Labor to oppose rushing through encryption Bill
Industry groups and human rights organisations have welcomed the move by the federal Labor party to prevent the controversial encryption Bill from being rushed through the review process before the end of the year.
Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has taken the rare step of breaking from the traditional bipartisanship on national security matters.
He wrote to the government last week to announce that the Labor members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) will be handing down a dissenting report into a piece of legislation for the first time in more than a decade.
Labor MPs have objected that the government’s insistence that the committee rush through the review process so the Bill can be passed by the end of the year gives too little time to consider the legislation, considering the sheer volume of submissions objecting to the scope of the Bill.
In his letter to his counterpart in government Christian Porter, Dreyfus said interference in the process by key ministers and “the subversion of the democratic parliamentary committee process” have contributed to the breaking down of the committee’s processes.
The Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, the consortium of industry, consumer and human rights groups formed to oppose the legislation, has welcomed what it has called “Labor’s principled approach to national security” by moving to ensure a “fundamentally flawed Bill is not rushed through parliament for political expediency”.
The alliance — which has members including the Information Technology Professionals Association, telecoms industry body the Communications Alliance and the Australian Information Industry Association — reiterated its position that the powers that would be conferred on law enforcement and intelligence agencies through the draft legislation could have far-reaching consequences that could be devastating to the security of all Australians.
Meanwhile, Digital Rights Watch board member and human rights lawyer Lizzie O’Shea said the decision reflects that the Bill has been flawed from the outset.
“We’ve seen an atrocious level of political interference in this inquiry, with comments conflating terrorism with encryption in the media from the Home Affairs Minister, the Prime Minister and even from the Chair of the Committee Andrew Hastie himself. This is an outrageous overreach in what has traditionally been a very respected and measured committee process,” she said.
“It is very welcoming to see the Federal Opposition do its job — to stand up to the government of the day and ensure that proper scrutiny and analysis of legislation is applied. Whilst we still hold deep concerns on the impacts of this Bill as a whole, this additional time will allow for proper consultation and engagement with the people it will most affect — Australian citizens.”
Law Council of Australia President-elect Arthur Moses called on parliament not to rush through consideration of such a complex and unprecedented piece of legislation.
Moses was also critical of the pressure tactics being piled on by the government in an attempt to have the Bill rushed through.
“When dealing with sensitive and complicated legislation like this, it is completely inappropriate for any politician to accuse anyone of putting at risk national security because they are raising legitimate concerns about legislation,” he said.
“Allegations like that should not be thrown around like confetti in a democracy such as ours. The energy would be better spent on getting the legislation right.
“In this area, as in all legislation that impacts on the privacy and rights of Australians, it is essential that parliament heed calls to act with caution, moderation and restraint.”
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