Consultation opens on reforms to strengthen the security of Australia’s telecommunications networks

Joint media release

Attorney-General
Senator The Hon George Brandis QC

Minister for Communications
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

26 June 2015

Australia’s economic prosperity and social wellbeing are increasingly dependent on telecommunications networks and data that flows across them. It is vital that we maintain the security and resilience of these networks in a global environment of increasingly sophisticated national security risks.

That is why we are pleased to announce reforms to better protect Australia’s telecommunications networks. The Government is seeking public comment on draft legislation to implement these reforms, prior to its introduction into the Parliament later in 2015.

The reforms will ensure that businesses, individuals and the public sector can continue to rely on telecommunication networks to store and transmit data safely and securely—and to support other critical infrastructure sectors.

The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 provides for a security framework to strengthen our ability to manage national security risks to telecommunications networks by:

  • Obliging all carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries to do their best to protect their networks from unauthorised access and interference.
  • Requiring carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries to notify security agencies of key changes to networks and management systems that could adversely affect their ability to protect their networks.
  • Providing the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department with direction and information gathering powers, enforceable by a civil penalty regime.

This framework builds on existing obligations in the Telecommunications Act 1997 and will be implemented via a collaborative partnership with industry, involving increased engagement and information sharing with government agencies.

Implementation will be based on a regime of industry consultation, advice and guidelines. The new regulatory powers of direction will only be used as a last resort, to protect the national interest.

There has been consultation with some parts of the telecommunications sector on the reforms, and the proposed legislation reflects the approach that has been recommended by the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The draft Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Statement have also been publicly released to provide more detail on the rationale for the reforms and proposed operation of the Bill. These are available from the Attorney General’s Department website (www.ag.gov.au/telcosecurity).

Submissions close on 31 July 2015.