ABC Radio Melbourne

SUBJECTS: Population and COAG; encryption.



SUBJECTS: Population and COAG; encryption.
RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: Mark Dreyfus good afternoon.
EPSTEIN: Just wanted to approach this completely differently, we were talking about languages before and how many languages people speak – how many languages did your mother speak?
DREYFUS: My mother-in-law spoke seven languages, which came from growing up in a range of different countries and we always used to – she’s no longer with us – but it was a marvel to us. She worked in the foreign language bookshop section of Angus & Robertson, and it came, as I say, from growing up in a number of different countries.
EPSTEIN: And was that seven European languages?
DREYFUS: Well Hebrew, which is not really a European language, but all the others are European.
EPSTEIN: Just amazing – how many languages do you speak?
DREYFUS: Only one other one properly, which is Spanish. Unfortunately, the languages I learnt at school have faded – they were German and Russian in particular. I can still understand German but my Russian has faded completely. And it comes from disuse.
EPSTEIN: That’s right, you’ve got to practice it more – we need more people speaking different languages in our Parliament. Ten minutes past five, Mark Dreyfus is with us, the Shadow Attorney-General. Do you see any government doing anything significant on immigration levels or where people live?
DREYFUS: It’s hard to tell, Raf. Labor said we will work for a bipartisan solution, for a consistent approach to population policy. Unfortunately Mr Morrison has rejected this. But he seems pretty good at slogans and soundbites on this topic…
EPSTEIN: I mean he’s asking the Premiers what they want and that’s good isn’t it?
DREYFUS: That’s good – good population policy is vital for the success of Australia. Labor thinks it should be above politics. I was struck by media reports that came out of COAG today that said the Prime Minister’s handpicked immigration expert had told state premiers that cutting immigration will hurt the economy, that apparently prompted laughter. And of course it’s the case that Labor wants to work with the government if we can and of course it’s the case that immigration is what this country was built on. So yes it’s complex, as the Prime Minister just said, but what exactly is he proposing? We’re still waiting to hear.
EPSTEIN: It’s a bit of a problem isn’t it – immigration seems to be the only growth model we’ve got. And I know both sides of politics claim they’re doing a lot  around education policy or industry policy – but it does seem that immigration  is the only growth story we’ve got.
DREYFUS: Well I don’t know that that’s right, I think there’s a number of industries you can point to in Australia where there’s growth. Most importantly, it changes the age profile of our population, Raf. When we have immigration, we avoid the problem  of a falling local birthrate, we avoid the problem Japan has got itself into with an aging population. Japan is now starting to grapple with how, historically, they’ve been a country which never had any immigrants, and now they’re having to grapple with having some. Australia by contrast has the fortunate history of – all of our history is of immigration other than for the first Australians.
EPSTEIN: Do you really think we’re doing something other than just adding people to the economy?
DREYFUS: I do – I think we’re bringing in younger people, we’re bringing in people with skills. I think we’re bringing in people who will build the future of our country. Who are adding to, in a marvellous way, what Australia is going to look like in 20, 30, 40 years time. And it is our future. I haven’t heard any convincing arguments that we should suddenly, massively reduce the number of people who are coming here. The Prime Minister’s immigration expert today, Peter McDonald, said the number should be kept at around 200,000.
EPSTEIN: There are press reports…they were asked about that at the press conference and they didn’t get an answer so I can’t add or take away from that. Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General. Mark Dreyfus, Labor late last week passed a version of laws that will try to get our security agencies access to encrypted apps. So where people are using something like WhatsApp or Signal or even just an iMessage as a replacement for a text message on their iPhone. Our security agencies might get access to it. Do you think that this law targets my phone provider – so if I’ve got an account with Optus – is this obliging Optus to help the security agencies? Or is this obliging people who make the phones and the apps?
DREYFUS: Both, Raf. Let’s be clear. Unfortunately the case has been that there’s been a great deal of misinformation about this law. But it’s a general power right across all of the telecommunications industry so it’s not just the people who make apps, it’s the people who make devices. But no-one should think that it is going to  suddenly give police or security agencies the power to get content that they can’t now ask for without a warrant. They have to get a warrant. And what this is about is dealing with the fact that increasingly all communications – not just those of criminals but all communications are now encrypted.
