Australian encryption laws sent off to Nat Sec Legislation Monitor for review

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor due to report back by March 1, 2020.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

A little over a year has been given for the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) Dr James Renwick to review whether Australia's encryption laws, waved through Parliament on the last sitting day of 2018 a Labor capitulation on the legislation, contain "appropriate safeguards" for protecting individual rights, are proportionate to national security threats, and are necessary.

The referral was made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), which is currently conducting its own review into the laws, and is due to report on the Act as well as Australia's data retention laws later in 2020. It is the first time in the committee's history that it has referred to the INSLM, PJCIS committee chairs Andrew Hastie and Anthony Byrne said.

"The Assistance and Access Act seeks to respond to highly technical challenges encountered by Australian intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Act has attracted significant domestic and international attention," the pair of chairs said.

"In our view, the INSLM provides a valuable, independent perspective on the balance between necessary security measures and the protection of civil liberties. As such, the INSLM is an important and valued component of Australia's national security architecture."

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Australia gained its now infamous encryption laws when Labor removed its own amendments, allowing the law to pass through the Senate unamended. The government successfully had its 67 pages of amendments added to the Bill in the lower house.

PJCIS is currently reviewing those 67 pages of amendments and is set to report back next week.

In February, the Australian Senate passed some of Labor's dumped amendments, but with the federal budget and an election date due to be called at some point next week, there is unlikely to be time to complete the second reading of Labor's amendments, let alone have the House of Representatives agree to them.

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