AIIA slams inaction on encryption bill reforms

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

AIIA slams inaction on encryption bill reforms

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has expressed disappointment that proposed amendments to the controversial new encryption bill were not passed by parliament.

Amendments to the Assistance and Access Act 2018 proposed by Labor and widely supported by industry were debated in parliament last week, but were not passed.

The government had agreed to consider the amendments as a condition for Labor’s agreement to support the move to rush the bill through parliament before it wrapped up last year.

These amendments include a proposal to switch to a system that would require security agencies to obtain a warrant from a judge before issuing the Notices that would require companies to facilitate the access of encrypted communications sent over their devices or services.

AIIA CEO Ron Gauci said that with the inaction on considering the amendments, the next opportunity for them to be passed will be on 2 April, which will mean the debate will compete with time allocated by parliament for the Federal Budget.

“We are disappointed that the amendments proposed were not passed by parliament. However, we are heartened to see that some members of parliament are starting to focus on the economic impact of the legislation on Australia’s ICT innovation and export activities,” he said.

“The Act is likely to negatively impact the competitiveness of Australian software and hardware manufacturers in international markets. We believe this could result in declining employment and export revenue, and consequently a significant reduction in local R&D and manufacturing.

“We need to ask how the legislation will impact on the exportability of Australian ICT products and services — there is a real risk they will be perceived as less secure than those in other jurisdictions. We are particularly concerned that Australian SMEs and start-ups — those companies that form the backbone of Australia’s economy — will be locked out of global markets as trust in their products is compromised.”

Gauci said the other major priority for amendments besides the proposed introduction of judicial oversight is to clarify the definitions of “systemic weakness and vulnerability” and “target technology” used in the Act.

The industry is pressing for amendments in this area as they believe it will be important to alleviate the danger that the Act can be used to circumvent the integrity of encryption as a security measure, by requiring device and service providers to introduce exploitable backdoors into their encryption-based security mechanisms.

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