Under the law, which is officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, technical assistance requests seek voluntary help by a company; its staff will be given civil immunity from prosecution.
If this is not agreed to by the company in question, an interception agency can then issue a technical assistance notice or TAN to make a communications provider offer assistance based on existing functionality.
If this is not effective either in convincing the organisation in question to co-operate with law enforcement, then a technical capability notice can be issued by the Attorney-General at the request of an interception agency.
In a submission to the PJCIS, the AFP said as per previous submissions and appearances before the panel and in the review of the law by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Dr James Renwick, the tempo and complexity of the criminal threat environment was evolving with increasing use of technology by criminal groups and their networks, to facilitate and obfuscate criminal conduct.
The AFP said the encryption law provided an essential framework to strengthen the AFP’s ability to overcome technological impediments to lawful access to digital content, where necessary and appropriate.
For the previous financial year, the AFP said it had used the technical assistance requests on five occasions. This was in a much shorter period than the full 12 months, as the law came into effect only in December 2018; hence the period over which these five TARs were made was from December 2018 to 30 June 2019, a little more than six months.