Urgent cyber threat laws recommended to parliament

By Melissa Coade

Thursday September 30, 2021

PJCIS chair Senator James Paterson said the evidence is clear Australia is not immune to sophisticated cyber threats against critical infrastructure.
PJCIS chair Senator James Paterson said the evidence is clear Australia is not immune to sophisticated cyber threats against critical infrastructure. (Twitter)

A report has been tabled in parliament by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS), that endorses the urgent passage of law reforms to protect Australia’s critical infrastructure from cyber threats. 

The committee’s report included 14 recommendations and called for amendments to legislate emergency powers in a standalone bill, as well as introduce a separate bill following additional stakeholder consultation.

PJCIS chair Senator James Paterson said that the evidence presented to the committee was that around the world cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure were happening more often.

“Australia is not immune and there is clear recognition from government and industry that we need to do more to protect our nation against sophisticated cyber threats, particularly against our critical infrastructure,” Paterson said. 

“Many businesses have expressed concern about [the uncertainty of finalising the co-designed regulatory framework] and asked for the entire bill to be paused in the current economic climate.

“While sympathetic to the concerns of industry leaders, the committee does not believe that pausing the entire bill is in Australia’s national interests given the immediate cyber threats that our nation faces,” the senator said. 

According to Paterson, the committee’s approach to split the amendment legislation into two meant the government could enjoy the benefit of urgent emergency powers, while allowing more time for the co-design process to satisfy industry about the regulatory impact.

“The passage of both bills is essential because cyber-security is not just the government’s job. 

“Industry has a role to play too and the second bill which imposes obligations on businesses is an important part of a comprehensive response to the serious challenges we face,” Paterson said.

The advisory report on the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020 and Statutory Review of the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 was tabled in parliament on Wednesday. 

The report pointed to recent events such as compromises to the Australian parliamentary network, university networks and key corporate entities, to show that the threats to the operation of Australia’s critical infrastructure assets remained significant.

“The enhanced framework will uplift security and resilience in all critical infrastructure sectors,” the report read. 

“When combined with better identification and sharing of threats, this framework will ensure that Australia’s critical infrastructure assets are more resilient and secure. Government will work in partnership with responsible entities of critical infrastructure assets to ensure the new requirements build on and do not duplicate existing regulatory frameworks.”


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