Spy chief Duncan Lewis (pictured) has appealed to Labor and the Senate crossbench to back the government’s new encryption laws, saying the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was confronting “one of the most significant and gravest technological challenges” in its history.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has not been convinced “of why our right to privacy should be further eroded”.
Mr Lewis, ASIO’s director-general of security, revealed 95 per cent of terrorists, spies and hackers are using encrypted communication and data, and said it was “greatly concerning” their activities remained undiscovered or hard to track.
Labor has refused to endorse the laws, which are being reviewed by federal parliament’s intelligence and security committee, but has flagged a bipartisan approach to matters of national security.
The Morrison government will need to win over eight of the 10 Senate crossbenchers if Labor joins with the Greens to oppose the legislation.
The Australian reports, none of the crossbenchers has committed to supporting the bill, with tech giants including Google and Facebook joining an alliance with civil libertarian groups to campaign against the law.
The government bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives on September 20 and championed by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to force tech companies to assist with access to encryption technologies, with some decisions not subject to judicial review.
Law enforcement agencies could also obtain secret computer access warrants which would enable them to collect evidence remotely from electronic devices.
The bill has been labelled by opponents as “very draconian” and its potential to “be used in adverse, invasive ways against law-abiding citizens” is of great concern.
While we worry about giving contracts to Chinese telco businesses due to a perception that they will spy on us, our own government is trying to gain unfettered access to network infrastructure that would enable them to spy on any Australian at will.
It is proposed that at the very least we should have protection similar to what has been put in place in the UK, which involves judicial oversight and the introduction of an investigative powers commissioner.
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