A defiant Pauline Hanson says she doesn’t trust the federal government with her data and won’t download the coronavirus tracking app.
Australians have flocked to download the new COVIDSafe app, with well over one million adding it to their phones within hours of its release on Sunday.
The app is designed to help health officials identify people who have come into contact with somebody infected with the disease.
But Senator Hanson maintained in a heated exchange with Today host Karl Stefanovic on Monday that she would not be one of them.
“I don’t want them tracking me. I don’t trust the government,” she said.
“Why the hell would I let the government give it to them personally to download my information?”
Stefanovic responded with a reminder to the senator of her civic duty.
“You have a responsibility to the Australian people if we want to try to control this COVID-19 and we want to try to track people,” he said.
But Senator Hanson said her first responsibility was to herself – and she knew she didn’t have the coronavirus.
“Besides when you have only a few cases in the blasted country and they lockdown the whole bloody country still and they want to put this app on your phone when we’re on very much on the decrease … Come on, Karl. I don’t trust them.”
Senator Hanson is one of few politicians opposed to COVIDSafe. Another is Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce, who said he would not download it until he had a briefing from the responsible minister.
“I make a free choice not to do it,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.
Mr Joyce, a former deputy prime minister, has been firm in his opposition.
“I treasure the government knowing as little about me as possible,” he said a week ago.
“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.”
That earned him a rebuke from Government Services Minister Stuart Robert, who said “no one wants to know where you’ve gone, pal, we are not interested. And plus the app doesn’t do geolocation”.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen is another supporter. He was among the first to download the COVIDSafe app and believes his Labor colleagues have too.
“That’s a decision I’m personally comfortable to make. It’s a decision, as far as I’m aware, that all of my Labor MPs are making,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
But Labor senator Kristina Kenneally is not. She told ABC’s Insiders she would not download COVIDSafe until the rules about its data use were enshrined in law.
That won’t happen at least until federal parliament returns in mid-May.
However, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was pleased with the initial uptake.
“One million Australians have now downloaded and registered,” he tweeted late on Sunday night.
That figure rose to 1.13 million on Monday morning, 12 hours after the app was launched. The government wants 40 per cent of the population on board.
Mr Hunt confirmed people concerned about privacy could use a fake name to register.
“Yes you can – that’s legally available,” he said.
“Obviously it’s better, I think, if it’s exactly who you are. But above all else we want to be able to be in contact, for the state health officials to be in contact.”
The app records Bluetooth connections a phone makes with others so the user can share that data with health authorities if they catch the virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists only health authorities will have access to the data.
He has suggested a strong uptake of the app could lead to a relaxation of social and business trading restrictions.
Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said there were safeguards to protect personal information collected through the app, and her office would watch its implementation closely.
Polling published in The Australian on Monday found 54 per cent of respondents were prepared to download the app.
Two in five people did not intend to download it and 7 per cent said they were unsure or didn’t own a mobile phone.