Peter Dutton has demanded a federal parliamentary committee “accelerate” its findings on a proposed law that would allow police to access encrypted messages.
The Home Affairs minister wants to pass the laws before the end of the year and has written to the committee headed by Liberal and former soldier Andrew Hastie to fast-track its report, The Australian reported on Friday.
Mr Dutton used the upcoming Christmas holiday period to back his push, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks if intelligence agencies do not have access to encrypted messaging platforms.
“The situation has become more urgent in light of the recent fatal terrorist attack in Melbourne and the subsequent disruption of alleged planning for a mass casualty attack by three individuals,” Mr Dutton wrote to the committee.
“I am gravely concerned that our agencies cannot rule out the possibility that others may also have been inspired by events in Melbourne to plan and execute attacks.
“For these reasons I ask that the committee accelerate its consideration of this vital piece of legislation to enable its passage by the parliament before it rises for the Christmas break.”
The committee has scheduled three public hearings on the bill, with the final one set for December 4 – two days before parliament rises for the year.
In releasing a joint statement with deputy chair Anthony Byrne on Thursday, Mr Hastie left the door open for hearings to be cut short.
“The committee will hold hearings next week with relevant agencies to hear evidence regarding the necessity and urgency of the proposed powers,” the statement said.
“The committee will publicly announce any changes to the scheduled hearings as advertised.”
The legislation would require technology companies to hand over encrypted messages when authorities are investigating crimes.