Human rights lawyers ask Australia’s ‘hacking’ Bill be redrafted

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Human Rights Law Centre and the Law Council of Australia have asked that the federal government redraft the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020, calling its contents “particularly egregious” and “so broad”.

The Bill, if passed, would hand the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) three new computer warrants for dealing with online crime.

“Sweeping state surveillance capacity stands in stark contrast to the core values that liberal democracies like Australia hold dear,” Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender declared to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) on Wednesday.

“In the past two decades, the surveillance capabilities of Australian law enforcement and intelligence have rapidly expanded, every increase in state surveillance imposes a democratic cost.”

According to Pender, each time further surveillance powers are contemplated, three questions should be asked: Are the proposed powers strictly necessary, carefully contained, and fully justified.

“We believe that the Bill in its present shape does not satisfy those criteria,” he said.

“While many of the expansions made to surveillance powers in this country in recent years have been troubling, this Bill stands out as particularly egregious because its scope encompasses any and every Australian.”

The first of the warrants is a data disruption one, which according to the Bill’s explanatory memorandum, is intended to be used to prevent “continuation of criminal activity by participants, and be the safest and most expedient option where those participants are in unknown locations or acting under anonymous or false identities”.

The second is a network activity warrant that would allow the AFP and ACIC to collect intelligence from devices that are used, or likely to be used, by those subject to the warrant.

The last warrant is an account takeover warrant that would allow the agencies to take control of an account for the purposes of locking a person out of the account.

“The powers offered by the Bill are extraordinarily intrusive, the explanatory…