MEDIA RELEASE - ENCRYPTION BILL PROCESS SHOULD NOT BE RUSHED - 20 SEPTEMBER 2018

Joint with Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for National Security and Ed Husic MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services and Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy.

The government has introduced its encryption bill into Parliament this morning only 10 days since submissions to its exposure draft closed, and without releasing a public response to stakeholders. This is unacceptable.

This decision makes a mockery of the exposure draft process, and suggests the ‘consultation’ run by the government was nothing more than a sham.
 
The government has not even made stakeholder submissions to the exposure draft public. The government should do so now.
 
It is simply implausible that Peter Dutton could have in such a short timeframe given due consideration to the widespread concerns when dealing with encryption that raised by industry and other stakeholders.
 
Instead, the government appears to have taken a tick and flick approach to an incredibly complicated bill, with potentially far-reaching consequence for the privacy and digital security of all Australians.
 
Reflecting the complexity involved, when a similar bill was introduced in the United Kingdom, it took two years from announcement of the government’s policy to implementation of the bill.
 
We saw what a mess the Liberals made with their half-baked metadata proposal and attempting to rush the encryption Bill in a similar way would be reckless.
 
Proposals that seek to provide security agencies with powers to bypass encryption and access personal communications must be subject to robust and well-considered consultation. This includes rigorous scrutiny by the PJCIS once the Bill is introduced into Parliament to ensure proposed legislation is best targeted to combat those who seek to do Australia and our interests harm.
 
Protecting national security and enabling law enforcement agencies to operate effectively in the digital age is a bipartisan commitment, and Labor is absolutely committed to ensuring our security agencies have the resources and capabilities they require to keep our community safe. In doing so we need to ensure that Australians also have confidence that appropriate privacy safeguards and transparency measures are put in place, to ensure their rights and freedoms are protected as they go about their daily lives.  

It is vital that the government engages in proper consultation processes when introducing entirely new national security laws with the potential to impact every Australian who uses a phone or computer.  Without proper consultation, public confidence in these measures, and the agencies that use them, may be undermined.

It is important to get this right and with its rushed process the Government has not made a good start towards that outcome.