Encrypted Messaging Bill To Pass After Labor Strikes Deal With Government
New national security laws dealing with encrypted communications are likely to pass parliament by the end of the week.
Labor and the government have come to an in-principle agreement on key parts of the bill after a series of concessions from the coalition.
Messaging companies like WhatsApp, Facebook and Viber have functions built in to encrypt messages in such a way that only the sender and recipient can see them -- not police, law enforcement, other app users, or even the company itself. Under the proposed laws, these companies must build a new function to help police access suspects' data, or face a fine.
"This bill is far from perfect and there are likely to be significant outstanding issues, but this compromise will deliver security and enforcement agencies the powers they say they need over the Christmas period, and ensure adequate oversight and safeguards," shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said on Tuesday.
While the proposed changes are still to be signed off by parliament's intelligence and security committee, they include further scrutiny of the laws in 2019, limiting the powers to only "serious offences".
There will also be greater oversight of the Technical Capability Notice powers in the bill.
The attorney-general and communications minister would need to authorise such a notice and where there was a dispute over whether such a notice would create a systemic weakness, this would be determined by a former judge and a technical expert.
Dreyfus also called out the government for "trashing" a formerly bipartisan national security process.
"The trashing of bipartisan process and politicisation of national security that has occurred over the past month must never happen again," he said in a statement.
Earlier, Attorney-General Christian Porter accused Dreyfus in parliament of dragging the chain.
"How much more constructive could the shadow attorney-general be if he put his considerable legal skills to reading the submissions, understanding what they say and acting on them appropriately and passing this counter-encryption bill this week," Porter said.