial recognition and geolocation to police a pilot of seven-day home quarantine for fully vaccinated overseas arrivals in the coming weeks.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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