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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5307

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (17:09): I thank the Attorney-General for his statement. As he has pointed out, cybersecurity is a top national security priority and the government has the opposition's support in enhancing our capabilities and defences. The cybersecurity challenge is vast. We have now entered the age of cyberwarfare, where one nation's offensive capabilities can paralyse a target nation, causing chaos not only in its military response but in its key economic sectors as well—banking and finance, transport, electricity, manufacturing, medical, education and, of course, government. All are now dependent on computers for their daily operations.

There are nations in our region that are known to have such an offensive capability. Of course, such is the nature of the electronic theatre that physical proximity and the problems of supply lines are no longer relevant. Australia's formidable natural defences may as well not exist in an interconnected world—in fact, at a recent computer security conference the whole cyberworld was likened to the North German plain.

This nation must therefore commit itself to the task of closing the capability gap. However, it is not just in the science fiction-like world of cyberwarfare that the threats reside. The internet and in-house computer systems are an ideal environment for terrorism, organised crime and industrial sabotage. The threat is not merely that of lost money or stolen information—many private systems are important components of our critical infrastructure, the failure of which could wreak havoc in the civilian population.

The coalition strongly supports government efforts to help maximise security in critical systems. However, as the government plans to go ahead with their National Broadband Network, it is alarming that there has been little talk from the government about the security risks that might be associated with that network. The Australian Federal Police expressed their concerns in their submission to the Joint Committee on Cyber Safety on 25 June last year. That submission stated:

The National Broadband Network is a case in point. The AFP with other Australian Government agencies is working to minimise the criminal exploitation of the NBN. The inherent risk of the NBN is that it could facilitate the continual growth and sophistication of online criminal syndicates' ability to commit cyber offences against online systems due to the attractiveness of the increased speed. Increased bandwidth available via the NBN may result in increased bandwidth available for committing or facilitating computer offences.

The submission went on to say:

The proliferation of a large number of Retail Service Providers has the potential to increase the difficulty law enforcement has to obtain telecommunications data.

The coalition strongly supports the AFP's concerns that security must be at the centre of the NBN initiative as cybercrime rises.

Also of concern to the coalition are the increasing cyberattacks on major resource companies, such as Woodside Petroleum, BHP Billiton and Exxon Mobil. It has been suggested that foreign hackers are looking for clues on government and business attitudes to major resources projects and foreign investment, along with intelligence on overseas activity.

Malicious cyberactivity is increasing to a point where systems in both government and the private sector are under continuous attack. It was alarming to hear, in February this year, that the security think tank Kokoda Foundation had released a report that concluded Australia is increasingly ill-equipped to deal with cyberattacks on the nation's energy, water, transport and communications systems. The report states that cybersecurity has become Australia's 'fundamental weakness'. The opposition is deeply concerned, given Labor's cuts to our national security agencies in the latest budget, that the government are not taking Australia's security as seriously as they should. Finally, as the Attorney-General has said, there are problems that individual Australians may encounter in the online environment every day. We are all familiar with online scams, privacy issues and cyber bullying, as well as the serious issue of the transmission of unlawful material such as child pornography and terrorist material. The Attorney has tabled a helpful list of resources available to individuals and businesses. I commend the agencies responsible for the production of this material and I endorse the Attorney's call for members of this place to keep them within our electorate offices and distribute them to our constituents as appropriate.