James Riley
March 14, 2019

Tech galvanises on encryption laws

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Tech galvanises on encryption laws

Encryption forum: Tech comes together to voice concerns about new encryption laws

A coalition of tech sector business leaders and industry groups have come together at the eleventh hour to voice concerns to government about its controversial new encryption laws, the so-called Assistance and Access Bill.

Called Safe Encryption Australia – A Citizen Coalition, the group will host a one-off, town hall-style forum in Sydney on Wednesday March 27 to highlight not only security concerns about the legislation, but also the negative impact the laws have already had on Australian software makers, particularly in overseas markets.

The event has been scheduled just days before the final sitting days of the current parliament and ahead of the expected tabling of a report on the legislation by the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

Confirmed speakers and panelists at the Safe Encryption Australia event include:

  • Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Scott Farquhar
  • Senetas founder and chairman Francis Galbally
  • AustCyber CEO Michelle Price
  • NUIX co-founder Eddie Sheehy
  • Girl Geek Academy CEO Sarah Moran
  • University of Technology Sydney (UTS) deputy vice-chancellor Glenn Wightwick

Shadow human services minister and digital economy spokesman Ed Husic will address the forum. A spokesperson for the government has been sought.

Safe Encryption Australia (SEA) is a Citizen Coalition established to coordinate a united voice seeking a commitment from both sides of politics to revisit the parameters of the new Assistance and Access Act.

This short-term coalition is being coordinated by InnovationAus.com and StartupAUS, with the support of a wide range of industry associations, organisations and individuals, for the purpose of seeking key amendments to the Act.

These amendments include narrowing its scope, increasing oversight, and ensuring that employees cannot be targeted without company knowledge.

The controversial Telecommunications Assistance and Access laws were rushed through the parliament on the final sitting day of 2018. 

Each of the participants at the Safe Encryption Australia event have been outspoken in debates about the laws.

Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar told the Australian Financial Review last month that the laws “were a choke-hold on the Australian tech industry.” He said Atlassian had already lost international business as a direct result of the laws’ implications.

Senetas founder Francis Galbally told a PJCIS hearing prior to the bill being passed last December that the laws would have a devastating impact on Australian cyber security companies.

Mr Galbally warned that Senetas, which makes high-grade network encryption products, could be forced to shift its manufacturing operations overseas.

Safe Encryption Australia is a free event to be hosted by UTS within the Fishburners event space the Sydney Startup Hub. Doors open at 8am on March 27.

The forum runs for 90 mins and will be finished by 10 am to give everyone plenty of time to get on with their work day. You can find more details here.

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