AustCyber calls for cool heads after encryption bill passed

Recognises fears of local cyber sector, but “unwise to jump to conclusions”

AustCyber – the government funded not-for-profit tasked with growing the Australian cyber security sector – has called for cool heads following the passage of the so-called encryption bill by parliament.

The organisation (also known as the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network) said a number of local cyber security businesses had raised their concerns about the bill, which passed in bizarre fashion last night.

“At this stage, it is important to recognise that there are many unknowns regarding the content and implementation of the legislation,” AustCyber’s co-chair Doug Elix and CEO Michelle Price said in a joint statement issued this evening.

“It is unwise to jump to conclusions, or make assumptions that could unnecessarily perpetuate a sense of uncertainty from creators and consumers of cyber security products and services,” the statement continued.

The organisation – formed in 2017 as part of the federal government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative – said it recognised that many firms felt the negative impact of the bill on the sector had been “underappreciated”.

The Australian technology sector has been broadly critical of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 which is intended to help police and national security agencies intercept and access encrypted communications.

Industry leaders, such as Senetas founder Francis Galbally, have claimed the bill will “profoundly undermine” the reputation of Australian software in overseas markets. Others warned the bill could result in billions being wiped off export revenues.

“AustCyber is very aware of Australian businesses already reporting concerns raised by their investors and customers,” Elix and Price’s statement continued.

Missing, inaction

Some have accused AustCyber of ‘going missing’ during the bill’s consultation period, as it failed to enter a submission.

“AustCyber engaged in active discussion with many parties who contributed submissions,” AustCyber strategy chief Belinda Newham told Computerworld.

“This is in line with AustCyber’s role in policy advocacy, which is to identify key barriers to the success of the sector and support the ecosystem and industry associations,” she added.

The organisations statement today added that cyber security is a “young industry in Australia and as such has not yet developed an established industry voice when it comes to policy advocacy”.

The body would be working with industry associations towards “maturing and amplifying the voice of Australia’s cyber security sector”.

AustCyber had expected to this week release the results of a major survey of Australian cyber security firms, carried out with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The survey was issued to firms early last month canvassing their views on the bill and its economic impacts.

Originally it was hoped the survey would inform debate ahead of the bill’s passing, before the process was expedited. The survey results will be published next week.

AustCyber also said this week it would work with businesses of all sizes to ensure the encryption bill is implemented “in a way that minimises the economic impact” upon them.

As part of that work it will issue a communications toolkit to help firms convince their customers, investors and supply chains about “the ongoing integrity and sustainability of Australia’s sovereign cyber security capabilities”.


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