Issue No 20: 9 August 2021
Industry Support for Curbs on New Government Hacking Powers
Communications Alliance today welcomed the push by the Federal Parliament’s security committee to rein in the sweeping new hacking powers proposed to be handed to national security agencies under the Identify and Disrupt Bill.
In the report of its inquiry, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended 34 amendments to the controversial legislation, which would allow agencies to covertly hack and disrupt the networks, accounts and devices of Australians where there is suspicion of a crime being committed.
The PJCIS recommendations include changes to strengthen the oversight of the activity of agencies, allow for review of how the proposed powers are used and to better protect the privacy of Australians whose devices could be hacked and/or confiscated under the planned new laws.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, praised the comprehensive nature of the PJCIS scrutiny of the legislation and the fact that the Committee had supported and included several recommendations that were put to the PJCIS by Communications Alliance in its submission to the inquiry on behalf of Australia’s telecommunications sector.
“Such sweeping proposed new powers for security agencies must come with appropriate checks, balances and protections,” Mr Stanton said.
“The PJCIS recommendations would provide at least some protection for Australians against the intrusive nature of the framework proposed by the legislation and the potential for such powers to be abused by agencies. They also offer some protections for the employees of companies when they are being asked to cooperate with agencies.
“The PJCIS recommendations – including restricting the powers to only apply to serious offences and mandating judicial authorisation of warrants – should be accepted by the Government and incorporated by Parliament before the legislation is passed,” Mr Stanton said.
He also called on the Government to respond to the PJCIS recommendations for reform and improvement of the Government’s mandatory two-year Data Retention regime.
“The Government makes a lot of noise about the ‘urgency’ of each of the many new national security powers it proposes, emphasising what it describes as the dire nature of the threats Australia is facing,
“It is now nine months since the PJCIS made sensible and well-considered recommendations to address problematic aspects of the Data Retention laws, and 13 months since the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor made vital recommendations on the Assistance and Access (‘encryption’) Bill, but the Government has simply failed to respond and offered no explanation for its lack of action.
“If a balanced approach to national security and law enforcement actually matters to Government, it should behave accordingly,” Mr Stanton said.
Below is a list of currently open telecommunications-related consultations being conducted by Government and other organisations that provide an opportunity for you to have your say.