House debates

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Questions to the Speaker

Parliament House: Security

3:31 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a question for you, Mr Speaker. I refer to recent comments made by the former Minister for Defence, Christopher Pine, in conversation with the former secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, on the 20 January 2020 episode of the Pyne Time podcast. In the conversation, Mr Pyne commented on the malicious intrusion into the Australian Parliament House computer network, discovered in early 2019, stating that he and Mr Parkinson knew 'how much worse it all was' and that they 'could never talk about it'. Putting aside the extraordinary indiscretion of a former Minister for Defence making comments of this kind, I refer to your statement to the House on 12 February 2019 about the extent of this attack. I know that you appreciate the seriousness of public confidence in this institution and I acknowledge and thank you for your written response to my correspondence with you on this matter. I ask whether for the benefit of the House you could share your response to Mr Pyne's comments.

3:32 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I first thank the member for Gellibrand for bringing the matter to my attention in writing. I have replied, as he said, outlining—in fact, I've replied jointly with the President of the Senate. I think it is important that I do, given these comments have been made, make a statement to the House, which I'll do now.

I'm only aware of the comments thanks to the member for Gellibrand, but I'll just say this: following discovery of the cybersecurity incident in January of last year, as members would be aware, the President and I, as we have said, received detailed briefings from the Australian Signals Directorate and the Department of Parliamentary Services. Communication and management of the incidents was guided by the information available to us as presiding officers in the context of the parliamentary computing network. Of course, as we pointed out, our statements balanced the need for transparency with discretion on matters of national security. But any inference that our statements to the parliament on this issue were inaccurate or misleading as to the seriousness of the situation is false. I stand by the statements made by the President of the Senate and myself.

I finally say the podcast also refers to a cyberintrusion at the Australian National University, which is in the transcript that you kindly forwarded to me. So perhaps it shouldn't be inferred that the comments necessarily relate to the parliamentary network. The important point is that the President and I have no further information or knowledge as to what Mr Pyne meant with his comments, and I thank the member for Gellibrand again.