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Transcript of speech by the Attorney-General at the Launch of Yarra - Brisbane Water Project Computer Network Vulnerability Assesment Programme: Mitcham, Victoria: 14 July 2005: Critical infrastructure protection; re-commencement of national security information campaign.

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Subject: Critical infrastructure protection; re-commencement of national security information campaign

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I acknowledge [Victorian Government representative] Elaine Carbines and I’m pleased that she’s here for this announcement today. May I first pay my respects to the traditional owners and their elders. This is the first successful project that has been funded by the

Commonwealth under a computer network vulnerability assessment program and it is a joint project involving Yarra Valley Water and Brisbane Water.

Water is obviously a very precious resource to us all. I think we all know and understand that. Our forebears planned well with secure and safe water supplies where we’ve settled in Australia and today Yarra Valley has almost 1.5 million people, 600,000 households to which it supplies clean water, and, as well, a range of industrial and

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manufacturing and expert and commerce needs. It also supplies sewerage services as well.

So, what we’re dealing with is one example of

what I call critical infrastructure. Critical infrastructure, by its very nature, has the potential to be a target to those who want to cause

maximum economic and social upheaval. And it is for this reason that we’ve focussed on a range of measures that are designed to protect our critical infrastructure. We do that in partnership with the states and territories.

It is important to recognise that a critical

infrastructure, something like 90 per cent is in private sector hands. That presents a very significant challenge and so we have established an organisation, which is known as the Trusted Information Sharing Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection. I know you are all used to acronyms and this one is a TISN. So, it’s a network in which people share information about risks and how they plan to deal with them. It’s information that can be shared between operators and owners of property and it enables others like security agencies and so on to also assist in helping to deal with these issues.

We have nine networks that cover things such as

iconic buildings; it goes to food supplies; it goes to areas like water and electricity; it goes to banking and financial institutions; it goes to a lot of your important infrastructure in delivering products like oil and so on. You can see that we do have a range of areas for which we are

responsible. But one of the groups is the water

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services infrastructure assurance advisory group and both the Yarra Valley Water and Brisbane Water are members of the water group and have been playing a very significant role. They have worked with state authorities to run workshops and to produce information to be able to assure their customers that they are taking every step possible to provide continuous service; to ensure that the water supply is not contaminated; to ensure that it is not at risk and have been

thoroughly professional in the way in which they go about that task. And I want to emphasise that because this is not a project, which is trying to deal with defects. This is a project about assuring people that the people who take into account the risks that we face, that manage their corporations well, that plan for the future, undertake projects like this so they can demonstrate that they are performing above expectations and ensuring that they can continue to meet their customers’ needs.

Computer network vulnerability is a very

significant issue in relation to every area of critical infrastructure. People all are in fact asking have other organisations undertaken the task of the sort that we are announcing here today. Because this program is a critical program about ensuring the computer programs that manage our essential assets can resist

exploitation, and can perform appropriately under a range of challenging conditions.

So, what we are about to do is to test that the

systems work effectively in protecting the service provision. And under this program independent, third-party, computer experts conduct network assessments. The lessons learned here will be

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important in demonstrating to others what they should be doing as well and will have relevance to all sectors of network providers.

So, I want to announce today a number of things.

First, the third round of grants for people who wish to participate in this program has been opened with applications for projects due in September.

Secondly, that Yarra Valley Water and Brisbane

Water are conducting assessments of their computer networks. The Commonwealth is funding half of the cost of that project. The project has a strong focus on their security of their supervisory control and data acquisition systems, known as SCADA. These systems are used in many other industrial sectors. The information obtained here will be able to be used in those areas and will validate the programs that have been put in place here to assure that the supplies are able to be provided without

contamination and in a reliable and effective way.

