Australia

Controversial encryption laws poised to pass after Labor-Coalition reach agreement

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New laws allowing police and spies to access encrypted messages will pass federal parliament this week.

Australian law enforcement agencies will soon be able to snoop on encrypted messages after the federal government and Labor came to an "in-principle" agreement on the government’s proposed encryption laws.

The controversial bill will introduce world-first laws, allowing police to force tech companies to crack encrypted messages.

Negotiations between the parties had broken down this week - but the government is now hopeful of passing the legislation before Parliament rises on Thursday.

The federal government and Labor are to do a deal on laws allowing security agencies easier access to encrypted communications.
The federal government and Labor are to do a deal on laws allowing security agencies easier access to encrypted communications.
AAP

The government said it was imperative to pass the legislation before the festive season and a heightened risk of potential terrorist attacks.

The proposed decryption powers will still extend to crimes beyond terrorism and child pornography, the Attorney-General told reporters on Tuesday evening.

“Serious offences that occur right across the state and Commonwealth statute books; including serious drug, gun, homicide and child sex offence,” Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said on Tuesday afternoon.

“The foremost goal of the Australian government is to protect people from terrorists, from paedophiles, from murderers - this legislation does that."

Labor had also dropped its opposition to state police being included in the legislation, Mr Porter said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter during the debate.
Attorney-General Christian Porter during the debate.
AAP

The government said efforts by Labor to introduce “cumbersome” oversight had also been overcome.

The Opposition has also hailed the lifting of the deadlock.

“The government have made important concessions on its earlier position,” Shadow Attorny-General Mark Dreyfus said.

‘It appears the government will agree to proposals by Labor that will ensure there is better oversight and limitation of the powers in this bill, and better safeguards against potential unintended consequences. 

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ASIO would 'immediately' use new encryption powers to target terror
ASIO would 'immediately' use new encryption powers to target terror

"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.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus.
AAP

Initially, Labor said it would not pass the laws without changes – setting up a major conflict between the two major parties on a national security matter for the first time in years.

This promoted the government to urge Labor and the crossbench to "choose a side" over the laws.

“We are now at the end of the day," Mr Porter said on Monday.

"This legislation is coming into parliament and you can choose the side of the tech companies, who are a little bit sad they're going be modestly inconvenienced, or you can choose the side of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, who say this is utterly critical to their endeavours to protect Australians from harm.”

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