Sat, Dec 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Revisions eyed for rushed Australian security law

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia’s top legal body yesterday warned of police and intelligence “overreach” after Canberra rushed through parliament controversial laws allowing authorities to circumvent encrypted communications.

Under the legislation, police and intelligence agencies could force technology firms to remove encrypted protection for people under investigation.

Canberra said the laws are needed to intercept communications between serious criminals.

Despite fierce debate, the legislation rushed through parliament late on Thursday, the last day of sitting for the year, after the opposition Labour Party agreed to drop amendments in the interest of public safety over the Christmas break.

“I thought it was important that we reach at least a sensible conclusion before the summer on the important matter of national security,” opposition leader Bill Shorten said.

The government has agreed to consider further amendments to the bill early next year in line with recommendations made by a parliamentary committee on security.

The Law Council of Australia said that the legislation “rammed” through parliament left open the possibility of “overreach” from police and intelligence officials.

The council was concerned the laws could circumvent the need for authorities to get a warrant before obtaining communications, while people could be detained without being allowed to contact a lawyer.

“It’s not just the rights of citizens that are potentially compromised by this outcome, but intelligence agencies and law enforcement that are at risk of acting unlawfully,” council president Morry Bailes said in a statement.

The committee process has been “politicized,” Bailes said.

“The committee must now be given the time it needs to ensure there are no unintended consequences, which could be to the detriment of us all,” he said. “Next year, as well as passing the remaining amendments, the intelligence and security committee needs to be brought back into the frame to get these laws right.”

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