This will be aided by a deal Services Australia has reached with Apple and Google to allow digital wallets on both iPhone and Android devices to show Australians’ COVID-19 vaccination records from their MyGov accounts.

Passport to freedom, anyone?

Passport to freedom, anyone?Credit:The Age

Qantas last week confirmed it would roll out a digital health pass for international flights, which will confirm passengers have clearance to fly. The airline said many countries now required either proof of vaccination or a negative test result in order to enter without undergoing quarantine. These include Britain, the United States and Canada.

Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has previously flagged an intention to see a vaccine passport system in Australia for domestic travel, but industry sources said there was doubt any airline would be able to efficiently implement a domestic system.

Mr Tehan said as the vaccine rollout progressed the vaccine certificates were “something that obviously the government, business [and] event organisers” are going to look at. “Ultimately, in the end, it’s the best way to keep our community safe and that’s what the plan is.“

The vaccine certificates, which are being developed by Services Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, would also link with a new technology being developed by the Department of Home Affairs called the Digital Passenger Declaration, which will allow for the collection of health information. The government is still trying to work out how to link the three services.

While DFAT is the department that issues passports, it has no legal basis for collecting Australians’ vaccination status under the Australian Passports Act, which may mean the data has to be stored by other agencies such as Services Australia or Home Affairs.

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Some Coalition MPs – including Nationals MP George Christensen, and Liberal senators Alex Antic, Gerard Rennick and Eric Abetz – have spoken out about any move to require vaccine certificates for domestic travel. Mr Christensen, who also opposes vaccine passports for international travel, voiced his opposition to the move at the Coalition joint party room meeting on Tuesday morning.

Senator Antic said he was “concerned that a domestic COVID vaccine passport will lead to discrimination against Australians and create a two-tiered society”.

“Australians should not be denied access to services on the basis of their willingness to undergo a medical procedure,” he said. “This is an incredibly slippery slope and may well set a precedent for further discrimination in the future.”

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Senior government sources confirmed Australia is currently negotiating with a number of countries on establishing two-way travel bubbles for the vaccine certificates. While vaccines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration will automatically be part of the vaccine certificates, the government is yet to decide whether to allow for other vaccines such China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik V.

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