COVIDSafe critic writes an emotional open letter to Scott Morrison

A hoax text message claiming to come from the government’s newly launched coronavirus app is circulating online.

Yesterday the COVIDSafe app was unveiled to help track cases of the virus in Australia and prevent community transmission.

The app already has more than a million downloads.

Off the back of privacy concerns about the data the app may collect, a fake message telling users they have been detected too far from their home has been circulating.


“The COVIDSafe app has detected you are now +20km from your nominated home address. Please register your reason for travel by calling 1300 1MY GOV within 15 minutes of receiving this SMS,” the message reads.

On this backdrop, a concerned citizen has written an open letter to Scott Morrison, PM.

The highly emotional letter from Dr Lee Duffield reads:


Head of Marketing,

Australian Government,


Dear Scotty,

I understand you are encouraging everybody to take up a tracing app to help control COVID-19, which is a very positive thing to do if you are in marketing – to be encouraging.

However, I have to tell you, I refuse point blank to install this thing on my mobile telephone.

I have nothing against active and public databases. I am an early adopter of My Health Record.

No, the reason is that I distrust Peter Dutton and yourself.

I was alarmed to see in the news that Dutton’s Home Affairs Department had been responsible for the initial contracting on this. You would know that I am a journalist and that, since this department was created to include Federal Police and the militarised customs and immigration service as a police-uniformed Border Force, things have not gone so well for journalists. Your government has commenced ordering police raids on newsrooms.

That is what has been happening and is one reason I distrust Dutton and yourself. Dutton, I see, has been putting out a lot of media releases lately, since getting over the coronavirus himself: taking on China, taking on the Queensland Government, obviously, in the process, taking on you. If he is putsching for power like that, he is certainly not getting my data if I can help it at all.

I was doubly alarmed to hear that the process had been handed on to another Minister, Stuart Robert. From watching him in the news, he does not appear to know about computers, no matter what words they are preparing for him to say. Should such ignorance be a reassurance to me? No, I am concerned as well about boys and girls around his office who might know exactly what they are doing – liars who said that big outage was done by hacking.

I was trebly alarmed to learn that in a restricted-applications tendering process, you handed the data storage to Amazon. That gigantic, uncontrolled, tax-suspect American behemoth is not getting my data on a silver plate. For one thing, all the emails and texts that they send are fully boring and tedious to manage, which as a marketer you would understand; victim fatigue must be one of the occupational challenges in your zone.

Then there was a reasonable-sounding geek on television explaining his disquiet about a procedural matter, you proposing to store the encryption key for the Big Brother thing together with the database itself. He said it was contrary to best practice and worrying, like hanging the key alongside a padlock. I wanted to reply: no point in worrying, just try not to co-operate with them.

I am aware of your messages, that nobody in or around the Government will have anything to do with managing the app or accessing the data. It would be handled by a neutered, blind, deaf and dumb “health officer”, with both hands removed so as to ensure a hands-off approach – before quickly destroying it all.

Bullshit, Scotty. I told you. I don’t trust you.

“Why?” you might ask, with palms upturned and that gaping look where your eyes go independently in different directions.

It is because you present yourself to me, in your public persona, as a contradictory and dangerous mix of dim and disingenuous; not really deep or sophisticated enough to be Prime Minister, and yet, too phoney to sustain the Dad act much longer. “Is this real?” I ask myself. “Is this a corporeal bloke or some mist of silly wits?”

Can I leave you with a Marxist axiom? No, don’t run away from it, this one won’t hurt you. It’s as innocent as a lump of polished rock from the Resources Council. It is a Groucho

Marxist saying, or so they say, or it might have been George Burns or someone else in New York: “Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Think about that, Scotty. Get Peter to send the goons after me if you must and I will make it awkward marketing for you.

Yours in spin,

Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.

How does ‍COVIDSafe work?

Bluetooth® signals are used to determine when you’re near another COVIDSafe user.

COVIDSafe securely records when you have been in close contact with other users of the app. This will allow State and Territory health officials to contact you if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.