Monday, 03 December 2018 19:22

Encryption bill may come up for debate on Wednesday

Encryption bill may come up for debate on Wednesday Pixabay

The Federal Government appears likely to bring its encryption bill up for debate in the lower house on Wednesday, just a day after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security holds its final hearing on the draft legislation.

The Labor Party has refused to back the bill in its current form, but says it will back a revised bill in order to allow schedule one, the bit that gives new powers to the spy agencies, if it was only available to counter-terror agencies.

But the government is insisting on having the bill — officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 — must be passed in its entirety by 6 December.

On Monday, Attorney-General Christian Porter said MPs should pass the laws before Parliament rises for the Christmas break.

“It is incumbent on every member of parliament — Liberal, National, Labor, crossbench — to actually choose a side, at the end of the day,” he said.

“We are now at the end of the day. This legislation is coming into parliament and you can choose the side of the tech companies, who are a little bit sad they're going be modestly inconvenienced, or you can choose the side of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, who say this is utterly critical to their endeavours to protect Australians from harm.”

Opponents of the bill are continuing to voice their objections to a law which they say will weaken cyber defences and make the country as a whole less safe.

“This bill is extremely broad and extremely dangerous,” Lizzie O’Shea, a spokesperson for the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, and a member of Digital Rights Watch, told SBS News.

“There is no one who the Coalition Government can find to defend this bill except people who will be gaining powers from them,” she said, in what was a clear reference to the intelligence agencies.

“Almost every single person that came before the committee highlighted just how dangerous this bill was, the severe implications for our digital security. To then see the Coalition come out in this way is frankly stunning.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came 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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