The encryption bill, intended to help police and national security agencies intercept online communications, could turn Australian companies \u2018into Huaweis\u2019, technology chiefs have warned.\nAtlassian co-founder and CEO Scott Farquhar; former CEO of NUIX Eddie Sheehy, and Fastmail chief of staff Nicola Nye, claimed theTelecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, which passed in bizarre circumstances in December, was already making local businesses \u2018untouchable\u2019 in some overseas markets.\n \n\u201cThis legislation as it\u2019s currently written has the ability to turn many Australian companies into Huaweis, that are untouchable in different places,\u201d Sheehy told the audience at a Safe Encryption Australia event organised by InnovationAUS and StartupAUS.\n \nFarquhar claimed a friend who runs an energy company had lost business opportunities as a direct result of the bill.\n \n\u201cHe was working with the Malaysian government to do some stuff around energy in Malaysia. And when this came out, the Malaysian government said \u2013 hey we\u2019re not really sure we want to engage with you anymore,\u201d Farquhar said.\n \n\u201cYou can make the argument, well, why would an energy company be covered by this bill in the first place? But could they be compelled to do something in some way? It just creates uncertainty for us in a business environment, particularly working with overseas multinationals and overseas governments that want to make sure their own security is maintained,\u201d he said.\n \nThe panel were highly critical of one of the \u2018myths\u2019 included in an encryption bill \u2018mythbuster\u2019 published by Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate Mike Burgess after the bill had passed.\nBurgess wrote: \u201cIt\u2019s been repeatedly claimed that Australian tech companies will be regarded as no different to the high-risk foreign vendors that have been blocked from supplying equipment in Australian 5G networks. The comparison is absurd.\u201d\n \n\u201cAre you kidding me?\u201d said Nye.\n \nFastmail\u2019s Twitter feed had been flooded with comments from customers saying they are leaving the service or engaging a rival not based in Australia because of a lack of trust, Nye added.\n \n\u201cSo absolutely damage to the business already and it\u2019s only been two months,\u201d she said.\n \nNye described the bind on tech companies, restricted from speaking out against the bill through fear of damaging their own reputation.\n \n\u201cIf we go out in public and try to say forcefully hey what is this law doing, that\u2019s going to cause more people to leave our service and trust us even less. It\u2019s a very tricky line to run here,\u201d she said.\n \nAlthough some of Burgess\u2019 myths stood, Sheehy said, he could not deny the impact on reputation suffered by Australian companies.\n \n\u201cThis one, I don\u2019t think he knows what he\u2019s saying. He\u2019s never run a company, he\u2019s never employed people, he\u2019s never had to run the PL accounts and pay wages, he\u2019s never had to front the customer and say \u2018It\u2019s alright, trust me\u2019 because that just doesn\u2019t work,\u201d Sheehy said.\n \n\u201cThe people who wrote this bill didn\u2019t take into consideration the people on the ground. The blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating a start-up and building it year after year after year. And the passion that goes into it. And then just to have somebody in Canberra write some rules because he or she thinks it works,\u201d he added.\n \nNo caption\nLabor MP Ed Husic, who also spoke at the event, said his party would \u201cfix these terrible laws\u201d despite the legislation passing last year with the party\u2019s support.\n\u201cI had an absolute ouch moment when you made the Huawei analogy, because that\u2019s a pretty powerful way to describe it,\u201d Husic said.\n \nHusic said Labor was committed to reforming the laws, regardless of whether or not it wins government at this year\u2019s federal election.