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Friday, 23 November 2018 02:32

Industry associations call on govt to give encryption bill ‘serious consideration' Featured

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Industry associations call on govt to give encryption bill ‘serious consideration' Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A group of industry associations are calling for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security not to scuttle the Parliamentary process and bow to government pressure to “wave through” the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 commonly known as the encryption bill.

The group — which says it is crucial that lawmakers give the encryption bill serious consideration and work with stakeholders to fix its well-documented flaws — includes:

  • Australian Industry Group
  • Australian Information Industry Association
  • Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association
  •  Communications Alliance
  • DIGI
  • Information Technology Professionals Association
  • Internet Australia
  • IoT Alliance Australia

The call from the group comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison “insisted” that the PJCIS cut short its inquiry into the encryption bill and it be passed within the next fortnight.

As reported by iTWire, the industry group call also comes after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said this week he wants the PJCIS to deal with the bill "as quickly as possible", and accused Labor Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus of delaying things and "making excuses and massaging bills down to lowest common denominator".

One member of the industry group, Internet Australia chair Paul Brooks, said “The encryption bill stands to have major consequences for millions of Australians, their confidential data, and on businesses that will be captured by the proposed bill. Therefore, it is crucial that lawmakers give the bill serious consideration and work with stakeholders to fix its well-documented flaws.

“There is a need for cool heads to prevail, accompanied by detailed analysis of the impact on Australians and Australian businesses, and for law makers to approach this important task systematically while following due Parliamentary process.

“The PJCIS is one of the vital ‘checks and balances’ that are central to the integrity of our democratic and legislative process. The committee has worked diligently and constructively, to date, in its Inquiry into this complex and far-reaching piece of legislation. This includes examining testimony relating to close to 90 submissions from a broad range of Australian and international experts.

“Almost all of these submissions have raised serious concerns about the implications of many aspects of the proposed legislation. This includes the threat it poses to the cybersecurity and privacy of all Australians and to the reputation of Australian industry, including SMEs and start-ups, competing in a global market,” Brooks observed.

Kishwar Rahman, general manager of Policy at the Australian Information Industry Association, said: “The flow-on impact of the proposed legislation on Australian industry competing in a global market needs to be given proper consideration,

“The PJCIS must be given the time to thoroughly assess the valuable input it is receiving from experts and stakeholders. We all understand that the issues here are real and that is why it is so critical that we get this right. A rushed and flawed piece of legislation is laden with the potential for unintended consequences that could act to the advantage of criminals and terrorists and to the disadvantage to Australians and Australian industry.

“It needs to be clear that the bill, as currently drafted, not only raises privacy concerns, but stands to jeopardise the security of the Internet globally and the framework of trust required for it to function properly. We have seen with the Data Retention legislation how unintended side-effects and loopholes can creep into complex legislation. We need extensive consultation with expert stakeholders to minimise the risk of this happening with the Assistance and Access Bill.”

Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton said: “We have successfully worked with the PJCIS in the past, for example on the Telecommunications Sector Security Reform, to ensure that legislation is balanced, fit for purpose and an effective and practicable tool to safeguard national security. Many stakeholders stand ready to sit down with the committee to do the same with this bill.”

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said: “Strong cyber security is central to customer trust, competitiveness, the strength of our economy and the reliability of our infrastructure”.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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