Australia’s encryption rules trigger calls for 2019 re-write


The new legislation drafts began in June.  On the last day of the 2018 Parliament, sweeping laws were passed giving ASIO and law enforcement agencies strong powers to eavesdrop on electronic communications.  The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, also called “TOLA”, has been criticised by Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter as “deeply flawed”.

The Law Council of Australia also criticised the legislation as having been rushed on the last day of Parliament to yield the “very real possibility of unintended consequences”.  The Council warned of the potential for intelligence agency and law enforcement overreach.  Law Council of Australia President, Morry Bailes, supported the purpose of public safety but warned that the final legislation was flawed, failed to consider established review committee processes, and was rushed through for politicised effect.  Mr Bailes said,

“We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though Parliament knows serious problems exist.”

Bailes argued further work is needed in 2019 to resolve amendments.  A coalition of tech companies allied under the banner “Reform Government Surveillance” said in a joint statement,

“The new Australian law is deeply flawed, overly broad, and lacking in adequate independent oversight over the new authorities. RGS urges the Australian Parliament to promptly address these flaws when it reconvenes.”

However, Mike Burgess, the Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate, described the law as a “highly targeted” response to terrorism, to paedophile rings and to encrypted criminal communication that would not interfere with lawful members of the public.  The global responses to terrorism have been covered in previous Prototype issues covering the US 2015 San Bernardino attack, the 2017 UK Westminster attack and China’s 2018 anti-encryption rules.


This story is featured in the 14 December 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.