The Minister for Home Affairs, Petter Dutton, has flagged that he plans to introduce legislation to the parliament that will compel companies that provide end-to-end encryption on products and services to decrypt communications and data when requested. But there seems to be a fundamental difference in understanding in how encryption works and how they think it works.
Much of the previous debate on this topic has been on "backdoors" - hidden vulnerabilities that are available to law enforcement and no-one else. But the government has changed tack slightly, suggesting that the providers of services should have a way to access encrypted messages.
It's hard to say what they actually mean as no actual draft legislation has been produced (nor has a timeline been provided for when we might see a draft) but it suggests the current practice where service providers do not ever hold decryption keys is at risk.
Australian Greens Digital Rights spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said, "“Obligating Australian companies providing telecommunications services and devices to assist government agencies with decryption will fundamentally mean that the data of everyday Australians will no longer be secure".
Another issue the government and law enforcement has raised is the shifting nature of network technologies. With the security protocols baked into 5G and the use of IPv6, it will become increasingly difficult for law enforcement to access communications. For example, the Home Affairs department has said the allocation of IPv6 addresses is not managed by a legal process and it would be possible for one person to use multiple addresses.
All of this is strangely suggestive, to me at least, that the government needs to hire some people who know how networks work and how international standards like IPv6 are managed.
Interestingly, since the introduction of mandatory metadata retention laws, NordVPN has said their sales in Australia have increased by 200% - and I suspect that kind of sales bump is being seen by many other providers as citizens seek to obfuscate their online activity.