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Minister promises virus app will be safe

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert (pictured) promises virus app will be safe (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has trashed Barnaby Joyce's privacy concerns about a new coronavirus contact tracing scheme.

The federal government will release an app in the next fortnight using location data to track down people who have come in contact with others carrying the deadly disease.

Mr Joyce, the former deputy prime minister, and Nationals colleague Llew O'Brien are refusing to sign up to the program citing privacy concerns.

But the minister in charge of the app has gone on the counterattack against the rebel MPs, arguing they don't understand how it works.

"I think most Australians, like me, aren't too concerned where Barnaby is," Mr Robert told ABC News Breakfast on Monday.

"Barnaby is concerned that someone is tracking or surveilling him, that couldn't be further from the case."

Mr Joyce fears the Chinese government will wage a cyber attack against Australia to collect data.

"My major concern is, it doesn't matter what they say, there is always the capacity for people to hack into it," he told Seven's Sunrise.

Mr Robert has promised to undertake a privacy assessment and publish the app's code to allay fears surrounding the scheme.

"This is all about seeing who you've been in contact with - not where you are," he said.

At least 40 per cent of the population needs to sign up to the app to make it effective.

The government has raised the prospect of easing coronavirus restrictions if enough people get on board.

"We think Australians will do the right thing and they'll rise to the challenge," Mr Robert said.

Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has agreed to sign up to the app if privacy issues are examined by parliament's powerful intelligence and security committee.

"We live in extreme times and I will do everything reasonable and possible to get us to the other side to get the economy rolling again," he said.

Mr Robert, who presided over a massive crash of Centrelink's website last month, also rejected suggestions there would be glitches with the technology.

"There's no question that the app will work, just like the corona information app is providing vital information to Australians," the minister said.

© AAP 2020