Aussie PM secures major victory on encryption laws after Opposition backs down

CANBERRA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Australian authorities will have the power to access encrypted messages after the Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) backed down from its plan to oppose the legislation at the last minute.

The assistance and access bill was passed by Parliament in the final Parliamentary sitting hours of 2018 on Thursday night after the ALP agreed to support the governing Liberal National Party Coalition (LNP).

The ALP had previously declared it would oppose the bill, which it repeatedly described as flawed, unless the government agreed to key amendments but on Thursday night caved to pressure from the LNP.

Under the new laws, Australia's security agencies will be able to access a suspected criminal's encrypted messages via a back door programmed into their mobile device.

Despite the two major parties eventually joining forces on the new laws, which security bosses said were desperately needed before Christmas, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described ALP leader Bill Shorten as a "threat to national security."

"I do think Bill Shorten is a threat when it comes to our national security because he has to be dragged kicking and screaming every time you try and get these things done," he told Nine Network television on Friday morning.

Christian Porter, the Attorney General for Australia, accused the ALP of putting politics ahead of Australia's safety before Shorten backed down.

The bill being passed marked the end of a prolonged stand-off between the two major parties over the policy and gave Morrison a significant victory over Shorten.

Earlier on Thursday, the LNP effectively shut down Parliament so as to prevent the ALP from passing legislation that would have seen refugees being held indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island re-located to Australia.

Having won the support of independent Members of Parliament (MPs), the ALP had the support to pass the bill but was prevented from taking it to a vote.

It would have been the first time a sitting government has lost a substantive vote in Parliament for over 90 years.

"We want to see the kids off Nauru, kids who need medical treatment where the treating medicos say they should be done," Shorten said.

"We simply say, they should get that treatment and the decision-making should be transparent and accountable."

However, Morrison said that the refugee bill would have dismantled "the government's successful border protection policies."

"They want to destroy the building blocks of border protection that keep Australians safe," he wrote in a column in The Australian newspaper on Friday.

The Law Council of Australia condemned both major parties for supporting the encryption laws despite conceding it needed amendments.

"We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though the Parliament knows serious problems exist," it said in a statement.

[ Editor: WPY ]


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