Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters?

What Matters?

Jarrad Sloan

Year 10, Collie Senior High School

Last year, a bill was rushed through parliament just before its end for the year with little opposition. This bill raised national outcry online, despite having little to no media coverage. This was the 'assistance and access' bill. In short, this bill allows the government to force all companies in Australia, as well as all Australian software developers, to create a 'back door' into their software. This means that apps like Whatsapp will be forced to let the government spy on users' messages. Not only is this a huge breach of privacy, but it could also cause major damage to the Australian tech industry. Some amendments have been made as suggested by the tech community, but they are just trying to lessen the damage this law will do.

On the privacy side of things, this is extremely disturbing. The government will, essentially, be able to spy on any and all private conversations at will. Imagine a bunch of middle-aged ASIO agents looking at private images sent between you and your lover. What's more, the law also forces you unlock your devices for police or without them having a warrant. If you oppose them doing this, they can slap you with up to 10 years behind bars. That's more time than a convicted child rapist could face. A certain word comes to mind when thinking about this law, and that word is fascism.

Not only can the Australian government force tech companies within Australia to grant the government a back door, they can also force any Australian software developer working for a non-Australian company to provide back door access. This means that an Australian working for Apple is required by law to provide the government with backdoor access or face up to 10 years jail time. This turns all Australian software developers into walking, talking, liabilities. Due to this, Unemployment amongst Australian developers will likely skyrocket in the near future. Tech companies based in Australia will also move overseas to avoid massive fines. Australia's already struggling tech industry is bound to plummet because of this.

The news has been filled with stories about Chinese tech giant Huawei, and them being suspected of spying for the Chinese government. Due to this, Huawei has been banned from setting up the new 5G network around Australia. Now, with the assistance and access bill passed, Australian companies will be forced to spy for the Australian government. This puts many Australian businesses in the same boat as Huawei. No other countries will be able to trust Australian companies. This, again, will impact the Australian tech industry tremendously.

This matters to me, because I am heavily considering a job in the tech industry. If this law is not repealed, there is a serious chance that I, as well as many others, will be unable to find a job. If that's the case, then what is the point of going to university for two years and spending thousands on education.

With this law in action, Australia is one step closer to Fascism.