This is a very, very important project to

demonstrate that we have been thinking about these issues, we have been planning in relation to the whole range of risks across all infrastructures. At the moment there is understandably a focus upon public transport but the important thing to recognise is that if we are properly dealing with these issues, we have to be totally focussed on risk assessments across the board. We have to be conscious of all our vulnerabilities. This project, along with so many others demonstrates the very close cooperation that does exist in Australia

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between the Commonwealth, the states and local authorities. They work very, very well together. We share information. If there are security risks that people ought to be aware of and intelligence agencies undertake these sorts of risk assessment. That information is shared as appropriate with the competent organisations. This is a very important good news story at a time when, I think, we are all very conscious of our vulnerabilities.

And so, I want to thank Yarra Valley Water,

Brisbane Water, who are co-partners and I want to thank the Victorian Government, represented by the Parliamentary Secretary here today, for their on-going support for these very important initiatives.

And so, we will come back when we are able to

give you the report and when we are able to say that they have passed with flying colours. I have no doubt that’s what we will see.

I will speak to you about another matter when

we’ve concluded this because I don’t want it in any way to detract from the importance of the announcement we are now making. Thank you.

[statement by Victorian parliamentary secretary

for the environment]

TONY KELLY [managing director, Yarra Valley Water]

: Thanks, Elaine and thanks for your time today,

and thank you Mr Ruddock for coming as well.

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I’d like to just say a couple of words. Thank you

for the funding. We understand that we are playing a small part but an important in a national program and we’re very proud to do that on behalf of the water industry. I would like to say too that we’ll pay you back with interest because the rigour and the quality of our assessment will be first rate and we’ll give you our assurance to be as open and transparent about the results as we possibly can to share with the rest of the water industry so the whole water industry can benefit from the lessons that we learn in this process. Thank you very much. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: How vulnerable do you think our water resources are to a potential terrorist threat?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’m not in the business of offering expert opinions in relation to these matters. We take advice. And it is critical infrastructure. It’s important to recognise that what we’re looking at here is to be able to assure consumers that subject to rain, supplies will be available. That’s what it’s about. Computers are essential today to enable you to be able to deliver reliable services. And yet they are vulnerable and we know that terrorist look for vulnerabilities. September 11 cost the United States economy something of the order of $70 billion. And so if you can impact upon products that are important for manufacturing, for industry, for people’s ordinary life expectancy, I mean clean water is essential to resist disease. If you are exposed, then the risks are high. So I mean it’s important to recognise that there are risks. But the good news aspect of this is that the people who are responsible are taking into account those risks. They are guarding against them. And this

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project is about validating the work that they have been undertaking to protect that very important commodity and its reliable supply.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The view we have here is that they have implemented measures to secure the system and this is about validating those measures. It’s about testing them to see that we are, in fact, delivering. So it’s not about pointing to a shortcoming, it is emphasising the importance of water as part of critical infrastructure and this is a corporate governance issue in which the managers of Yarra Valley Water are saying, we as responsible people organising and directing this body know that there are certain risks, we have taken those into account, and we are sufficiently confident about the way in which we have done it, that we are prepared to allow consultants to test our systems to validate the nature of those measures. That’s what it’s about.

JOURNALIST: So why not taking up more …

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is one of the first projects and there are others and we’re opening a further round and there’ll be more announcements to be made. People are very conscious of computer

vulnerability. This organisation is one of a number of organisations that has what I

understand is built in redundancy. So if

somebody dropped a bomb on this site, they’d be able to pick everything up on another site, I won’t tell you where it is, and recommence their operations. That is a very important part of risk

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management. Financial institutions have to do the same. Sometimes it’s not just a terrorist act. Sometimes it’s an act of nature or sometimes it’s even an accident.

I went to a facility in Sydney where they have

available computer capacity, which is essentially hired by banking institutions and others so that if their systems go down, the staff can immediately move in and just continue their operations. At one of our major banks, somebody came along with a backhoe digging up one of the streets outside the building, took out the cables. It was going to take them days to put the cables back on and they needed to be operating immediately and they were able to go out into this alternative site and pick that up within an hour. And that was absolutely essential for their organisation.

Those are the sorts of issues that every

organisation that relies upon computers today have to be taking into account. And if they’re not, they’re failing in their responsibilities to their shareholders and their owners. What we’re dealing here is an example of a company, a statutory body that has taken these issues into account, has acted and is acting highly


I do have another announcement that I need to

make and if I can just spend a moment.

