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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10194


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (10:46): People right around the country are desperate to vote this mob out. They are desperate to see a change in direction for our country. They are desperate to remove a government that has shown itself incapable of dealing with the challenges of our generation. They are desperate to see a new government take us to another place—a better place, a place that acknowledges the future and that does not attempt to drag us back to a bygone era. What we have with this piece of legislation is a government that doesn't understand what the future looks like and wants to hand over more power to a group of unaccountable agencies, to ensure that we continue the slow and gradual erosion of people's private information and to destroy a burgeoning industry.

That was also the view of the Labor Party. It was the view of the Labor Party. They stood with the Greens and made it very clear that they believed this legislation was bad legislation. Yet all it took was for the government to throw around those two words, 'national security'—they throw them around like confetti—and the Labor Party went to water. A weak-kneed Labor Party refused to stand up and mount a defence for individuals to ensure that their information remains private and to ensure that our software industry and our IT industry are able to continue to grow and export and develop into the industry that we know that it can be. They went to water.

We congratulated them at the time. We agreed with them on their criticisms of this piece of legislation. The evidence was clear. We heard that this would open up a gate to corporate and state espionage. We heard that this bill would enforce our software industry and talented IT entrepreneurs offshore. We know that because they told us. We heard that this would compromise the privacy of all Australians. We heard that it would weaken the cybersecurity of Australian companies and, indeed, of the Australian government. Of course we knew that it would hand over more power to our unaccountable intelligence agencies.

We just had a contribution from Senator Molan, who made it clear that he doesn't want the Greens to be involved in the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Of course he doesn't. He doesn't want the scrutiny that the Greens provide in that environment. He doesn't want the transparency that is necessary for Australians to judge for themselves whether this is a good law or a bad law. He doesn't want to be held to account, and this government don't want to be held to account for the decisions that they are making that erode Australians' private information and that ensure we put the brakes on this hugely profitable and potentially job-creating IT industry. That's why we do need the Greens in the Senate holding both major parties to account, being a buffer against the repeated disappointment of the Labor Party, who cave in as soon as those two words 'national security' are thrown around.

This has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with securing information and with individuals and organisations being absolutely certain that their information remains private and that it is used for their benefit and not for the benefit of some of these unaccountable agencies. If it wasn't for the work of Senator Jordon Steele-John, through his engagement with the IT sector, with the digital rights sector, with a range of organisations who have told us repeatedly: 'You must repeal this legislation because it does nothing to keep Australians safe. Indeed it makes us less safe,' we still wouldn't know some of the egregious impacts that this legislation will have. We now know that the words 'national security' are thrown around as a cover for governments to go about and implement even more authoritarian laws. Well, it looks like the Home Affairs monolith created by Peter Dutton will continue, regardless of who wins the next election.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and that's the response we should be giving to this scare campaign being mounted by the Liberals when it comes to national security. We've got the Labor Party putting the desires of an authoritarian minister ahead of the deepest concerns of individuals, of technology companies, of defence contractors, of the UN, of the EU, of lawyers and of digital rights and civil liberty groups, all of whom know this is bad legislation. Indeed, that was the view of the Labor Party until they caved.

We know there are good people inside the Labor Party who are arguing that this bill should not pass. Sadly, it seems they've lost. That is why you need the Greens in the Senate, because we have both parties now willing to destroy the future of Australian businesses who develop software. Internationally, people are looking on this bill, and the signal that this sends to the rest of the world is that we can't trust software developed here. We can't trust that it hasn't been compromised and is being utilised against secure systems. We cannot trust Australian technology. The government, with the support of the Labor Party, are sacrificing our IT industry. This is an export market estimated by Austrade to be worth over $3 billion, rising to at least $6 billion over the next decade. Let's look at what's at stake here. Encryption is critical. Encryption is critical for the safety of our digital infrastructure in our banking system, in our energy grid, in mass transit systems. Essential services in this digital economy rely on encryption and they will now be opened up for exploitation.

We'll support the amendments that have been proposed to this current piece of legislation, but let's not delude ourselves: they make a shocking, dreadful piece of legislation a little less bad. The right response now is to not support this bill in its entirety. We need to ensure that individual Australians and organisations, remain safe. We need to ensure that we create the conditions that allow these industries, which are the industries of today and tomorrow, to grow and prosper.

Let me finish my contribution by quoting the Australian Digital Rights Watch chair, Tim Singleton Norton. He made this statement:

This bill is still deeply flawed, and has the likely impact of weakening Australia's overall cybersecurity, lowering confidence in e-commerce, reducing standards of safety for data storage and reducing civil right protections. In its very design, it is antithetical to human rights and core democratic principles. Lawmakers are on notice that they will be responsible for the consequences of introducing weaknesses into our digital infrastructure - including adverse consequences borne by everyday people who rely on encryption to go about their daily lives in a digital society.

I get it that most people in this place don't understand the very nature of the bill that they're currently supporting. It's okay to admit you don't know, but surely it's critical that we take a cautious approach in this area, that we listen to the advice of people from right around the world. It is unprecedented action that this chamber is now taking. Listen to the UN, to the EU lawyers and to the digital rights and civil liberty groups. Listen to the many millions of Australians who are horrified by this. Listen to those tech companies who understand the impact of this law on the business that they are currently conducting. This is bad law even with these amendments. It introduces vulnerabilities into people's private information and into vital national infrastructure and it risks bludgeoning an incredibly lucrative and important industry for Australia.

We Greens in the Senate will always stand up against bad legislation. You may use the words 'national security'. Well, we believe it is in the interests of all Australians to ensure that their information remains safe and secure. We won't be cowed by your campaign to ensure that the next election is based on fear and division. We stand ready to vote and repeal this legislation—it won't be long before its flaws are revealed and we have to undo the damage that has been done—but we have an opportunity to stop it now, and that is exactly what we will be endeavouring to do.