Home Government Tech Policy Labor asks govt to proceed with care on encryption bill
Labor asks govt to proceed with care on encryption bill Pixabay Featured

The Australian Labor Party has termed "unacceptable" the government's introduction of its encryption bill into Parliament on Thursday, just 10 days after public submissions to the draft ended and with no response released to stakeholders.

In a joint statement, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Digital Economy Minister Ed Husic said that the government's decision made "s a mockery of the exposure draft process", and suggested the the "consultation" was nothing more than "a sham".

The draft bill — officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 — was introduced into the lower house of Parliament on Thursday by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

It was released on 14 August and comments were invited until September 10.

The three Labor shadow ministers said it was not plausible that Dutton had been able to consider properly the concern over the bill that had been expressed by industry and other stakeholders.

"Instead, the government appears to have taken a tick-and-flick approach to an incredibly complicated bill, with potentially far-reaching consequence for the privacy and digital security of all Australians," the three said.

"Reflecting the complexity involved, when a similar bill was introduced in the UK, it took two years from announcement of the government’s policy to implementation of the bill."

Dreyfus, Rowland and Husic reminded the government of what they described as the "mess" that had been created when the "half-baked metadata bill" was handled in a similar way.

They said proposals that sought to provide security agencies with powers to bypass encryption and access personal communications "must be subject to robust and well-considered consultation".

"This includes rigorous scrutiny by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security once the Bill is introduced into Parliament to ensure proposed legislation is best targeted to combat those who seek to do Australia and our interests harm."

The Labor shadow ministers pointed out that protecting national security and enabling law enforcement agencies to operate effectively in the digital age was a bipartisan commitment.

"Labor is absolutely committed to ensuring our security agencies have the resources and capabilities they require to keep our community safe. In doing so, we need to ensure that Australians also have confidence that appropriate privacy safeguards and transparency measures are put in place, to ensure their rights and freedoms are protected as they go about their daily lives," they said.

"It is vital that the government engages in proper consultation processes when introducing entirely new national security laws with the potential to impact every Australian who uses a phone or computer. Without proper consultation, public confidence in these measures, and the agencies that use them, may be undermined. It is important to get this right and with its rushed process the government has not made a good start towards that outcome."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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