House debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018


Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018; Second Reading

10:47 am

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy) Share this | Hansard source

as some have interjected. While I won't characterise it that way, I endorse what the interjections have said. As I said, this involves economic security. Encryption is a legitimate pathway used by businesses to securely carry data that involves sensitive material about individuals, be it health records or transactions of financial status and wealth. Commercial operations legitimately use those platforms to conduct their business, and we as consumers and members of the public know that that's done. Anything that is being put forward by those opposite that would have an impact on that, needs to be considered carefully. The warrants process is an important mechanism to ensure that, when people make the applications through agencies, someone capable is making the decision on them. I believe that the arrangements that have been put forward by the government are only interim ones. I say that because, in the longer term, judicial warrants and oversight will be critical.

The second thing that I think will be important is parliamentary oversight. Our committees have done a terrific job in oversighting this legislation, but they should also be empowered to a far greater extent to look at the way in which the laws that are passed by this body are actually implemented and operate. We have very little in the way of future reform of the parliamentary oversight committees to give them the same capabilities as those that exist in our allies, such as the UK and the US, to ensure that the types of things that are being proposed now are dealt with properly. We need to have better arrangements there.

The third thing that I think we need to do is to have clarity about the reporting on this. Through you, Deputy Speaker, I say to the Attorney-General: I would be very grateful if, in your reply to the contributions today, you can outline the kinds of reporting arrangements that will let the public know how many times the orders or the arrangements have been accessed over a defined period of time and also the numbers of people that are affected by those orders. With the greatest respect, Attorney-General, I think there would be people in the public who would want to know what arrangements are in that.

So, as I said, I think the oversight arrangements are important, and there are a lot of people in this place who believe that, in the longer term, we need to have those mechanisms in place to give comfort. Again, there are a lot of us who are deeply concerned about this. There have been some reflections made about the views of people in the tech community who rightly raise—they should not be dismissed as extreme libertarians—what impact this has on the local tech sector if they are trying to ensure that the tech sector is able to flourish in this place and have confidence, because it's in an interconnected community with other parts of the world, that the quality of the work that it does here isn't questioned because of the legal arrangements put in by the government. There have, I note, been quite a few views that have been raised online about whether or not this will put the local digital economy at a great disadvantage relative to others. Others have questioned whether or not simple geoblocking arrangements by a lot of the types of platforms that have been raised will see us not having access to some of the apps that have been mentioned in the course of the debate because people and organisations do not want to be subject to a penalty regime as envisaged by the act, which is important as well.

This is not the end of the debate, and I want to emphasise to people who are listening to this and following this debate outside this place that this is subject to ongoing review, and it is also subject to the commitment of parliamentarians who believe that the oversight arrangements, the judicial warrants and the way this system is accountable to others need to be strengthened. We certainly think, in the longer term, that this is the thing that needs to happen and happen quickly.


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