Tuesday, 22 September 2020 10:09

Communications Alliance calls for government co-operation on critical infrastructure reforms Featured


Telecoms lobby group and peak industry body Communications Alliance has called on government to work together with the telecommunications industry to advance sector-specific critical infrastructure reforms.

The CA call comes following the Department of Home Affairs focus on principles-based outcomes for its recently proposed Critical Infrastructure Reforms designed to further strengthen the security of vital infrastructure and systems across a range of Australian economic sectors.

“We share Government’s desire to protect Australia’s critical infrastructure. Our members are keen to assist Government to ensure that such infrastructure is secure and resilient in the face of natural disasters and other hazards”, said Communications Alliance chief executive, John Stanton.

“The telecommunications sector already collaborates extensively and effectively with Government, security agencies and regulators across a number of regulatory and legislative instruments and frameworks to promote national security. The sector also engages with emergency services organisations as well as Federal and State organisations in relation to natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Stanton notes in a statement on Tuesday that the telecommunication sector is subject to a number of stringent requirements, including under the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), requiring operators to assist law enforcement agencies and to protect their critical infrastructure, including in the associated supply chains.

“Given the very advanced nature of the security arrangements in the telecommunications sector, it is critical that a thorough gap analysis be undertaken to identify whether there are any areas that require additional attention,” Stanton said.

“If government agrees to do this, we are happy to work with all stakeholders to finetune the existing legislative framework of our sector, to ensure that consistent, efficient and proportionate arrangements are put in place.

“We also call on government to ensure that the Reforms are supported by independent oversight and authorisation mechanisms, to strengthen national and overseas trust in Australia’s approach to national security and the actions of our security agencies.

“The protection of critical infrastructure is a national priority and, as such, must also be tackled through a collaborative approach across all sectors and stakeholders.

“It would be prudent for government to bring together an expert group across all stakeholders and sectors to progress the implementation of the reforms.”

According to Stanton, such an approach was pursued successfully several years ago, “to address the practicalities of implementing new data retention laws” and “it is an approach worth replicating, given the complexity of the changes that Government is proposing".

To access Communication Alliance’s response to the Department of Home Affairs Consultation Paper — Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Systems of National Significance — click here.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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