Notes for a COVIDSafe debate at EG at lunchtime on 26 May 2020.
This debate is about doing good in our lives.
About caring for others and getting ready for the next wave of Covid 19 infections.
The app is voluntary, the information collected is not owned by the government, there is no policing, there are many protections.
Yet the Opposition is full of lurid stories about a police state in the making. It reminds me of several Soviet Union jokes:
A frightened man visits the KGB: “My talking parrot has disappeared.”
“That’s not the kind of case we handle. Go to the criminal police.”
“Yes, of course, I know that. I will go to them. I am here now just to tell you officially that I disagree with the parrot.”
Or that Olympic one:
An English athlete, a French athlete and a Russian athlete are all on the medal podium at the Olympics chatting before the medal ceremony.
“Don’t get me wrong”, says the Englishman, “winning a medal is very nice, but I still feel the greatest pleasure in life is getting home after a long day, putting one’s feet up and having a nice cup of tea.”
“You Englishman,” snorts the Frenchman, “you have no sense of romance. The greatest pleasure in life is going on holiday and meeting a beautiful girl with whom you have a passionate love affair.”
“You are both wrong,” scoffs the Russian.
“The greatest pleasure in life is when you are sleeping at home and the KGB breaks your front door down at 3 AM, bursts into your room and says ‘Ivan Ivanovitch, you are under arrest’ and you can reply ‘Sorry comrade, Ivan Ivanovitch lives next door’.”
I am glad to break the news.
The Covid app is not the beginning of an Aussie Gulag.
The government, opposition and even the Greens want to protect civil liberties & anticipate the healthy Aussie scepticism about anything the government asks us to do.
Why I love this country.
I respect the argument that civil liberties need vigilance.
The issue is not complex.
Do you want to give comfort to others, by volunteering some of your location details, so long as you want to disclose them?
That is the question.
The government is not storing your information.
The private sector, through a subsidiary of Amazon, is collecting any of the limited information you volunteer to provide.
Legislation makes it illegal to require anybody to download the app
The anti-vaxers, the one world government opponents, and the anti-seat belt league are all foaming about the risks.
The Opposition hopes to win by hectoring, invoking Big Brother, and hawking whatever is dredged out of the fever swamp of an overly excited imagination.
But they cannot avoid one fact.
The debate is about should you download the Covid app.?
We respectfully say, yes.
Because we calmly think it is worth saving lives and assist to lessen the fear of those worried sick about infection.
If you are old, frail, diabetic, or in compromised health – or if you mix with those who are – you have reason to agree with us.
Please vote to save lives.
And if you don’t care to, we respect your choice.
Is that where we differ?
These are my notes to a serious/fun debate on the government-sponsored Covid-19 app that supposedly could alert people that they had come in contact with a Covid-19 carrier (and should then get tested).
It was an internal EG debate, with most favouring a libertarian, do-not-trust-the-government-with-my-information mindset.
Roger Parker and I argued the affirmative, Adam Geha on the other side. We wanted to argue without getting personal. I went on too long…
Perhaps the most telling question posed by Adam was whether the app actually could work technically, and that if it did not, could the app give a false sense of security?
Note to self: the app doesn’t collect location details. What it does is using the same Bluetooth technology that searches if your headphones or car are nearby, your mobile phone securely and anonymously takes note of other app users you come in contact with. This information is encrypted and stored locally on your phone.
Roger was excellent (driving home the idea that ‘the horse has bolted’, given what social media and Big Tech knows about all of us; its a simple safety device, nothing sinister) and Adam argued well too (Big Brother with an army is more sinister than Big Tech without one, etc.)
An interesting theme was whether there had been an over-reaction by the Federal and state governments in shutting down the economy, etc. Was the lockdown worth it?
I wonder how in 5, 10, 20 years time we will look back on this experience. And whether Australia actually had a first wave compared to the relatively low number of cases as at the time of writing (30 June 2020).