Merry Christmas, Labor: Dutton baulks at encryption Bill changes

Peter Dutton has indicated that the federal government will not accept all of the Labor opposition's proposed changes to its new encryption laws.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on
(Image: APH)

In a surprise to exactly no one who followed the passage of Australia's encryption laws, except for the Labor party, the government is continuing its rhetoric that Labor is trying to water down national security legislation.

Speaking on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that the government will not accept all of Labor's amendments to its encryption Bill.

The opposition agreed last week to pass the national security laws before Parliament rose for the year, on the condition that all of its proposed changes would be adopted early next year.

"I wasn't prepared to walk away from my job and leave matters in a stand off and expose Australians to increased risk in terms of national security," Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said last week.

"Once the government ran away from the Parliament, at that point I thought we need to get to a sensible conclusion."

However, Dutton said the government would only accept amendments that are consistent with the recommendations of the Parliament's joint intelligence committee, which has investigated the Bill.

"Labor can try and water it down through whatever means they like -- [Shadow Attorney-General] Mark Dreyfus tried all sorts of games to prevent it from coming on in the Parliament -- and ultimately, Labor got caught out," he told reporters.

"This is a very important Bill, a very important law. I hope that Labor can get over their attempts to block it."

See: Australia's encryption laws will fall foul of differing definitions

After the passage of the laws, Labor members have continued to point out the flaws of legislation that they voted for.

"A number of us were very concerned about the way in which the government was dealing with a sensitive issue, an economic security issue of encryption," Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic said on Saturday.

"A lot of countries have tried to grapple with this issue ... they have not wanted to do what the Australian government has wanted to do, which is to inject a cyber cane toad into sensitive encryption environments. And we've been saying you've got to walk carefully on this and they've refused to."

Shorten previously conceded that the laws were rushed.

"It is not a perfect solution. And to all of those who are concerned about the economic impact of this legislation, we hear you -- and we've said we want to review it," Shorten said.

"But in the meantime, I think Australians are over the games and people standing in two different corners yelling at each other and throwing rocks and insults.

"I will take half a win, and move forward, than simply continue this sort of angry shouting."

On the last sitting day of Parliament for 2018, Labor backed down completely on the laws, and was totally outfoxed by a government that can barely control the floor of Parliament.

The final vote in the Senate to pass the Bill was 44-12, with Labor and the Coalition voting for it.

Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said Labor was holding the Bill hostage in the Senate.

"Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring," he wrote on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet.

With AAP

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