EPSTEIN: But is that actually going to work? How on earth are you going to force someone who  makes my phone, or the people who design WhatsApp, how on earth is Australia’s government going to force them to give access?
DREYFUS: I think what’s hoped Raf is that there is going to be a process of negotiation which is why there’s a layered approach where first of all, police or ASIO can ask – it’s  a voluntary assistance request – they can ask a telecommunications provider to help them…
EPSTEIN: They’ll just tell you to go away won’t they, I mean Telstra won’t tell you to go away but Apple and Facebook will tell you just to rack off won’t they?
DREYFUS: Well let’s see because this is something the United Kingdom government legislated for in 2016. They’ve been working with telecommunications providers. And it’s partly based on the experience in the UK that I say that it’s likely to be a process of negotiation.
EPSTEIN: Have they accessed a single encrypted message yet in Britain?
DREYFUS: You’d have to ask the UK authorities.
EPSTEIN: I’m just not sure this has worked anywhere. I know there’s lots of issues about whether you should or shouldn’t have this power. I’m just not sure we can actually force people to do things…we can’t get them to pay tax properly. Why would they give you access to their software?
DREYFUS: Well that’s perhaps true about the difficulty of getting some of these large global corporations to pay tax in our jurisdiction but I wouldn’t like to apply that to our assistance to police and intelligence agencies. All of the large global corporations want to be cooperative, that is their stated public position. They do provide assistance to police and security agencies and that’s why I say it’s likely to continue to be a cooperative arrangement which is going to produce outcomes from a negotiated process. But it’s layered, there’s a voluntary assistance starting point and then there’s what’s called a Technical Assistance Notice which is a compulsive process…
EPSTEIN: So you think this can work – because everyone in the industry doesn’t think it can work.
DREYFUS: I think that we’ve got to try to make sure that our police are able to get at the content of communications, if it’s technically possible, in the same way that with a warrant…
EPSTEIN: Can I ask you a question Mark Dreyfus, you’re on the committee, the interesting Intelligence Committee in Parliament that works on this all the time. You’ve been Attorney-General. This won’t really happen unless Labor backs it. Do you think this can actually work? I haven’t heard anyone actually in the industry – they’re all furious about it but I haven’t heard a significant industry figure say you can actually pass a law that will work.
DREYFUS: Well let’s see. The government accelerated this process, we didn’t like that. We thought this bill required more time and more care. But the government insisted that there was a need for these powers to be in place over Christmas. These security agencies, including ASIO and the police said the same thing. They pointed to a potential increase in terrorist activity over the Christmas period…
EPSTEIN: But that’s not going to work is it? It’s a 28-day notice isn’t it?
DREYFUS: That’s for the third layer, the so-called Technical Capability Notice process.
EPSTEIN: That’s the good stuff right, if you want to get into an encrypted app. If it’s going to take 28-days you won’t get it over Christmas, you’ll get it on the 3rd of January or something.
DREYFUS: Well, let’s see. Perhaps I’ll put it this way Raf. There’s a real problem – we’ve got agencies, police and agencies that are able to get a warrant to get at content of emails, to get at the content of conversations. But because of encryption, that layer of security is preventing them from in effect executing the warrant. And we’ll see. I do think it’s necessary to support agencies who say that this sort of access to content matters. You can see the problem that whereas for decades police have been able to tap phones, police have been able to get access to emails, not all of a sudden but in an increasing process of encryption we’re now about 90 per cent not just of suspected criminals but of all communications…
EPSTEIN: Just a final question Mark Dreyfus. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of the bloke who runs the Australian Signals Directorate, the Director-General of the ASD Mike Burgess ever saying anything public ever. They’re the people who tap the phones for our spies…
DREYFUS: Overseas.
EPSTEIN: Overseas yep. They put out a statement attacking what they call all of the ‘myths’ around this legislation. It’s pretty unusual isn’t it, him saying anything at all?
DREYFUS: It is. He gave the very first speech ever given by an Australian Signals Directorate head last year, and now we see a media statement put out, dated the 12th December, I’ve got it in front of me, and what he’s trying to do is bust some myths that have been put out about this legislation and I would commend Mike Burgess for having a go at this. I’m sorry that the government hasn’t done a better job at clearing up the misinformation about this legislation.
EPSTEIN: I’ll leave it there thanks for your time.
DREYFUS: Thanks for having me Raf.