The Internet Association of Australia (IAA) welcomes the long awaited release of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor’s report into the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018. IAA appreciates the considerable effort the INSLM has put into the review, including the time spent with IAA members discussing their concerns.

“Internet service providers need confidence that the orders they receive from law enforcement are properly scrutinised and appropriate,” said Ms Clark, CEO. “If ISPs are being required to undermine the reliability and security of internet services, they must be confident it is for a correspondingly well-founded, serious and life-threatening reason. The INSLM recommendations, if implemented, will go some way towards providing this guarantee.”

The additional scrutiny being proposed by the INSLM, in the form of an Investigatory Powers Commissioner, should be established urgently and provided with the appropriate resources, such as an independent advisory body for technical matters. IAA is willing to assist with such a body, to ensure that the internet industry is properly represented. “Our members have very real challenges in implementing TANs and TCNs, and these need to be taken into account. It has all too often been the case that the realities of implementation and resource requirements are not understood”, Ms Clark said today.

The members of IAA are vital in the provision of a trusted internet and trusted telecommunications, as well as of content and communications services broadly. The Australian community has shown its willingness to rely – and indeed depend on –these providers throughout the pandemic. This trust deserves to be rewarded with corresponding reliability. The creation of systems that undermine that trust – through under-scrutinised access mechanisms, such as TANs and TCNs – will only harm the economy and Australia’s social fabric at a vulnerable time. It is therefore vital that the INSLM’s recommendations be adopted.

Additional matters which are not fully addressed within the report pertain to the compliance burden that IAA members have pointed to previously. The industry bears a considerable compliance burden already, and this type of legislation, of which we have seen considerable amounts over recent years, only adds to it. The level of support required to implement TANs and TCNs is difficult to forecast, and therefore difficult to plan for and cost. Just analysing the requirements of the legislation alone is a challenge for the typical small internet provider.

Further, IAA would like to see greater protections for internet service providers and their staff when acting to protect the communications of Australians or when complying with legislation such as TOLA. IAA is not satisfied that there are sufficient protections for ISP employees acting in good faith in the performance of their duties, and further clarity on the potential for hefty fines or incarceration is urgently required.