Atlassian, Labor step up in fight against ‘terrible’ encryption laws


Speaking at an event in Sydney on Wednesday, Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar panned the consultation process involved in developing the laws.

He said Atlassian was not consulted over the bill and told the room that when the tech giant questioned this, it was told the laws would likely not apply to the company.

Mr Farquhar called the laws “poorly written” and said he was “befuddled” as to why the government didn’t appear to want to clarify the language.

“I think there’s a very dangerous place to say, ‘trust us, even though the laws give us great powers, trust us that we won’t use them in adverse ways’.

Ed Husic at the event in Sydney on Wednesday. Credit:UTS / Guy Degen.

“That’s a really difficult spot to be in and obviously our customers feel the same way,” he said.

Shadow minister for the digital economy Ed Husic has said the Labor Party will look to amend the legislation, which compels technology companies to help fight criminal activity, and has vowed to fix the “terrible laws” so they don’t “wreck the tech”.

Mr Husic promised Labor would make changes to provide more judicial oversight for when the powers are used, and would strongly prohibit the use of the laws where the changes could result in a systematic weakness.

Labor helped vote through the legislation in December 2018 but Mr Husic told the audience the opposition believed it would be able to revisit amendments to the laws at the start of this year, though this did not happen.

Australian startups are starting to formally lobby in the lead-up to the election, with attendees at Wednesday’s event given templates for contacting their local members about the issue.

Mr Farquhar urged the tech community to maintain pressure on politicians across all parties.

“The way these things get changed is by people like yourselves turning up to things like this,” Mr Farquhar told the audience.

The event’s organisers said they had invited government representatives to be involved in the event, but they  had declined.

The government has been contacted for comment.

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Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.

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