Civil society and the technology industry have serious concerns about the proposed Assistance and Access Bill and Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) is extremely concerned that the Australian government is rushing the review of the proposed Assistance and Access Bill.

Despite comments made by the Minister for Home Affairs that the Bill needs to be passed quickly and before Christmas, ASIO was not made aware that Mr Dutton intended to hold a press conference on Thursday, 22 November 2018 nor could ASIO explain a justification for the alleged need for urgency in passing the Bill.

At the PJCIS Hearing on 19 October 2018, Angus Murray, Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia’s Policy Team submitted that:

“It is incumbent on me, and you; in your capacity as members of this Committee, members of your electorates and individuals who call this great country home, to ensure that we are considering the future and the way that actions today may affect that future. In this context, our security is important; however, we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that security does not become a catch cry for the dissolution of basic human rights… the extremely short consultation period for submissions into this Bill and its rapid progression is comprehensively wrong.”

Power is not meant to be easy, in a democratic society it is meant to be measured against freedom and justice.  Rushing the consultation process, rushing the committee process, and rushing this Bill means that this balance cannot possibly be achieved.

This position is echoed in the UN Special Rapporteur to the Right to Privacy’s submission to the PJCIS and the importance of an informed discussion about the application and consequence of this Bill is paramount to proper democratic process.

Law enforcement can always benefit from more powers, making it easier to do their job.  However without oversight and proper consideration of the consequences, these powers can and likely will be misused. The Assistance and Access Bill lacks proper judicial oversight, reporting, and transparency mechanisms and seriously increases the government’s ability to secretly monitor Australians and it threatens our software industry’s ability to create secure products and sell them overseas.

Building secure software is incredibly difficult and the scope of the Bill has the real potential that vulnerabilities will be created in software (and hardware) which may be discovered and misused by others. It is not simply about balancing security and privacy — when privacy is compromised so is security. The Australian government should invest in world-class secure software, not more vulnerabilities.

The proceedings of the committee so far have not given any indication that this inquiry is complete, or should be cut short - on the contrary, the proceedings have revealed significant issues with the use of existing surveillance powers, that should be of deep concern to all Australians.

Australians ought to expect better from their government and EFA calls on Australians to demand proper democratic process.

We urge the Australian community to contact your local Federal Member of Parliament and request that they act with proper responsible representative process and call for the PJCIS to properly finalise its inquiry into the Assistance and Access Bill.

END

For media enquiries contact EFA Policy Chair Angus Murray on 0405 715 427 via policy [@] efa.org.au or media [@] efa.org.au

 

Footnotes:
1. Hansard Transcript of PJCIS Hearing on 26 November 2018 at Page 5; Available at URL: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/commjnt/8c0ee09a-6e17-4c48-9f5c-34dc6508117b/toc_pdf/Parliamentary%20Joint%20Committee%20on%20Intelligence%20and%20Security_2018_11_26_6805.pdf.

2. Hansard Transcript of PJCIS Hearing on 19 Octoberr 2018 at Page 54; Available at URL: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/commjnt/2a1771c8-f314-43f2-b9b0-cd09ad8123ae/toc_pdf/Parliamentary%20Joint%20Committee%20on%20Intelligence%20and%20Security_2018_10_19_6680.pdf;fileType=application/pdf.

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