Mark Dreyfus says the Government’s bill is not fit to pass parliament in its current form. File picture
Mark Dreyfus says the Government’s bill is not fit to pass parliament in its current form. File picture

Search for unity in terror fight

THE Morrison government is negotiating with Labor in a bid to strike a compromise over plans to allow police and security agencies to access encrypted messages in their fight against terrorism.

In a last-minute attempt to save the reforms, Attorney-General Christian Porter was yesterday holding talks with his Labor counterpart Mark Dreyfus, despite earlier insisting there would be no deal on the planned laws.

Labor wants to pass an interim bill to limit the powers to the federal police and ASIO but ensure counter-terrorism investigations are not thwarted over the Christmas period.

Mr Dreyfus warned the laws could make it easier for cyber criminals to hack encrypted messages and urged caution.

"This is a bill which in its current form is not fit to pass the parliament. It would make Australians less safe, it would compromise our security," he told ABC.

But the government wants the powers extended to state police and claims Labor is threatening national security.

In a combative Question Time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused Labor of trying to help terrorists.

"Encryption is a tool being used by terrorists, organised criminals, paedophile rings, and it is something we must get ahead of by ensuring that our police, that our security agencies, that all our agencies at a state and federal level have the tools they need to make this stop," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Porter later said his talks with Labor covered "whether or not the encryption legislation should also apply to state police", "the types of offences that the notice powers would apply to" and "the authorisation processes that would be placed upon the issuing of a notice to a firm whose assistance we were seeking".

Queensland Police backed the need for the laws in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security but warned they could face costs from trying to access encrypted messages.