Leading Australian encryption technology provider Senetas will move offshore unless a series of changes are made to the government’s highly controversial Assistance and Access laws, as the local tech community unites to fight for amendments.
Speaking at the Safe Encryption Australia forum in Sydney on Wednesday, Senetas founder and chair Francis Galbally said the 35 year old tech company would be forced to leave unless amendments are made.
The Assistance and Access laws, which were passed by the government with Opposition support on the last sitting day of 2019, gives agencies and law enforcement widespread powers to compel tech companies to provide access to encrypted data.
“Australian technology should be the best, and is the best. But this legislation in the form it is in will force our company to go offshore, and that would be a terrible result, because I love this country. We should be promoting our IT industry, not ruining it,” Mr Galbally told the Safe Encryption Australia forum.
The encryption laws were “overreach and overkill” and had led to a loss of trust in the Australian tech sector from customers around the world, Mr Galbally said.
“It’s like dropping an atom bomb on your neighbour because people are illegally coming over and doing things to you,” he said.
“It is massive overreach and it needs to be brought back. It was done in haste and we all know what outcomes you get when you do something in haste. You get chaos and it ends up in a mess.”
“The risk is we’re affecting security and trust, not just in us as participants in the IT industry but our customers are now worrying about us.
“If you have to make changes to encryption, if you have to change your own system or provider and you’re doing so under secrecy and not telling other people you partner with, you will put a systemic weakness into that system that will affect the internet, not just for us in Australia but for everyone in the world.”
The broad coalition of more than 300 people working in and around the tech sector came together under the Safe Encryption Australia umbrella to discuss the issues surrounding the new powers and what needs to be done to fix them.
The forum was underpinned by the cooperation of 20 tech industry groups and professional associations, coordinated by InnovationAus.com and StartupAUS.
Mr Balbally said it’s crucial for the industry to work together and provide a clear and single voice to government.
“The IT industry is very poor in getting its act together. It doesn’t co-align and get together and speak with a single voice on issues,” he said.
“And when there are important issues that are being dealt with by the Parliament, parliamentarians like to speak with a single body, not hundreds of people. I think the industry needs to align and have a single voice.”
“The act is there, we have to work now to get it changed and get changes made that will make it workable. Don’t let this debate subside. The conversation must continue and we must be writing to our local parliamentarians and we must also support organisations. We need to be out there making noise all of the time.”
Mr Galbally concluded with a clear message to the federal government.
“You must listen to the legitimate concerns raised by industry surrounding the implementation of the act.
“This act is impossible to be implemented as it is at the moment. The industry is huge, it will affect the economy of this country if the changes aren’t made. Please listen to our concerns,” he said.