He was speaking on a podcast at the Institute of Public Administration Australia on Tuesday.
His words were part of an argument that has been mounted ad infinitum over the past several years as intelligence agencies have sought to mount a move to justify the breaking of encryption.
Burgess referred to the 2016 case where the FBI demanded that Apple create a new version of its iOS operating system so that the agency could guess the passcode on an iPhone 5 that was owned by a terrorist. Apple refused and finally the FBI paid a commercial firm to get the data.
"At one level, I accept that bit in our country under the rule of law, if we have a warrant, so we've met a legal threshold and the appropriate person has said, 'Yes, you can have this access', we would expect companies to cooperate and actually ensure that there is lawful access."
In a more recent case, the FBI asked Apple for help in unlocking an iPhone used by a man who shot dead three people in Florida. In this case, too, the FBI managed to gain access on its own.
The US has now introduced a new law into Congress, to try and ban encryption on the sly. Called the EARN IT Act it works to neutralise section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which allows online platforms to escape liability for things their users say and do; for example, you can sue the person who defamed you on a platform like Twitter, but not the platform itself. An amendment to this section in 2018 has made platforms liable for publishing information “designed to facilitate sex trafficking”.
The new bill makes it necessary for platforms to earn the immunity that Section 230 has afforded so far. And one of the conditions for earning that immunity could well be the ditching of end-to-end encryption.
Burgess claimed that the ASIO only asked for new laws that were "proportionate to the threat we're dealing with". Additionally, the organisation was subject to the oversight of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security who could "red card me and if I don't co-operate with the Inspector-General, I'm going to jail and that's the way it should be".
He said with appropriate oversight and appropriate laws, "I don't support private sector companies who want to fight governments to say, 'No, we can't give you', or, 'We can't co-operate with you'.
"Because the other angle that we come at this from is actually when a terrorist event occurs and then someone puts that footage online, or is broadcasting that online and the companies that are facilitating the live streaming of the death of people actually find it really difficult to co-operate on actually the blocking that material or having it removed as quickly as possible.
"Again, in our society, I find that really hard that private sector companies do not want to co-operate with governments on dealing with such abhorrent behaviour."