Council forced into COVID app backdown

A Sydney council that faced a health department investigation for illegally ordering workers to download the CovidSafe app has rescinded the direction and apologised to staff.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday that the department had launched an immediate investigation after it emerged that Strathfield Municipal Council CEO Henry Wong had directed workers to download the contact-tracing app by close of business on April 27 if they had a council-provided mobile device.

“The Department of Health … will make it absolutely clear that this, if it is accurate, is unacceptable and further steps would be taken if it were not rectified immediately,” Mr Hunt told reporters.

Coercing a person to use the contact-tracing app is banned under a federal biosecurity order issued by Mr Hunt on April 25.

A spokeswoman for Council told Government News on Thursday that Mr Wong had been contacted by the health department in relation to the email and had been made aware that it may have constituted a breach of legislation.

Mr Wong had since apologised and sent “a corrective email” to staff.

She said Mr Wong encouraged all staff to make a personal decision to download the app to allow rapid contact tracing and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Mr Wong thanks staff for their cooperation and work so far in addressing the challenges posed by Covid-19 pandemic. He also thanks the Federal Department of Health for their swift and clear instruction on this matter,” she said.

A Health spokeswoman confirmed it is against the law for an employer to force a staff member to use the CovidSafe app but said Mr Wong had made an “inadvertent error” and quickly rectified it.

“The government appreciated the swift action taken by the CEO to rectify the situation,” she told Government News.

Earlier, Mr Wong had stood by the decision saying it was a “lawful and reasonable” direction.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

4 thoughts on “Council forced into COVID app backdown

  1. It appears the type of behaviour sadly exhibited at other councils over many years is now appearing at Strathfield Council. A over reach mindset coupled with obnoxious arrogance.

  2. Council have NO authority anyways, so now they KNOW what its like when they claim to have authority and told what to do….

  3. You’d think someone in his position would know better. Obviously, someone’s ego can cloud sound judgement of supposed years of experience.

  4. Sadly, the Federal Department of Health has established a precedent, where future breaches of the legislation, such as security and privacy can be explained away as “inadvertent errors”. The Federal Government now cannot prosecute anyone, as anyone prosecuted may now point to Strathfield Council and say “Why me and not them?” People are concerned that their personal information is not protected by the legislation surrounding the COVID19 app, and the refusal of Health to enforce the legislation proves that those people are right.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required