Labor to unveil bill to amend 'encryption' law

Proposed legislation to also ensure US CLOUD Act compliance, Labor says

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Shadow home affairs minister Senator Kristina Keneally will tomorrow introduce a bill to amend Australia’s controversial ‘encryption’ laws.

The introduction of the Telecommunications Amendment (Repairing Assistance and Access) Bill 2019 will come almost a year after parliament passed the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill.

The passage of the 2018 bill – intended to facilitate law enforcement and intelligence agency access to online communications systems – was only possible with the support of Labor, which withdrew its proposed amendments when the legislation was considered by parliament on the last sitting day of the year.

At the time, Labor said it had struck a deal with the government to this year amend the TOLA regime in line with recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The foreshadowed amendments to the bill have not been made.

“The Morrison Government have broken their promise to Australia’s tech sector and by failing to amend their encryption laws – putting a handbrake on the digital economy, and hindering the creation of jobs, productivity and growth of the economy,” said a statement issued today by Keneally, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland, shadow innovation minister Clare O’Neil, and shadow assistant cyber security minister Tim Watts.

The Labor MPs also said the encryption legislation was not compliant with the US CLOUD Act.

“To address these concerns, Labor’s amendments will introduce a judicial authorisation requirement to provide assurances to the United States Congress that Australia’s laws are compatible with the US Government’s CLOUD Act,” the statement said.

The TOLA regime is currently being scrutinised by the PJCIS as well as the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.

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