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  • 19 February 2019 15:17

Encryption Act has potential to undermine the international reputation of Australian tech companies, says AIIA

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, has expressed its disappointment that the proposed amendments to the new Assistance and Access Act 2018 were not passed by Parliament last week.

Sydney, Australia – 19 February 2019 -- The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, has expressed its disappointment that the proposed amendments to the new Assistance and Access Act 2018 were not passed by Parliament last week.

The Act has the potential to undermine the reputation of Australian technology businesses both locally and in international markets. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups may very well find themselves locked out of overseas markets with their products being viewed as untrustworthy, says the AIIA.

Passed by the Senate on 6 December 2018, the compliance requirements proposed by the new legislation could have a negative impact on multinational and Australian technology companies operating in Australia – due to a lack of clarity around definitions of key terms.

AIIA came together with a broad coalition of industry groups to make suggested amendments to the Government’s contested encryption legislation in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) on 23 January 2019. The AIIA also made a separate submission on 4 February 2019 to highlight additional issues raised by its members.

While the proposed amendments to the definitions were debated in parliament last week, the activities fell short of expectations and amendments were not passed. The next opportunity for the proposed amendments to be passed will be on 2 April 2019, and will compete with time allocated by Parliament for the Federal Budget.

Commenting on the Assistance and Access Act 2018, Ron Gauci, CEO of the AIIA, said: “We are disappointed that the amendments proposed were not passed by Parliament. However, we are heartened to see that some members of Parliament are starting to focus on the economic impact of the legislation on Australia’s ICT innovation and export activities.

“The Act is likely to negatively impact the competitiveness of Australian software and hardware manufacturers in international markets. We believe this could result in declining employment and export revenue, and consequently a significant reduction in local R&D and manufacturing.

“We need to ask how the legislation will impact on the exportability of Australian ICT products and services – there is a real risk they will be perceived as less secure than those in other jurisdictions. We are particularly concerned that Australian SMEs and start-ups – those companies that form the backbone of Australia’s economy – will be locked out of global markets as trust in their products is compromised,” said Mr Gauci.

The top two priorities for amendments to the Act include clarifying the definitions of ‘systemic weakness/vulnerability’ and ‘target technology’, and ensuring judicial oversight over the issuance of Technical Assistance Notices (TAN) and Technical Capability Notices (TCN).

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