This morning it has been revealed in the Australia/NZ tech publication Comms Day that:
The Australian Government has begun secret talks with carriers on proposals to enhance the security of Australia’s telecom infrastructure which would, in part, mandate a penalty-backed requirement on operators to secure their networks against external threats and require risk assessments of key infrastructure upgrades, modifications and procurement decisions.
CommsDay also understands that the government is highly concerned by the offshore dissemination of Australian citizens’ private data and calling information for use by customer service centres in locations such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. This could lead to a requirement for all data to be housed onshore. The recent discussions likely explain the timing of the revelation last Saturday that Huawei Technologies would be barred from supplying the National Broadband Network.
In recent weeks, representatives of major Australian operators were called to a confidential roundtable meeting with government officials from the Departments of Attorney-General and Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy to discuss the proposed measures. These include a notification process of infrastructure purchase decisions and upgrade or modifications to networks which may have national security implications. Infrastructure builds would potentially be subject to scrutiny or what is termed “risk assessment” under the arrangements with a key focus on details regarding suppliers. Existing infrastructure may also be subject to the reporting process.
The Prime Minister, the ICT Minister Amy Adams and her predecessor Steven Joyce are directly accountable for the actions and inaction of New Zealand to respond to warnings and advice from our security agencies.
The security and integrity of our telecommunications and new broadband infrastructure is a matter of utmost national importance. Cyber security is the new frontier and all countries take it extremely seriously. Despite the lip service paid to it by our government, it appears they have ignored advice and this may have the potential to undermine and compromise our infrastructure.
There are questions to be answered. John Key and Amy Adams must answer whether they received advice comparable to the advice given to Australia, when they received that advice and what actions they have taken since. Steven Joyce is also accountable in his former role as ICT Minister.
I am not party to the advice. But as the Opposition spokesperson for Communications and IT I am raising what I think are valid questions. Why has our approach to this issue been so markedly different to Australia’s? Surely alarm bells must be ringing in the government. What are they doing about it?
Yesterday I would have asked this question in the House to the Acting Prime Minister had Winston Peters not chosen to withdraw his question given John Key was not present.
Does he agree with The Australian newspaper’s Foreign editor Greg Sheridan who said today that if David Irvine, the head of ASIO, Australia’s intelligence service, and who is a former Australian ambassador to China, had authorised a judgement to be cautious on Huawei, then it was certainly sound. And if so, did he receive the same advice and why hasn’t he acted on it?
It’s worth reading Greg Sheridan’s piece.
Paul Maley’s piece in The Australian is also worth reading . He revealed yesterday that:
BRITAIN’S intelligence services were forced to erect a costly, resource-intensive auditing structure to ensure Huawei did not steal secrets after the Chinese telco was allowed to take part in a British broadband project.
Given that New Zealand defence analyst Paul Buchanan has made some very strong statements in recent days about the importance of these issues the Prime Minister needs to answer this:
When did he become aware of what defence analyst Paul Buchanan has described as the “collective view of the security community” in the US, Britain and Australia that Huawei is almost certainly a front for Chinese intelligence services, and what actions has he taken as a result of hearing this view?
Today, Australian PM Julia Gillard is reported as sticking up for Australia’s national interest. I wonder what ours is doing?
“I’ve stood up for Australia’s interest. I know the opposition is standing up for the interests of a Chinese company,” she said while in Sydney for an announcement on the NBN.
“We’ve made the decision in the national interest. Any suggestions this is in breach of our trade obligations is simply untrue.
“We’ve got a strong, robust relationship with China. We are deeply engaged at every level, we have a strong economic relationship, we have increasing ties at every level — diplomatic ties, multilateral ties, and you will continue to see our relationship with China strengthen and grow.”