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Government’s Hasty Decryption Laws Could Dangerously Backfire

We can all agree that terrorists should be tracked down and eliminated from Australian soil. Even if we can’t all agree on which acts are or are not terrorist related.

But in the fight against terrorism — as with the battle against all criminal activities — the Australian government should take care to maintain the right balance of personal freedom alongside its law enforcement tactics.

And every Australian’s personal freedom — the right to privacy and security on the internet — is at risk with the government’s proposed new law, which would allow police and intelligence officers to access encrypted messages on Australian phones.

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Government is pushing for an expedited vote

If the law passes, it is highly unlikely to ever be repealed. This means Aussie citizens are handing over huge new surveillance powers not only to the current government, but to governments and spy agencies 25 and 50 years down the road. Are we certain we want to do that?

Knowing this, the government should consider the full effects before considering a vote.

Unfortunately, they are going in the other direction and pressing for an expedited vote. One that will give MPs only a very short time to decipher the fine print.

Now of course the intelligence community is throwing its full weight behind urgently passing the law. What else would you expect?

ASIO boss Duncan Lewis, for example, backs the new laws to stop terrorists from hiding their plans in messaging services like WhatsApp.

In an attempt to push for more immediate access to encrypted messages, Lewis said on Monday:

I anticipate ASIO would immediately use this legislation if and when it becomes available… ASIO has cases afoot at the moment where this legislation will directly assist.

According to AAP, the committee reviewing the change in law held four hours of top secret briefings on Monday, as well as public hearings.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and Labor MP Anthony Byrne released a joint statement from the committee saying they were actively considering the request to speed it up:

The committee will publicly announce any changes to its remaining scheduled hearings after consideration of the evidence heard (on Monday).’ 

Tech giants raise major concerns

While not always our friends when it comes to privacy, technology giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Google have raised serious concerns about the implications of the bill.

They are concerned that the changes to the law could harm the trust placed in their messaging services. At the same time, they see potential for the laws to allow ‘bad actors’ to commit crimes against individuals and organisations.

All of this leads to a deeper point about the trade-off between security and freedom.

That is, what price are we willing to pay for a ‘secure’ world?

In many ways, it’s a false trade off. Freedom takes centuries to build up, but can be wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

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The Australian Tribune Editorial

The Australian Tribune Editorial

The Australian Tribune is an unorthodox news service. Your Australian Tribune editorial team deliver the unfiltered stories that could impact your daily life — political and economic stories you’re unlikely to get anywhere else. And we’re not afraid to step on some toes to do it. We are honest, conservative and never dull. We are an independent service, meaning we don’t answer to shareholders or outside advertisers. This helps avoid conflicts of interest that inhibit mainstream sources, which keeps our voice independent. The Australian Tribune is owned and operated by Port Phillip Publishing.
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