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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2301


Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-Monaro) (16:31): I will come back to where I was before I was rudely interrupted. The Intelligence Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate) Bill 2018, as I said, has been given full Labor cooperation. As you are well aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security was the beneficiary of great advice from Mr Michael L'Estrange, who conducted an extensive review of the intelligence community and services. I want to commend Mr L'Estrange for his work because he also very effectively drilled down beyond the superficial levels of issues that may have been presented by only senior levels of services and came to appreciate very well the issues that also occupied some subterranean levels of the intelligence community and services and the issues that were playing on and perhaps hampering the best delivery of those services.

As I said, the effect of the reforms has been wonderful for the morale of ASD and its staff. I also want to emphasise, however, that out of that there is no change to the role of ASD in supporting the Defence Force. ASD will report directly to the defence minister. An MOU has been entered into between the CDF and the head of ASD. While I'm on that subject, I'd like to commend Paul Taloni for his service within ASD. Some suggested he would've been a great head for ASD, but that wasn't to be. Paul has been a fantastic servant to this nation in the security area. I've had many wonderful dealings with Paul and really appreciate the service that he has rendered, particularly the service he rendered in his time at ASD.

Before we broke this debate I was also talking about the workforce issues. I know this is an issue that my colleague the member for Chifley is very keen to also pursue. I was talking before the break about the fact that the Australian Defence Force has now gone into the approach of establishing an Information Warfare Division and a cyberwarfare capability within Defence that is more creative and imaginative than simply trying to shoehorn uniform members or shoehorn civilians into the regime within which members are recruited and trained within the Defence Force. They may not need any of that training or need that elaborate framework that supports our uniform personnel to work in this space.

I mentioned we were very pleased with the appointment of Major General Thompson, who is eminently qualified to head up this group and some of the areas that are under his wing. He also works in that role to the Commander of Joint Capabilities Group, so it has been given the appropriate emphasis within Defence. He, as I mentioned, has a PhD in cybersecurity and a special forces background.

That division is starting with about 100 personnel. That was the goal to kick it off, but it is planned that it will grow to about 900 by the end of the decade. In order to support a workforce of 900 you probably need a supply pool of around 3,000 personnel, as we usually work through these things and as a rule of thumb for support for capabilities, taking into account leave, reassignment, turnover and mobilisation issues. That level of workforce to sustain just this unit is extremely significant. It poses a real issue for our country about how we supply and support all of our security agencies. I was talking about what the AFP had brought to us. I think you were there with me, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, the day they talked about those petabytes of data they had to wade through. We met with the PhD student from Data61 who was on loan to hem, helping them design and build the algorithms to penetrate that deep well of data that's so important in the mission they have for tracking terrorists.

This poses issues to us more deeply as to how we manage that workforce issue and how we share these demands with industry. There are examples of how that's been done. My colleague the member for Chifley is aware of what is done in Singapore in relation to their service people that are based on their national service requirements. We don't have that available to us. Israel also has a very creative way of approaching this, taking the best and brightest from their high school graduates in the STEM areas and taking them into a program called Talpiot, where they enhance their skills and education over a long period of time, a number of years, without putting them in uniform. When they've finished and completed that refinement, they are then deployed into these security areas right across the security establishments with the specific mission of finding ways to improve what they do, to refine, innovate and develop the capabilities. That has led them to be able to use some really creative and innovative methods of dealing with, for example, terrorist financing. A really instructive work that's come out recently, called Operation Harpoon, describes the journey they've been on in tackling the matrix of counter-terrorism financing that needs to be put in place across the spectrum and across the globe and how you bring down those networks of financing. That Talpiot system is working extremely well for them. Those graduates then go out when they've finished their security time to help build their innovation economy and the innovation state, as we know.

We don't have national service available to us to draw on those Singaporean or Israeli models. We need to look at a creative way of managing and sharing that workforce. The workforce of the future in the Defence Force may not even be largely made up of the classic warriors we've had in the past. There'll always be a need for boots on the ground in many circumstances, but in the complex technological battlefield of the future a lot of our systems will be automated. You'll be seeing a lot of warriors sitting with bottles of coke and pizzas in shipping containers, steering automated systems. They don't need to be people who can do run, jump, dodge courses and these sorts of requirements.

Mr Husic: Unless you can do it on an Xbox!

Dr MIKE KELLY: Kids who are good at Xbox and those sorts of videos games are actually well prepared for the new digital environment that we will see in the future. The JSF and our new future submarines may well be the last crewed platforms of their type. We're already seeing Israel experimenting with automated land vehicles as well, resupply vehicles in the Gaza conflict. There'll be more and more of this automation, more and more emphasis on these technological skills, and certainly in the battles of cybersecurity that we will see in the future, which overlays so much into the industrial space. We've been hearing a lot about industrial espionage and foreign interference on the intelligence committee. There is such a need and demand for us to tackle that more effectively. In this industrial space, the back door approaches that a lot of the cyberassailants use really require industries, subcontractors and other industries that are involved in supplying our security capabilities to be reinforced and secured as well. So I think the government has taken a very good approach in establishing these regional cybersecurity hubs where business can engage in that respect. That needs to be built upon and expanded.

In terms of the workforce, what I believe we need to look at—this is just a personal view—is some form of civil defence corps in the future whereby we don't necessarily take full-time people for whom we can't compete with industry on a race to the top with wages but who can do national service duty, reserve duty, with our security organisations for whatever periods of time and then go back to their home business or company. We know that workers who work in the field at the moment are attracted to the motivation of serving their country and that the areas of work that they do in this space are unique. You will not find this experience in private industry. Some workers are obviously attracted to being able to do that work, which they won't find anywhere else. So I think we could set up some mechanism or regime by which we share these skills, these talents, with private industry. The private companies involved in supporting this could be given appropriate consideration, kudos, for doing that—gold star companies who provide us with those kinds of workers. I do think we need to come up with some creative solutions for that in the future. It will need a rethink of how we structure these workforces in Defence, the Reserves and private industry.

I also think in the future, for ASD, we've got challenges in terms of the other organisations that we're going to have to monitor. We've been dealing with the issues of how we tackle this challenge of foreign interference, civil society and politicians and how all that conflates. The complexity of the legislation that's currently before the committee points to the challenge of how that is addressed in legal terms, in legislation. We've seen some serious challenges in the drafting, in making that coherent and effective. In that space, we're going to need good consultation and take on board the advice, particularly of those whose job it is to oversight our security agencies. We've heard some very important evidence from people like Margaret Stone and Bret Walker. At the end of the day, we will not be winning this fight against those who seek to do us harm by surrendering all of the unique features that make up our democracy and the unique features that create the level of freedom and civil society that we enjoy in this country. It's about getting that balance right. We're looking forward in the committee to working through that process with the Attorney-General's Department, our colleagues on the committee and our security agencies to get that balance right.