Tracing apps as a function of Federalism"

Executive Summary

The failure of COVIDsafe was a federal misstep. State QR code tracing apps have been far more successful, which is fortunate because lockdowns have had to continue being a major line of defence until vaccinations can catch up.


A year after the COVIDsafe fiasco, Australians are still largely dealing with Covid-19 variants via lockdown mechanisms and a vital tool in implementing them is the QR code tracing app. For example, in the latest Delta lockdowns involving the outbreaks at the MCG and AAMI Park, COVIDsafe was acknowledged to be no use whatsoever by Victorian authorities, whereas its own QR tracing app, Service Victoria, was instrumental in finding and analysing tiers of contacts and narrowing down the original carriers.

The Apps

Confusingly, much of the information about the tracing apps, for users and retailers still reference the term COVIDsafe.

The major states and territories each have their own app:

But in reality most of these apps share the same codebase and that largely derives from a QR contact tracing app used by ACT Health in conjunction with NSW. It was developed by a Melbourne-based company Arden Street Labs.

Security Issues

Apart from the silence on the codebase and whether the app is compromisable, there is also the issue of who has access to the information that the app collects. This has already resulted in specific legislation to prevent police access to SafeWA although in Victoria at the time this was resisted by the acting Police Minister, preferring to leave it to the courts.

Further Reading

Can Australia fix its covidsafe app and turn the pandemic into a pingdemic

Police sought access to qr check in data intended for contact tracing

Victoria building QR code check-in tool to bolster COVID defence