Australia’s new anti-encryption bill


This post was roughly adapted from a letter I’ve sent to my local MP and senators. I’m releasing this post into the public domain; copy as much as you want if you find it useful.

The Australian Government passed its anti-encryption bill last week, thanks to the utter capitulation of our weak as piss opposition. With it, we’ve become the first developed country with laws that can compel a company employee to install technological backdoors, and without being able to disclose to their employer or clients.

Thanks to the Greens, Centre Alliance, and independents who voted against it in the Senate and House of Representatives. The former have earned another year’s membership from me.

Pardon the French, but I am fucking furious. I know I’ll be preaching to the choir here, but its for the following reasons:

  1. It’s a step backwards for civil liberties. In the words of Thomas Jefferson from my friends in the US, those who sacrifice security for privacy deserve neither. These steps damage us more than any terrorist could; an irony utterly lost on these halfwits.

  2. It’s unenforcable, and mathematically impossible if cryptographic systems were done correctly. If there’s any silver lining here, the government are unaware of this, willfully or otherwise.

  3. It’s a poison pill for Australian IT. Already reeling from the shambles of the NBN, now we have to contend with the image of having a government hostile to privacy and business.

  4. It’s ripe for abuse. Government and law officials have already been caught abusing metadata, and they will certainly do here too.

  5. It’s another mathematical certainly that you can’t build a back door without also letting in bad actors through the same door. Terrorists couldn’t have engineered a weakening of our systems as effective as this.

  6. It puts secured communications at risk. Banking is the obvious example. So much for the centre-right Liberal party being business friendly.

  7. It concedes all our moral high ground when engaging diplomatically with regimes that implement draconian laws. Though in the defence of the Government, this hasn’t bothered them before.

  8. Scope creep is an absolute certainly, given the governments track record with similar legislation.

  9. It will drive away privacy-minded companies like Apple. Australia has fewer than 30 million people — smaller than California — so if presented with an untenable situation, they’ll just leave.

  10. And the icing on the cake, the legislation will allow learned data to be exported to jurisdictions that enforce the death penalty. I just learned of this a few minutes ago. Fucking unbelievable.


If I were forced at gunpoint to play devil’s advocate, the opposition Labor party knows they’ll easily win the election next year. They were already being blamed for siding with terrorists, so agreeing on the bill until next year disarms the government of an attack point. Then when they’re in, they can reverse or change the law.

This strikes me as incredibly optimistic, but Daniel Andrews’ decisive recent win for Labor in the Victoria state election shows they’re capable of staring down terrorism postulations. I hope he can bring Bill Shorten into line by next year.

In the meantime, it is our duty and responsibility to disseminate as much information about this bill as we can. An informed, engaged populace will be our only defence.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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