Government and Opposition reach agreement on encrypted messages law

Government and Opposition reach agreement on encrypted messages law
Photo by 1pratikyadav via Wikimedia Commons

It is expected that laws giving law enforcement greater access to encrypted messages on services like Whatsapp will pass this week in Parliament.

It comes after the Government highlighted that 95% of those being monitored by domestic espionage agencies were using encrypted messaging services.

The Coalition Government and Federal Labor Opposition have been negotiating the finer points of the policy over the last few weeks, but have seemingly come to a general agreement.

Initially, Labor wanted the powers limited to use for investigating serious offences like child sex trafficking and terrorism. Since then, Attorney-General Christian Porter has said that Labor has conceded to allow the powers to be used to investigate the trade of illicit substances and firearms as well.

Labor had also expressed fears that the powers were applied too broadly and wanted them only to be accessible to federal law enforcement agencies, excluding state police.

Mr Porter said that Labor’s initial proposal was too narrow in its scope and that it would have entrenched “a very slow process”. He added that he was please the legislation finally appeared that it would pass with an adequate amount of strength behind it.

He went on to say that the timing of the legislation was important as officers had reminded the Government that “Christmas is a very difficult time for law enforcement”.

Mr Porter’s Opposition counterpart, Mark Dreyfus, said that while the bill was “far from perfect” that significant changes had been made to increase accountability and oversight.

He said that the compromise reached with the Government would ensure that law enforcement agencies had “the powers they say they need over the Christmas period”.

The Government has urged Labor to accept the new legislation following the Bourke Street attack that took place in Melbourne last month.