Aust safer with encryption laws, A-G says

Laws allowing police and spies to access encrypted messages have passed federal parliament.
Laws allowing police and spies to access encrypted messages have passed federal parliament.

Australia is a safer place now that laws that will force tech companies to help authorities snoop on encrypted messages have cleared federal parliament, according to the attorney-general.

The controversial laws cleared the Senate on Thursday, after Labor agreed to pass them at the last minute.

"This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.

"Australia is a safer place as a result."

The opposition agreed to drop amendments it had wanted to make due to national security concerns around terror threats over the holidays.

Labor said its support was contingent on the government amending the new laws in February.

"We're prepared to let it go forward on that basis knowing there's more work to be done," Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Thursday night.

The Law Council of Australia said serious concerns remain about the laws, which it believes have been rushed and politicised.

"We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though parliament knows serious problems exist," president Morry Bailes said.

Mr Porter said the government will consider Labor's amendments in the new year, as long as they reflect the recommendations of a bipartisan parliamentary committee.

The Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made 17 recommendations, covering components of the bill that had been agreed on by the coalition and Labor.

Mr Bailes said the committee should also be involved in helping to get these laws right next year

"The committee can ensure there are no unintended consequences, which could be to the detriment of us all."

The laws require tech companies to help police and intelligence agencies see encrypted messages, which experts say will mean encryption will be broken.

The proposed laws were set to be in limbo if they were amended in the Senate, because the coalition shut down the lower house rather than lose a vote about asylum-seeker children.

Mr Porter told the lower house the new powers are necessary to prevent further terrorist events.

Australian Associated Press