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Senetas' delay in encryption bill submission surprising Pixabay

One of the curious aspects surrounding the Federal Government's encryption bill is why it took Australian firm Senetas — which has technology exports of at least a billion — so long to voice its objections to the draft legislation.

Senetas would be among the Australian companies that stands to lose the most if the law is implemented in its current form and yet the company has kept its views on the bill to itself until recently.

The company did not make a submission to the Department of Home Affairs when public comment was open between 14 August and 10 September. And until the last day (25 October) when the list of submissions was up — it has now disappeared — Senetas had no presence on it.

The company has now surfaced in the list of submissions to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security – and its contribution sits at No 85 on a list that has 87 submissions as of today (13 November).

Curiously, Senetas chose to voice its objections much earlier to what is officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 — that link is dead now as well — by sponsoring a podcast. Not that many people from among the masses would have noticed that.

In the submission which it has made to PJCIS, Senetas quotes a great deal from the submissions of others to justify its conclusions. Once again, exactly why is unknown.

Companies that stand to lose the most due to any particular regulation should, arguably, be the first out of the gates with criticism. Cisco is a case in point; the global networking vendor, which knows what can result from backdoors in hardware, made a forceful attack against the draft in an early submission to the PJCIS and then its personnel appeared in numbers during the first hearing of the PJCIS on 19 October to continue in the same vein.

Senetas' reluctance to take on the government may be due to the fact that Australian companies generally avoid open confrontation with the government. Those who do — like the cloud provider Secure Collaboration — often back away after an initial foray, after finding that it does not serve their ends.

There are three more hearings organised by the PJCIS on 16, 27 and 30 November, and it remains to be seen whether Senetas will show up and argue its case. There are good reasons why it should – it represents one of the better reasons why this senseless bill should be used as kindling for a bonfire.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame 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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