The Law Council of Australia has argued that Federal Parliament must not rush consideration of “complex and unprecedented” encryption access laws, warning of the very real risk of unintended consequences of not properly scrutinising the bill.
Incoming LCA president Arthur Moses SC said in a statement that Parliament must be given the time needed to work through the many concerns the proposed laws raise.
“The Law Council supports aspects of this bill to give intelligence agencies additional powers to help keep us safe. However, this unprecedented bill is far too complex to be rammed through Parliament in its entirety in just four days,” he said.
“Parliament must proceed carefully to ensure we get it right. Rushed law can make bad law. Failing to properly scrutinise this bill risks unintended consequences which may impact on the privacy and rights of law-abiding Australian citizens, the media and corporate sector.”
Mr Moses also raised concerns about political attacks directed at those highlighting issues with the encryption access bill.
“When dealing with sensitive and complicated legislation like this, it is completely inappropriate for any politician to accuse anyone of putting at risk national security because they are raising legitimate concerns about legislation,” he continued.
“Allegations like that should not be thrown around like confetti in a democracy such as ours. The energy would be better spent on getting the legislation right. In this area, as in all legislation that impacts on the privacy and rights of Australians, it is essential that Parliament heed calls to act with caution, moderation and restraint.”
LCA’s comments came as Attorney-General Christian Porter MP and Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton MP asserted over the weekend that “Bill Shorten ended any claim to bipartisanship on national security” after Labor opposed the government’s proposed legislation on the encryption access laws.
“Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has rejected the national interest in pandering to the left wing of his party to undermine efforts to find bipartisan agreement on vital measures sought by our frontline agencies,” Mr Porter and Mr Dutton said in a statement.
“The Assistance and Access Bill will help frontline security and law enforcement agencies defeat terrorists, child sex offenders and other serious organised criminals using encryption to conceal their crimes,” the pair said.
“These concerns have been underlined by the terrible and fatal terrorist attack in Melbourne on November 9 and the subsequent disruption of three men allegedly planning a mass casualty attack on innocent Australians.”
“Labor has sought to render the bill ineffective by taking serious criminals, frontline state police and encrypted messaging services out of its scope.”
The government will present the bill for consideration by the Parliament this week, with the intention of passing the legislation by Christmas.
“It is time for Bill Shorten to intervene and overrule Mark Dreyfus to ensure the safety of the Australian community.”
However, Mr Dreyfus yesterday stated that negotiations on the legislation had re-commenced.
"Labor is pleased the government has returned to its senses and come back to the negotiating table," he said.
The developments followed Mr Dreyfus' remarks from late September on the proposed legislation, in which he argued that the encryption bill should not be rushed.
“Protecting national security and enabling law enforcement agencies to operate effectively in the digital age is a bipartisan commitment, and Labor is absolutely committed to ensuring our security agencies have the resources and capabilities they require to keep our community safe,” he said at the time.
“In doing so, we need to ensure that Australians also have confidence that appropriate privacy safeguards and transparency measures are put in place, to ensure their rights and freedoms are protected as they go about their daily lives.”