Wednesday, 27 March 2019 10:24

Labor pledges economic inquiry into encryption law impact Featured

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Senetas chief Francis Galbally speaking at the Safe Encryption Australia forum in Sydney on Wednesday. Senetas chief Francis Galbally speaking at the Safe Encryption Australia forum in Sydney on Wednesday.

The Australian Labor Party has pledged to hold an inquiry that looks into the economic impacts of the Federal Government's encryption law after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security completes its ongoing review and submits a report on 3 April.

The pledge was made by Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy, Ed Husic, at a forum in Sydney on Wednesday, organised under the banner of Safe Encryption Australia, and attended by about 320 people either in or associated with the tech industry.

Husic, incidentally, was the only politician from a major political party to attend the forum which was organised by tech website InnovationAus and StartupAUS.

Husic, who was part of the panel for the event, said there were a number of Labor politicians who were aware of the serious implications the law, in its current form, posed to the Australian technology industry.

He said that he was aware of the pathetic level of consultation undertaken by the government before the bill was introduced and also the fact that many major players were not consulted. Labor wanted to consult and make changes that would prevent the law from harming the industry, he added.

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From left: Girl Geek Academy chief executive Sarah Moran, Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy Ed Husic, Fastmail chief of staff Nicola Nye, NUIX founder and cyber investor Eddie Sheehy and Atlassian co-founder and chair Scott Farquhar at Wednesday's forum.

Two prominent Australian tech industry representatives — Senetas chairman and founder Francis Galbally and Atlassian co-founder and chairman Scott Farquhar — stressed that a lack of changes would mean that industries would have to move out of Australia to keep their customers.

Atlassian, the biggest Australian tech company, and Senetas, which ships something in the region of $2 billion of product to a multitude of customers, including the Israeli parliament, were not consulted prior to the drafting of the bill.

Galbally, who has given forceful presentations to the PJCIS during hearings in 2018, said he did not want to shift his company as he loved the country. But he said he would have no option unless the law — officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 — underwent some radical changes.

Among the things he listed were definitions for systemic weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and the degree of scrutiny that was carried out before requests were made for changes to existing technologies.

Others who participated in the event were Nuix founder and cyber investor Eddie Sheehy, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Innovation and Enterprise) UTS, Glenn Wightwick, and Girl Geek Academy chief executive Sarah Moran who acted as the moderator.

The Australian Parliament is expected to discuss the amendments to the law on 2 April when it reconvenes, before the PJCIS submits its report on 3 April.

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Sam Varghese

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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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