Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:30 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education (Senator Cash) to a question without notice asked by Senator Steele-John today relating to the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

Let's be absolutely clear: the encryption legislation which the government is seeking to bring through this parliament is one of the most flawed and one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever to make its way through this place. It is coming here on the back of a deal that has been done between the government and the opposition. On Friday I held out hope—perhaps a naive hope—that the opposition would be able to find itself a backbone and keep it for 48 hours. Well, I was proven to be mistaken. They couldn't even last that long.

The reality is, in modern day Australia, when this Liberal government comes in here and says: 'Blah, blah, blah, something, something, national security. This is how high you must jump,' the opposition says: 'Well, of course. We'll get out of the way. We'll let it through to the keeper. Just don't accuse us, ever, of being soft on national security, because we can't take it.' You have never met something Peter Dutton dragged out of the depths of his mind that you weren't prepared to pass, and the result is a piece of legislation condemned by Australia's IT sector and tech sector, by the UN and by our own Human Rights Council as being a threat to the privacy of Australians and a threat to a $3.2 billion tech industry.

The President of the Senate rightly aired his concerns that this would, indeed, have the potential of infringing upon parliamentary privilege. I'm glad that he made those concerns known. However, I am not just concerned about the privacy of those in this place. There can be no doubt that, should this legislation pass, brought forth as it has been by a government which is technically illiterate and an opposition which is utterly spineless, if it comes to fruition then every Australian will be less safe because of it and the rights to privacy of every Australian citizen will be compromised.

You do not understand that which you are doing. You are following along blindly in the wake of public servants who have for years schemed, waiting for a minister and an administration stupid enough to put this legislation through. And haven't they found it in this government? But the key to the whole thing is an opposition weak enough to let it happen, and the result is legislation which will see Australia an outlier in the world, with one of the weakest, most decrepit systems of internet privacy protection in the world.

You don't understand what you're doing. You haven't stepped back and, as a result, we will all be harmed. When those hackers—those third-party entities for which legislation such as this is akin to the best Christmas present any government could gift them—do with these tools that which we know they are planning, when billions are lost, when private information is made public, then there will be no-one to blame apart from yourselves for your cowardice and your blinding stupidity.

Question agreed to.