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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2593


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (18:03): On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I present report No. 471, the Security of Overseas Missions, as well as executive minutes and responses on various reports. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate the tabling statement into Hansard.

Leave granted

The statement read as follows

This report outlines the findings of the Committee's inquiry into the Security of Overseas Missions as managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This is the first JCPAA inquiry in a number of years to focus on DFAT, whose purpose includes promoting and protecting Australia's interests internationally and contributing to global stability and economic growth.

To support this work, DFAT maintains a presence overseas through the operation of 106 diplomatic posts, or missions. The department is responsible for security arrangements at these posts. This involves the deployment of measures to protect staff, property and information. Measures include various aspects of physical security as well as operational measures such as guarding arrangements and screening procedures.

Staff deployed to posts, and those with security responsibilities in Canberra, are required to be sufficiently trained in assessing and ensuring the effectiveness of these measures.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) previously reviewed

DFAT's protection of missions and staff overseas in 2004-05. In its follow-on audit, tabled in August last year, the ANAO identified a number of issues which remained unresolved.

The ANAO concluded that DFAT had arrangements in place to provide security to overseas missions and staff. It added however that some aspects, in particular the strategic planning, management of security measures and elements of the framework supporting staff training were not entirely effective. The ANAO's findings, in addition to further evidence provided during this inquiry, have raised concerns for the Committee.

The Committee noted that poor coordination and a lack of consistency have had an impact on the delivery of core security functions. A number of issues identified were also characterised by inadequate monitoring and assurance.

The Committee heard that DFAT's Departmental Security Framework, which was to be launched in March 2018, is intended to address various issues highlighted by the ANAO and in previous reviews. The department also noted actions it is taking to reduce inconsistencies in record-keeping and risk management.

The Committee supports the Auditor-General's position that organisations must impose consequences for non-compliance in order to drive cultural change, with the leadership of the organisation providing a clear direction for that change. These compliance activities can then be monitored via independent assurance activities such as internal audit.

The Committee appreciates the critical importance of cyber resilience to protecting organisational systems and information. DFAT's commitment to achieving cyber resilience by June 2018, with respect to the 'Essential Eight' mitigation strategies, acknowledges this importance.

In recent parliaments, performance measurement has been a key focus of the Committee's inquiries. This inquiry highlighted the need for DFAT to improve its performance measurement and reporting. Issues were raised in relation to the quality of DFAT's performance indicators and discrepancies in a previous annual report.

It is the Committee's view that governance arrangements can only be effective with the necessary staff skills and capability underpinning them. The Committee noted that limitations to DFAT's information systems prevented the consistent monitoring and assurance over whether staff received the required pre-posting security training. DFAT advised that work was underway to address this.

The Committee was pleased to note that DFAT has in place a security communications program.

Of particular interest to the Committee was staff awareness and training in cyber security. DFAT has indicated it is considering mandating cyber security training for locally engaged staff.

Overall, the Committee has made eight recommendations. Several are aimed at improving DFAT's governance of post security, while others address aspects of staff training. The Committee has also sought further information from DFAT on its progress in implementing recommendations and initiatives introduced to date.

The Committee thanks officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian National Audit Office for assisting the Committee in its inquiry. I would also like to extend my thanks to all members of the Committee for their deliberations during this period.

I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.