encryption bill
(Image: AAP/Mick Tiskas)

Dear Labor MPs,

Having watched you wave through possibly the single dumbest piece of technology legislation in Australian history — quite a big call, I know — there’s really only one question that still intrigues me.

It’s not why you would support such an asinine piece of legislation as the government’s encryption backdoor bill. That’s pretty clear: it’s because some of you are too stupid to understand the basics of encryption and why this bill is a huge win for criminals. Some of you do know there are basic problems with the bill. Hell, some of you stood up and criticised it.

Mark Dreyfus, Tim Watts, Ed Husic — you stood up to complain about the bill, the rushed process around it, and the 173 amendments that you hadn’t even seen before 6.30am this morning, and which you waved through the House of Reps. (Dreyfus actually said parts of the bill make no sense.) But you’re too gutless to oppose it.

The biggest joke of a government this country has seen since the McMahon years might call you “soft on terrorism”, and that, apparently, is too much. After all, you can almost feel the ministerial leather now, so why jeopardise it by taking a rational, principled stand on a basic issue?

Funnily enough, of course, even as you were passing the government’s stupidity, Morrison was still insisting you were a threat to national security — did you really think the Coalition would ever stop claiming that, just because you cooperated with them?

No, my question is whether you actually believe that you aren’t every bit as responsible for (and complicit in) the transformation of Australia into a surveillance state as your opponents?

Do you still tell yourselves that you’re better than them? That you’re more prepared to protect Australians’ basic rights? That you’re ready to play the role of a proper opposition in stopping bad law? And if you do tell yourselves that, do you really believe it? Can you look in the mirror and convince yourself it’s true? Or do you just mutter it to yourselves over and over while lining up to vote with the government?

And if you remain under the delusion that you are any different from the Coalition, then here are some more questions to think about.

  • Why have you never once actually stood up for Australians’ basic rights in the last five years, instead helping pass every single one of the Coalition’s assaults on privacy and basic rights?
  • Why did you say nothing even when the government used its new surveillance powers to go after your own shadow ministers in the NBN leak scandal, when the AFP raided Labor offices and Parliament House?
  • Why have you all sat stony silent while Witness K and Bernard Collaery, who entirely legally exposed one of the most sordid, shabby, low-rent crimes in Australian intelligence history — another huge call, I know — have been harassed for five years and now prosecuted?
  • Why are you so utterly incurious about the role of your own party — the sainted Julia Gillard, as well as Bob Carr and Mark Dreyfus, the man who would be your attorney-general — in the cover-up of ASIS’ bugging of Timor-Leste and the harassment of K and Collaery? Nary a word has escaped your mouths over that either.
  • Why have you ditched pretty much the only area where you were prepared to take a stand against the government on national security, proper parliamentary oversight of intelligence and security agencies? Is the legacy of John Faulkner a little too uncomfortable? Worried a proper intelligence and security committee would be inconvenient once you were back in power?

If you think that you’re better than the other mob on protecting Australians’ rights, and you can’t work out the answers to those questions, maybe the penny will drop that you’re kidding yourselves. And maybe you can stop pushing your bullshit on the rest of us, and admit you have as much contempt for Australians’ basic rights as your opponents.

And this is why we’ve ended up with a police state. Thank you very much, Labor.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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