The New Encrpytion Bill Means Australia Is No Longer A Good Place To Work In Tech

The New Encrpytion Bill Means Australia Is No Longer A Good Place To Work In Tech
Image: iStock

Despite a raft of 173 amendments being proposed, acknowledgement that the legislation is flawed and the opposition of almost every technical expert, the Australian government and opposition have passed the new Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) though the House of Representatives and Senate last night. This is a striking blow to our cybersecurity and technology industry that will put the jobs of thousands of tech workers at risk and, in some cases, put them in a position where they could be jailed for not telling their bosses if they are creating backdoors into software at the request of government.

The legislation was passed unamended despite a raft of 173 changes proposed and handed to the senate with barely a couple of hours for them to be considered.

Let’s just consider that one fact for a moment. A piece of law where there were at least 173 contentious points that ought to have been considered was passed. Every single member of the House or Representatives – except the two MPs who should be commended for voting against the laws – should be found derelict in their jobs for that fact alone. And a majority of 44 votes to 12 voted for the unamended laws in the Senate.

The New Encrpytion Bill Means Australia Is No Longer A Good Place To Work In TechImage: Digital Rights Watch via Twitter

As Senator Jordon Steele-John said “Sad day for democracy and our online privacy, safety & security. #Auspol just broke the internet…”

The effects of this law are substantial.

Think about that. You’re a software developer creating a secure system and a member of the law enforcement community directs you to weaken the system you’re working on. If you do it and are discovered by your boss, you’ll probably never work in the industry again. If you do it and tell your boss, you could go to jail. If you don’t do it, you’d be in contempt and go to jail.

Bye bye career. Bye bye life as you knew it.

Rather succinctly, former senator Scott Ludlam, now unencumbered by the need to express himself in politically-friendly terms, summed the situation up.

Over the last five years the Australian tech industry has done a great job of proving itself to the international community. The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, or AustCyber, has been supporting emerging infosec companies to gain a foothold in international markets. A number of large tech companies have established offices here. Those aren’t just sales offices. In many cases technical teams leading product development are here because we have some of the best developers in the world and the Aussie lifestyle is a great attraction.

All of that is now in jeopardy. When I travel to the United States I’m often asked about the local tech scene. I can no longer say with confidence that this is a great place for tech companies to do business.

Incidentally, in order to rush this legislation through, the government scarified a bill that would release the remaining children in detention on Nauru and a bill that could have compelled power companies to reduce our power bills in the new year.

That package of amendments is still on the table. The government could consider them in the new year – if it feels like it. But it has the laws it wanted, the opposition talked tough and then rolled over and we now lead the world in finding new ways to screw the future.

By the way – the two MPs who voted against the bill were Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilke. Write to them and thank them for being on the right side of a losing debate. If you’re inclined, a commenter has kindly created a list of every MP’s email address so you can email all of them, telling them what you think of this bill.


  • Is it likely this will actually be implemented though? A lot of people are claiming this was all about making the ALP look bad (which it has – either way they were going to look bad for either ‘not taking security seriously’ or seeming very weak if voting it in) and has no hope of really being implemented in any practical way.

  • Bill shorten chickened out and now the 173 amendments will just be tossed aside by the Coalition.

    Shorten and his gutless Labor party cowards have through wilful ignorance, allowed the fascist Coalition to kill off Australia’s tech industry. It will now be impossible for many corporations to even do business here, let alone employ anyone.

    The backdoors Australia’s bumbling cops demanded will soon appear on the web.
    The world’s state sponsored hackers must be rejoicing in the knowledge that they will soon be able to exploit them and totally undermine our national security.

    This is without a doubt the worst thing I have ever seen happen in the Australian parliament.
    The Governor General should refuse to sign this bill.

  • We didn’t just break it for australia, we broke it for the others, the US agencies, can ask the Aus agencies to break X product and share the intel on their citizens. Works against any multinational.

    • Yes, it is the thin edge of the wedge. Australia is one of the Five Eyes spying countries, along with the USA, Canada, the UK and New Zealand. All of those other countries could be at risk if Australia forces a tech company to create backdoors.

      This means that the tech companies are going to have to find other ways of securing customer data.

      It opens up the idea of third party data centres in neutral countries storing users’ data and providing multi-layer encryption that removes the tech companies ability to decrypt the users’ data. Rather like Apple claiming they couldn’t provide the iPhone encryption keys. So, even if the tech companies were ordered to provide backdoors, they couldn’t.

  • Maybe I’m over simplifying this but does this potentially mean we will be walled out (business wise) from the UK?

    Doesn’t this run a-foal of the GDPR?

  • It would seem I have been shadow banned for some silly reason, my comments are in permanent moderation hell and my attempts to contact LH for clarity have been ignored. Shameful behaviour.

  • where they could be jailed for not telling their bosses if they are creating backdoors into software at the request of government.
    I think you mean they could be jailed for telling their bosses. The new law requires them to keep quiet about it.

    • Another thing that concerns me, is the possibility of major tech companies refusing to support Australian customers, or even allow Australian customers to use their tech in case they are forced in an Australian court of law to provide backdoors.

      Worse still is those same companies being ultra suspicious of all their local Australian software engineers and closely monitoring their activities to make sure they don’t secretly build those backdoors. The tech companies will also probably stop using Australian software engineers to build code that is used to secure their products – resulting in more job losses.

      Imagine, say, Google, telling Australian Gmail users to close their email accounts and delete all their emails. After all, Australia is only a tiny market of 25 million users – a drop in the ocean for the big tech companies.

      If I were the CEO of one of those companies, and I wanted to make sure that no government could force me to weaken the security on my products, I would seriously consider dropping the Australian market.

      • And then, the ‘bad actors’ these laws are targeting, will simply use VPNs & pirated .APK’s to connect to unbroken, encrypted services elsewhere, thus making the entire bill useless for its advertised purpose…
        Email sent to my MP

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