Qld rookie MP snaps back at Joyce
A FIRST-time Queensland federal MP has taken on Nationals heavyweight Barnaby Joyce over a proposed coronavirus tracking app, as the Federal Government yesterday moved to allay security fears.
Member for Ryan Julian Simmonds has dismissed the "unfounded and misplaced" criticisms of the soon-to-be-released mobile application, which will use Bluetooth technology to record contact with other people - allowing medical authorities to alert potential coronavirus victims.
Mr Joyce and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien declared they would not use the app because of privacy concerns.
Mr Joyce cited the potential hacking from foreign actors like China.
Without naming his Nationals colleagues, Mr Simmonds dismissed their concerns and declared Australians would download the app "because it's the right thing to do by our mates".
"The soon-to-be--released app will be a vital weapon in our arsenal to combat future outbreaks as it automates the otherwise time intensive process of contact tracing,'' Mr Simmonds said.
"When the chips are down, no people rally together better than Australians.
"We aren't Singapore, we won't download an app just because the Government tells us to.
"Australia is beating this virus by using every resource we can, we are the envy of the world in the way that we are getting results.
"This isn't a time to back away and be timid at the thought of downloading an app, something most of us do most weeks.
"Privacy concerns are always worth thorough consideration, but in this case concerns are ultimately unfounded and misplaced.
"The data the app collects will be stored securely on the users mobile phone, will be fully encrypted and cannot be accessed by anyone until after an individual has tested positive for coronavirus and, importantly, consents to it.
"A mirror, albeit digital image of how contact tracing occurs now and which has been so effective to date."
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert hit the airwaves yesterday to push back against the mild Coalition outbreak.
"I think most Australians, like me, aren't too concerned where Barnaby is,'' Mr Robert told ABC Television.
"Barnaby is concerned that someone is tracking or surveilling him. That couldn't be further from the case.
"The app simply digitises a manual process.
"Right now, if you get coronavirus a lot of very hard working state officials, try and work who you have been in contact with.
"This app simply digitises that process and speeds it up."
He said there would be a privacy impact assessment, which would be published.
He said people who downloaded the app they would be required to enter their name; age range, postcode and phone number.
When people were within 1.5m for 15 minutes, it would record the other person's name and phone number.
The Government has tried to explain that loosening of restrictions was not contingent on widespread take-up.
Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt said he would download the app because there was not much "real difference" between contact tracing conducted verbally or a digital alternative.
"I absolutely understand why people are concerned about privacy matters but we are living in a different world to what we were six months ago," he told Sky News.
"I'd want to do everything I possibly can to protect my family to ensure that we can take the appropriate action if we do come into contact with someone who eventually tests positive."
Former frontbencher Matt Canavan said he wanted to see more detail about how users' privacy would be protected before deciding if he would download the app.
"I think the Government needs to release all the code as well as appoint independent experts to assure the community about its protection of privacy," Senator Canavan said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said protections had to be put in place.
"Because if they're not, people won't take up the app, it's as simple as that,'' Mr Albanese said.
"So I think the Government is working on those reassurances.
"They need to be clear about them if the intake is going to get up anywhere near 40 per cent in my view."
Originally published as Qld rookie MP snaps back at Joyce