Each day of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us something new for all of us to think about.
As we Aussies queue up to vaccinate in order to meet the Doherty Institute’s recommended 80 per cent vaccination rates for “full metal” lockdowns to end, our focus turns to life beyond our home’s border.
Whether you are in Bunbury or Bundaberg, getting a vaccination is the key to getting our great nation out of the grip this vicious virus has on us.
While the west has maintained most freedoms, for us over in the east – especially I would say in Victoria and New South Wales – the allure of being able to leave the State to see family, friends or go on a holiday is more enticing than ever.
For Australians living overseas trying to get back into the country, the possibility of ever being able to easily travel home must seem like a pipe dream.
At home, very few of us have been able to travel for work and even fewer for leisure. This has been catastrophic for our tourism, hospitality and live events industries, among others.
While we may only be tickling 35 per cent of fully vaccinated people, it’s not too early by any measure to think about how we will move once we reach the agreed national targets.
Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told media at his daily press conference: “I’ll make a bold prediction. You won’t be getting a visa to too many countries if you haven’t been double-dosed.
“I think it’ll extend all the way through not just to getting on a plane, but I expect it will extend to booking a restaurant, booking a seat at the footy, the cricket, going to the theatre, doing all sorts of things.” Whether it is going out for dinner or getting on an aeroplane, the only way out of this hot mess is to get vaccinated and to be able to prove it.
Going forward, alongside the vaccines, we know a vaccine passport is going to be a key to freedom.
Currently, we have a vaccine certificate linked to our myGov accounts that is available once you have had two doses of the approved vaccines.
The certificates won’t do the job to get us moving around globally but are increasingly important as we head out of lockdown.
This is not an Australia-only issue. As the world opens up, countries and major corporations around the globe are requiring proof of full vaccination status for travellers and workers alike.
Just this week in the US, Disneyland made a deal with 30,000 of its unionised employees to enforce mandatory vaccinations at its famous parks. No jab, bye-bye Mickey.
Australians who aren’t vaccinated or can’t prove it look as though they will also have far less access to return to normal life than the rest of us.
And this is where our pandemic problems continue.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Morrison Government has been on the back foot at almost every turn.
Tasking itself with the job of creating the COVIDSafeapp in early 2020, it failed to deliver a product fit for purpose.
This was to the point that the app, which cost taxpayers $8 million and growing, has practically detected no cases since it was launched.
In fact, a report leaked this past week revealed contact tracers said the app was hindering their efforts.
The failure of COVIDSafe was not a new dilemma for the digitally drowsy Morrison Government.
We had already seen the illegal and cruel Robodebtscheme, which was masterminded by the current crop of Morrison Government senior ministers, including Scott Morrison himself, Christian Porter, Alan Tudgeand Stuart Robert.
There have also been multiple failures in access to myGov itself.
Now we must put our faith in this Government to create a vaccine passport that is effective for Australians to move around the country, and safely leave and return when international travel is possible.
So far, things are not looking too good. There have been multiple reports about myGov failing in the face of consumer demand for the digital certificate. There are also issues around the system being open to hackers who can create fake vaccine certificates, with a Sydney man discovering a way to create a forged certificate online in under 10 minutes.
Other people have reported their vaccine certificate not being uploaded to myGov despite receiving both jabs.
The Government has also admitted there is a glitch in the system that means you can’t get a certificate if you have had two different vaccine doses.
After 18 months of hard yakka lockdowns, strain and confusion, this is something the Morrison Government must get right. We need absolute clarity and assurance that the Australian Government is going to produce a vaccine passport that allows us to live normal lives again.
Whatever that looks like.
We need this to happen for our children and for all the people struggling or separated from their families.
The Morrison Government may have made a mess of all things digital prior to this but we need this one to work.
This opinion piece by Bill Shorten was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 1 September 2021.