After Christchurch: Why Jacinda Ardern is no Peter Dutton.

In light of the recent, most devastating terrorist attack that has ever taken place in

New Zealand

it was only a matter of time until some politicians would set about opening up another front in the encryption wars which were once deemed to be a relict of the 1990s. But, with the passing of Australia’s

Assistance and Access Bill

late last year, the situation had changed dramatically. The Australian law, known colloquially as the ‘Encryption Law’ is thus far the most significant attempt to force technology companies to make encrypted services, particularly messaging services, accessible to law enforcement. What sounds like a necessary adjustment to modern, digital technology is in reality a law hastily crafted and subsequently passed by the government to sure-up its security crudentials ahead of a general election later this year. The law, a brainchild of

Peter Dutton

has been strongly criticized by the tech industry and privacy advocates, since it lacks proper oversight and has vague definitions of what constitute ‘systemic weaknesses’ and ‘vulnerabilities’. Whilst the impact of this law has yet to be tested, it has the potential to not just compromise the privacy of Australian citizens, but could also adversely effect the whole infrastructure of the internet worldwide. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that it will prompt other governments to seek similar provisions in their own countries, compromising democratic norms and standards even further. Ironically, it is hard to even figure out if and when the law is being used at all because it compells tech companies and even individual employees to complete secrecy, and whatever else can be said about this law, this is something that cannot credibly be reconciled with a democratic society. With trust in technology companies already eroding quickly, this law is likely to harm not just the australian tech sector, but will harm the tech industry globally.

In the aftermath of the horrific mosque attacks in Christchurch, the leader of New Zealand’s main opposition

National Party

has already called for new powers for both the police and spy agencies. It is not farfetched to assume that Simon Bridges will model his proposals on the law recently passed in Canberra. But, luckily, there is reason for optimism. Rather than taking political advantage of this horrific crime and grave tragedy, and resisting the temptation to earn quick political capital, Prime Minister

Jacinda Ardern

who appears to be a competent, calm and rational leader of her country has hinted that she is not in a rush to patch up the wound by offering quick fixes, but, rather, will look into all the issues regarding possible intelligence failures prior to this attack. If she succeeds in ensuring rational debate and sensible decision making after such a collectively traumatic experience, she will have taught all of us a lesson in what true national and global leadership looks like. True leadership, particularly under such circumstances, must mean sincerely empathizing with the community, but it must also mean that politicians remain honest in their dealings with the electorate, spelling out loud and clear what a democratic state can and cannot do to ensure personal safety. It also means that the ensuing debate has to be conducted with honesty and integrity, giving society a clear choice in which direction it wants to go. Each new provision strengthening the deep state will necessarily compromise a free and open society, but, and this is also undeniable, the security services need some powers to ensure the proper functioning of a democratic state and guarantee individual freedoms. The question, and I believe Ardern has both the compassion and the intellect to lead her nation with great distinction during these dark days, is what such a tradeoff will look like. I sincerely believe that Ardern has the spine to resist public pressure to offer quick solutions for incredibly complex and difficult issues. Going down the Australian route is not the sensible approach. What is needed now is time for decision making and genuine empathy for the victims and the circumstances leading up to this massacre. After all, and this is the sad truth of the matter, any state entity, whether we are talking about the police or intelligence services, can only attempt to minimize risk; any open society has to accept a certain level of crime and remains more susceptible to terrorism. No politician can solve this problem, and we, myself included, have not even started to comprehend the profound changes the digital revolution will bring about in human society. This

interview

with Prime Minister Ardern demonstrates that she could be the leader her nation now needs and could grow into a leader of global stature.

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