Obviously we’ve been through a very difficult

time abroad and it’s a matter of very considerable tragedy that so many people lost their lives as a result of terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom.

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We’ve been very conscious here of our own potential vulnerabilities. We have maritime borders coupled with universal visa arrangements which give us a measure of greater security than others have available to them but we can’t take anything for granted and it’s very important that we recognise that while there are vulnerabilities that we know of and do take action about, there are at times matters that you don’t always know enough about. And it’s important that you have an alert community, conscious of the environment in which they’re living and working and

travelling, and that they know that if something unusual is seen by them, that there is an

appropriate response that they can take. I am announcing today that the national security information campaign will recommence today.

JOURNALIST: Is that in response—

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’ll take questions in a little while but it is not in relation to that. It is in relation to the need to remind ourselves of the importance of being vigilant and to be alert to possible signs of potential terrorism and to report anything suspicious to the National Security hotline.

I would have a test. I’d ask how many people

could tell me what the hotline number is. A well informed gathering like this, well, I tell you, it’s 1800 123 400. But a lot of people over time lose focus, they don’t necessarily remember. It’s a message that you have to refurbish. The

advertising will reiterate that the police and security agencies are working hard to protect Australia from terrorism, and that every small

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piece of information that can come from an alert public can help to complete a picture, and I think we’re seeing something of that in the United Kingdom right now.

And even if it does seem small and perhaps not

worth reporting, sometimes it can be crucial to those people who are carrying out investigations or undertaking intelligence activities. The campaign will include television, newspaper, transit interiors, outdoor advertising including in the inside of buses, trains and ferries and around railway stations. It will run in 33 languages other than English. It will run for an initial period of three weeks but it is likely to continue beyond that date. The total cost hasn’t yet been finalised but the initial activity is estimated to be of the order of $2.2 million. Copies of the campaign material can be found on the website so that information as the campaign is launched later today will be available there.

The alert level, I might say, remains at medium.

There is no known specific threat against Australia so that situation hasn’t changed but we don’t believe that we can allow our guard to fall. The terrorist bombing in London, I think, serves to remind us all of the importance against complacency.

The first phases of the national security campaign

ran in 2002, no… early 2003; the next phase was in 2004 and it’s continued throughout this year. We’ve always seen it being important to maintain the awareness of the hotline and the fact is that it

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has been very, very useful. Something like 50,000 calls to the National Security hotline have been made by members of the public and some of the information that has been provided has been significant both in intelligence and police inquiries.

While there were many who seek reassurance and

ring for that reason, the fact is that thousands of pieces of information have been handed on to relevant authorities. So I want to emphasise the importance of that and let me just say, this decision was something that we looked at in advance of any of the other announcements that the Prime Minister made yesterday.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Look it is about reminding people of the importance of being vigilant, of being alert. We wouldn’t want people to be alarmed but we do want people not to be complacent. The point I make is that even the most informed audience can lose focus. I had better ask, how many have got the fridge magnet? Not too many of those either. I mean, it is important that people remember that 1800 123 400 is the hotline number. If people see anything unusual they ought not to be afraid to use it and to provide the information to relevant authorities.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think what is being said is that there is a need for societies to be tolerant and outward looking. Societies include all those who make a

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commitment to a nation and its future. That’s what we’re about here in Australia. I think if you look at Australia, we’ve done it well. One can never say it’s perfect and you certainly can’t say that there is no need for intelligence and policing activity. But there are some people who

sometimes scapegoat and target people and particular groups quite incorrectly. There is no place for targeting particular religions, there is a place for targeting people who have ulterior motives and who pose a risk.

JOURNALIST: It was homegrown suicide bombers who were responsible for the London bombings, is that something that could happen here, something that the government and the intelligence needs to focus on?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, let me just say, intelligence and policing authorities are very clearly focused and if you’d heard me at any of my presentations, long before the tragedy in London, you would know that I constantly remind Australia that we have been the subject of terrorist interest long before September 11. If you look at Jack Roche, he was the first Australian convicted of a terrorist offence, planning to blow up a foreign mission in

Canberra and a consulate in Sydney.

