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‘Government broke their promise’: Labor seeks to amend encryption legislation

Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said on Tuesday Labor had backed the bill based on the government’s commitment it would be refined this year, acting on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

“[Government Senate leader] Mathias Cormann did not hold true to his word. The government did not hold true to their word. And those amendments, the government has refused now for 12 months to bring back to the Parliament,” Senator Keneally said.

“The private senator’s bill that we will introduce will include all of the amendments the government has previously agreed to, as well as the judicial authorisation for some of the actions that some of the encryption legislation authorises.”

A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton called Labor's move a "political stunt".

A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton called Labor’s move a “political stunt”.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pushed back against Labor’s “political stunt”, saying the legislation was being reviewed by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) and the intelligence and security committee.

“Labor is asking for amendments while the PJCIS and the INSLM are still conducting their reviews – the government has agreed to the PJCIS’ request to allow PJCIS and INSLM more time to review this important legislation,” the spokeswoman said.

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Reviewing the legislation after it had been enacted was among the 17 recommendations made by the intelligence committee in December 2018. Other recommendations were amendments to restrict and clarify the new powers laid out in the legislation. 

Last year, Senator Cormann said the government would consider amendments in 2019 and supported “in principle, all amendments that are consistent with the [PJCIS] recommendations in relation to this bill”.

Sunita Bose, managing director of tech industry body DIGI, expressed strong support for the CLOUD Act and backed amendments to make sure Australia complied with it.

“We have supported reviews by the INSLM and PJCIS into the Assistance and Access law, and encouraged amendments that provide judicial oversight, more robust definitions and stronger protections for journalists,” she said.

The encryption legislation is part of a global push by law enforcement to confront the growing challenge of suspects “going dark”, with their data encrypted and out of reach to investigators.

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