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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10404


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (18:08): I rise to speak on the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. I can concur with the comments of the member for Canberra regarding the National Broadband Network. I think what's happening in most Australian communities regarding the NBN can be perfectly summed up by the tweet that was posted by Annabel Crabb a couple of weeks ago:

When people complained about the NBN, I used to think privately "Surely it can't be that bad". I hereby apologise to those people.

That says it all about the National Broadband Network in Australia at the moment. My community, the community of Kingsford Smith, is one of those suffering because of this government's incompetence when it comes to delivering a decent telecommunications system. If Labor were still in government, the NBN would've been rolled out in three-quarters of the community that I represent by now. It would've been world-class, fibre-optic cable to the premises. Most homes and businesses would have received it, yet, at the moment, only a very, very small proportion of homes and businesses in our community have actually received the NBN. Basically, only new developments in our area have received the NBN.

I went to a briefing with the NBN Co here at parliament a couple of years ago. I asked, 'When will it be rolled out in my community?' They said, 'It should start being rolled out in your area by the beginning of 2017.' To date, it hasn't been rolled out. Then, I went to another briefing a couple of months ago. Again, I asked: 'You told me that the NBN would be rolled out in 2017. It hasn't happened yet. When will it happen?' They looked at the map and said, 'It will now probably be 2018 when it is rolled out.' So I imagine, when I go to the next briefing, that that will be pushed back to 2019 and so on.

The people of Kingsford Smith, like the people of every other community in this country, are crying out for decent telecommunications services. All we want is the world standard that other nations, including underdeveloped nations compared to Australia, are receiving so that businesses can operate their businesses effectively and efficiently and so that Australians can do their work, can study and can live fulfilling lives using modern telecommunications and the internet. Sadly, this government is lacking in delivering that.

In respect of this bill that we're debating here today, the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, this is a reform that the Labor Party and I are supporting. The purpose of this bill is to create a regulatory framework to manage national security risks of espionage, sabotage and foreign interference to Australia's telecommunications networks and facilities. The bill will provide the Attorney-General with a new power to direct a carrier, carriage service provider or carriage service intermediary to do or not to do a specified thing on a security-related ground—for example, alter a procurement assessment as giving rise to security risks.

The proposed measures in this bill form part of a package of reforms to national security legislation identified by the former Labor government in 2012, commonly referred to as the telecommunications sector security reforms. The TSSR is the process of developing a regulatory mechanism to ensure that industry engages with security agencies to enable the early identification and collaborative management of security risks to their infrastructure and information held on or carried over it.

There's been parliamentary interest and consideration of issues related to security of the telecommunications sector for a number of years. I recall being a member of the infrastructure committee, where we looked at this very issue, the interaction between security agencies and ISPs in Australia and cases where security agencies and, indeed, other financial regulatory agencies had had cause to shut down telecommunications sites for particular reasons. This bill reflects previous considerations of issues pertaining to the security of the telecommunications sector generally by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

This bill assists the national security agencies to manage risk in this space by imposing a new security obligation on carriers and CSPs to do their best to manage the risks related to unauthorised access and interference to networks and facilities that they own and operate. It also imposes notification requirements on carriers and certain nominated CSPs to notify the government of planned changes to their systems and services that are likely to make the network or facility vulnerable to unauthorised access and interference. The Secretary of the AGD is provided with information-gathering powers to facilitate monitoring of and investigations into compliance with the new security obligations. The Attorney-General is provided with two directions powers, subject to certain conditions being met, to direct a carrier or a CSP to do or not to do a specified thing—for example, alter a procurement assessed as giving rise to security risks or shut down a specific service, notably through a specific shutdown power, and by providing enforcement mechanisms by extending the civil remedies regime provided for parts 30, 31 and 31A of the act to address noncompliance with security obligations, a ministerial direction or a notice to produce information or a document.

This bill is a result of several years of negotiations and cooperation between the government and the telecommunications industry. In 2015, as part of the committee's inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, the PJCIS again supported telecommunications sector security reforms and recommended that the government ensure a framework of enacted reforms before the end of the implementation of the data retention regime, which was in April of this year.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 18:15 to 19:05

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: These reforms were also subject to two rounds of public consultation on exposure draft legislation before the current bill was introduced to the Senate. The bill was introduced to the Senate on 9 November 2016 and immediately referred to the PJCIS for careful scrutiny and review. That committee received eight submissions and four supplementary submissions from industry, government and academia. The PJCIS held public hearings, and an advisory report on the bill was made by that committee. They made 12 recommendations for improvements to the bill, the explanatory memorandum and the administrative guidelines accompanying the bill. Subject to these 12 recommendations being implemented, the PJCIS recommended that the bill be passed.

When it comes to legislation pertaining to interests and matters of national security, I'm pleased to say that the Labor Party and the coalition have been at one, particularly since 2014, and close scrutiny has been applied to all measures designed to bolster our national security. Through the PJCIS, Labor recommended improvements to the bill that have consequently been adopted and presented by the government. These include clarifying company obligations, making clear that the bill does not apply to certain broadcasters, a recommendation that the Attorney-General's Department share information with industry where possible and making clear that the bill does not impact on existing legislated privacy obligations.

The bill bestows significant powers upon the Attorney-General, allowing the AG, subject to strict criteria, the power to direct a carrier or service provider to do or refrain from doing an act to eliminate or reduce risks that are associated with security issues. A test of reasonable necessity has been applied as a safeguard, and the Attorney-General must also be satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to reach agreement and to consult affected carriers or carriage service providers in good faith.

Labor is totally committed to ensuring our national security organisations and agencies have the power, resources and flexibility needed to protect our nation's people and interest. We're pleased to accept all of the recommendations of the parliamentary joint committee and therefore commend this bill to the House.