As the Australian government develops a coronavirus tracking app, many Australians question whether to trust the government with so much personal data. Those Australians even include former deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that the government would launch the app in coming weeks. He assured Australians downloading the app would remain voluntary. He said he sought the country’s cooperation “to help our health workers, to protect our community and help get our economy going again.”
However, Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy PM and ‘family values’ champion who stepped down over an adulterous affair, said he didn’t see the need for the app.
“I treasure the government knowing as little about me as possible. There’s always the argument if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about. My argument is if I’m of no concern you need know nothing about me.
“Australia is doing an extraordinary job of flattening the curve by reason that we are overwhelmingly decent and logical people. We don’t need an app to tell us that.”
Coronavirus tracking app
The app, based on one in use in Singapore, will register a contact when two phones spend 15 minutes within 1.5 metres of each other. If a person then tests positive for COVID-19, they register that in the app. Health officials can then contact people who came into close contact with the infected person.
Government officials claim the app will record limited data. They also state the sole intended use is contact tracing.
The Prime Minister says at least 40 per cent of Australians will need to download the app to make it effective. However, the original model has only been downloaded by 20 per cent of Singaporeans.
Undoubtedly, it makes perfect sense to use a coronavirus tracking app to help defeat this virus. However, many Australians will sensibly want assurance the use of the app will not continue beyond the current crisis. They will also want absolute guarantees authorities will not put the app to any other use.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert attempted to reassure Australians about the coronavirus tracking app in an appearance on Sunrise.
“No one has access to your data, no one is tracking you, there’s no surveillance.”
However, many Australians entertain doubts regarding Stuart Robert’s abilities after the Centrelink robodebt scandal and his admission he did not anticipate the demand on the MyGov website in the early days of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, this writer will download the app. As Labor’s Ed Husic says, it is for the ‘greater good’. Our robust democracy should protect us against attempts to harness the app for nefarious purposes.
Further, it should be noted, our various Australian jurisdictions have served us rather well during this crisis.
However, it does seem a shame the government has not seen the advantage of a more pragmatic approach. That would have seen a minister other than Stuart Robert administering the introduction.
Meanwhile, commenters on Twitter speculated as to the reasons some politicians would avoid downloading the coronavirus tracking app. All of this gifts us the opportunity of quoting Malcolm Turnbull’s description of Barnaby Joyce in his recent book.
“A champion of traditional marriage while practising traditional adultery.”
— 💧The Angry Goddess (@Bishop64) April 18, 2020
BREAKING: In order to improve the uptake of the government’s new #covid19 tracking app, developers have created a special “Barnaby Joyce option”. Users will be able to determine his exact whereabouts so he can be avoided. The addition has been warmly received. #auspol
— 💧Aaron Dodd (@AaronDodd) April 19, 2020
Another politician who came off badly in Turnbull’s book is the Member for Manilla, George Christensen. Many suggest the politician caught out spending over a third of his time in an overseas redlight district may harbour reservations about a tracking app.
From @TurnbullMalcolm‘s book. AFP boss said George Christensen MP ‘had an unusually complex online presence and had been spending substantial sums in Manila bars and nightclubs as well as making many small payments to women there’ https://t.co/aFRSzQE70a
— Latika M Bourke (@latikambourke) April 16, 2020
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