INDUSTRY SUPPORT FOR CURBS ON NEW GOVERNMENT HACKING POWERS

Sydney, 6 August 2021 – 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.

ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE
Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia. Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of the  communications industry, including carriers, carriage and internet  service providers, content providers, search engines, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.

Its vision is to  provide a unified voice for the telecommunications industry and to lead  it into the next generation of converging networks, technologies and  services. The prime mission of Communications Alliance is to promote the growth of the Australian communications industry and the protection of  consumer interests by fostering the highest standards of business ethics and behaviour through industry self-governance. For more details about Communications Alliance, see www.commsalliance.com.au.
 

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Nick Owens NOwens@sefiani.com.au
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