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Industry Groups Question Effectiveness Of Telco Security Legislation

Industry Groups Question Effectiveness Of Telco Security LegislationThe government last month announced its proposed reforms, designed to provide a security framework to strengthen its ability to manage national security risks to telecommunications networks.

The coalition, comprising the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and the Communications Alliance, however, has questioned whether there are sufficient grounds to warrant the proposed reforms.

“The draft legislation goes too far in pursuit of the security objective by creating wide-ranging powers for government to intervene in operational decisions such as buying equipment and choosing vendors and demanding commercially sensitive information from companies involved in the telecommunications industry,” the industry groups today stated in releasing the submission.

“As a result, industry is very concerned the legislation would not deliver the increased protection the proposed reforms are aiming to achieve while also imposing significant new costs and red tape on industry.”

The submission outlines concerns that the proposed reforms “will mean a step backwards in dealing with cyber threats and breaches”, stating they will “divert resources from investing in addressing cybersecurity threats to compliance with onerous obligations”.

Among the industry groups’ concerns are that the legislation:

– Could create significant additional and intrusive powers for government to intervene in the commercial operations of telecommunications businesses.

– Could discourage investment in and the adoption and deployment of new network technologies.

– Is likely to impose additional costs on industry and ultimately consumers.

– Does not offer indemnity to service providers against the risk of civil litigation through “safe harbours”, thereby limiting information sharing and the ability to quickly respond to threats and to jointly engage in preventative action.

– Is inconsistent with regulatory approaches to protecting networks in other countries, including the UK, USA and Canada.

– Lacks transparency and fails to provide adequate consultative mechanisms and avenues of appeal.

In light of the concerns, the industry groups stated they welcome recent assurances from the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis that the government will closely consider the feedback from industry in ensuring a workable outcome can be reached.