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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10409


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism) (19:16): I thank all honourable members who have contributed to this debate—the members for Bass, Lyons, Chifley, Kingsford Smith and Greenway. In particular, I thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which made important observations and contributions that have resulted in recommendations that the government has implemented through government amendments.

Since 2014, the coalition government has led the most significant program of national security legislation reform in a generation. This bill, the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, is now the ninth tranche of significant national security legislation this government has introduced in the past three years. This bill is a critically important piece of national security architecture. Telecommunications networks form part of Australia's critical infrastructure and also support other critical sectors such as health, finance, transport, water and power. The existing framework for managing risks to telecommunications networks is inadequate. It relies on voluntary cooperation and goodwill, which is not sufficient given the nature of the risks to national security.

The bill will amend the Telecommunications Act 1997 to place an obligation on all carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries to do their best to protect telecommunications networks and facilities from unauthorised interference and unauthorised access. This obligation will be supported by a new notification requirement to encourage early engagement to allow risks to be assessed and mitigated. In line with the risk based nature of these reforms, the notification regime includes an exemptions process. This will reduce the regulatory burden on some companies and ensure that the resources of security agencies are targeted.

Following introduction of the bill on 9 November 2016, the Attorney-General referred it to the committee for inquiry. The committee recognised that protecting telecommunications infrastructure requires a joint partnership between government and industry. The recommendations of the committee provide greater clarity and certainty for industry, encourage information sharing and enhance the transparency of the regime's operation. In addition to the committee's inquiries, these reforms have been the subject of extensive industry consultation since 2012. A number of changes were made to improve the operation of the proposed legislation in response to this feedback, including providing additional safeguards to govern the use of the proposed regulatory powers and clarifying the intended scope and application of requirements to be imposed on telecommunications providers. I would like to extend my thanks to those who contributed throughout the consultation process.

This bill will establish a regulatory framework to better manage national security risks of espionage, sabotage and foreign interference, and better protect networks and the confidentiality of information stored on and carried across them from unauthorised interference and access. I again thank colleagues from all sides of the House for recognising the need for these important reforms. The reforms will ensure our legislative framework is more effective and better targeted to the current national security threat. The bill will ensure that the Australian public can continue to rely on telecommunications networks to store and transmit their data securely, while allowing the industry the necessary flexibility to remain innovative.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the bill be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:21