Senate debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018


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

6:38 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

It is remarkable, Senator Patrick; indeed, you're right. We're in a parallel universe right now where the proposers of amendments, who are putting forward amendments because they acknowledge that they have huge concerns around this legislation, now look like they're not even going to back their own amendments. I understand why you'd be confused, Senator Patrick; it's a reasonable judgement to make. But the reality is: it now appears that the Labor Party will not support their own amendments. They'd rather have Peter Dutton in the back pocket of every Australian than stare down an over-the-top scare campaign from a government that's only got fear. That's all they have. All this government have is fear. They have nothing else. They've got no vision, no agenda and no plan for the country. All they have is fear and division. Yet here we have the Labor Party saying: 'You know what? We'll hand over complete and total power to Peter Dutton. He's the man that we're going to trust with our national security.'

The great tragedy is that we now have the opportunity to turf this mob out and to change the country so that we move away from this politics of fear and division, from the paralysis that has gripped Australian politics for far too long, and yet here we are with the Labor Party rolling over yet again. I've got to say that I'm disappointed. As I said, at the start of the week, I turned around to my colleagues and said, 'Finally, on an issue of so-called national security, we're going to see the opposition behave like an opposition.' Yet here we are just before parliament's about to rise, when not many people are paying attention to what's going on here, and the Labor Party are saying, 'We've got a whole range of amendments.' I point to their additional comments to the report of the committee that was scrutinising this legislation. In their additional comments, they say very, very clearly:

The work of the committee has not been assisted by the government’s approach to this debate over recent weeks. Labor members are concerned to avoid a continuation of this conduct. It jeopardises the important function the committee serves in our national security apparatus.

They said in their own additional comments, 'We're worried about where this is going.'

Labor then indicated that the government had acknowledged some of their concerns; however, they said that they believed that the government's changes didn't 'address all of the problems in this bill'. That's why the Labor Party proposed a series of amendments—to address the concerns they outlined in the additional comments to this report. And what are they doing? They're walking away from their own amendments. Why would Labor be scared of this mob? They couldn't run a raffle and here you guys are handing over carte blanche national security legislation that gives Peter Dutton veto over what Australians can and can't share with each other. It is remarkable stuff. It's utterly remarkable.

This is why you need the Greens in the Senate—because you can't trust either of the major parties. You can't trust Bill Shorten because, when it comes to actually taking a stand on an issue that matters, he rolls over and gives the government everything they want. You can't trust him. That doesn't mean, of course, that we won't work constructively with the Labor Party when they win office—because they will win office—but you need us here to hold them to account. And let me be really clear about this: we will be doing everything we can to repeal this legislation when it becomes very clear what this legislation does—when all the flaws are revealed and the damage is done—but, right now, we need to stop it.

For those people who haven't followed the debate closely, encryption protects digital infrastructure like our banking system. It protects the electricity grid. It protects mass transport systems. Our essential services in this digital economy will be opened up for exploitation by very dark forces, by state actors and non-state actors. That's why we are going to oppose this legislation. And, if the Labor Party won't move their own amendments, let's be very clear about it: we'll move the Labor Party's amendments for them. That's what we'll do and you will have to vote against your own amendments, amendments that you said were necessary. In the committee that looked specifically at this legislation the Labor Party said that these amendments were necessary. We'll oppose this legislation that threatens the privacy of citizens and that drives tech companies—who fear for their staff's legal liabilities and who will be blacklisted from global software markets—from Australia. We will oppose this unnecessary legislation that hands even more, and unaccountable, powers to our intelligence agencies.

I want to quote the words this week of witness K's lawyer, Bernard Collaery. This is another indictment on the nation. Bernard is the victim of a coordinated attack by intelligence agencies and ministerial officers who authorised the illegal bugging of East Timor's cabinet in order to secure a commercial benefit for a major donor to major parties—that is, Woodside. Let me tell you what Mr Collaery knows. He knows better than anyone else how dangerous this power is. He said:

Australian politicians, alone now among the enlightened democracies in Western Europe, the United States—


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