JOURNALIST: What about suicide bombers, they [inaudible]…

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Let me just deal with the issues. There were people who planed to blow up our mission in Singapore, all before September 11. We saw the tragedy in the United States, we had the Bali bombing, we’ve had the Mariott [Hotel]

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bombing; we’ve had the bombing of our mission. Australia has been targeted by terrorists, that’s the first and most important point.

There have been numbers of activities that have

been found by intelligence organisations and police. The [Willie] Brigitte operation. It was clearly a major terrorist threat to Australia. It was thwarted, but there are people who are at the moment involved with Brigitte who are the subject of committal on criminal charges, which are yet to be finalised, relating to terrorist offences. So the only point I make is we have been clearly targeted. I know of no specific threat which I can point to, otherwise our threat level would change. There is no specific advice but it is obvious from what is publicly known that we have been vulnerable, and that we remain vulnerable and that is the intelligence advice. That is why we have a medium threat level.

Now, you asked could I rule out - same question

that was put to the Prime Minister - could I rule out that there are potential suicide bombers in Australia? I cannot rule it out. I do not know of any. If I did I would be doing something about it. But can you rule it out? I guess a week ago people would have ruled it out in the United Kingdom. The only point I would make is that the medium level risk assessment demonstrates that we are vulnerable. That is why we have it at that level. We know we have been targeted. We know publicly about the charges that have been brought. We do not know of any specific threats of which people can take account at this time.

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JOURNALIST: David Wright-Neville, in particular, [inaudible]… have thinking of past and more recent in the times the national security information campaign as a national scare campaign. I mean just a few days ago accused the government of talking up terror the prospects in Australia for political gain. What would you say to people like that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I would ask what is the political gain? I mean there is no election; there is no purpose in talking up something that does not exist. There is a potential risk. Police do not bring charges; directors of public prosecutions do not bring charges against people unless there is sufficient evidence to warrant those matters been dealt with. You cannot put these things behind you and say they have not happened. They are a part of the reality that we are dealing.

The next question is how do you respond? We are

one of the first countries to respond with a national information campaign. I can tell you there are a number of other countries that followed and some of the fairly gratuitous comments I suppose I made earlier in asking you whether you could tell me the telephone number. It was designed fairly simply to demonstrate that people do forget over time that it is a message that needs to be refurbished if it is going to be available.

Let me just complete by saying there has been

information provided which has been of very considerable assistance both to police and intelligence organisations. The fact that we do not talk about it and we do not catalogue it does

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not mean it has not happened. That is part of the reality that at times people do find something unusual, it prompts them to ring and when it is put together with other information and it can be extraordinarily useful.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us a bit more information perhaps, without going into specific cases of individuals, of how that information has been helpful? We are essentially taking the government on trust that it has been done - it would be better if we had some examples of how the information has been used, what was involved in the information and all sorts of things.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I can tell you some of the reasons that you do not put that information out. One is that you might be wanting to use it in a trial and you do not present it.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No. I am talking about information that is obtained from a hotline that has been useful to both police and intelligence organisations. I am saying there are some reasons why you do not put information into the public arena. In relation to intelligence it goes to a whole range of potential concerns and in relation to police inquiries that goes to a whole a lot of evidential issues in which it is inappropriate to put the material out in a way which could prejudice a trial.

JOURNALIST: But we are not talking about specific cases of

trials or individuals…

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JOURNALIST: I am not. Will you talk about some examples of say, are we talking about sightings of large amounts of fertiliser?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No I am not. I am simply saying that there has been information that has been of help to police in relation to inquiries that they undertake, and in relation to intelligence organisations in matters that they deal with. And I simply say, it is matter for people to look for anything that is unusual, anything that is out of character that they would not have expected and to make sure that the information is passed on.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There are always journalists who want to get people like me to say things that might prejudice trials, that might comprise intelligence and what you will find with me is that I am not going to expose myself to that risk. Okay thanks very much.

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