Monday, 21 June 2021
Repatriation of Defence Data Bill 2021; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
If you allow access, even though it is very limited access, to your defence data, your firewalls are always undermined, particularly since it was the Chinese that put the firewalls there in the first place. In other words, they have access to all information. They know the exact number, if not the location, of our artillery, our ammunition dumps, our tanks, our naval harbour bases and the position of every warplane hangar. I use the example of Townsville. There's been a magnificent building of concrete and metal that enables those planes to survive even if they get a direct hit. To rebuild all of that in Townsville it may take $20 million or $30 million, and you can multiply that a thousand times for all over Australia, so we can't rebuild everything. In the meantime, they know where every single warplane can be parked in Australia. There might be 400 or 500 parking bays in Australia, but they know where they are, and you gave all of this to them, yet you still refuse to take China and foreign powers out of the system. What is wrong with you! Even when all of this is disclosed you still refuse to act. You say: 'Oh, yes, we've removed sensitive data. Oh, yes, we've repositioned a lot of that data. Oh, we've done this and we've done that.' But you, the bureaucracy that runs this country, will never admit that you are wrong. Never!
Having been a senior minister for almost a decade in the Queensland government, I can tell you that the bureaucracy think that they're right all of the time and that everything they've done is always right because they did it. If you can't stand up and be the bosses of the bureaucracy, then we are not living in a democracy. At the present moment that is the case, because of the weakness of government. We need to stand behind the new Minister for Defence and the Assistant Minister for Defence. They have a record of being very, very strong in these areas, but they will not find it easy, and we must put pressure on the system continuously to enable them to do their job. If, by chance, they change their mind and decide not to do the job, then the pressure, naturally, would go upon them.
There is an entrenched bureaucracy that, like a cancer, must be completely cut out. That cancer is global switch, but that cancer also is the bureaucracy of the armed forces, a bureaucracy that seems to be more preoccupied with political correctness on issues such as whether we use the word 'kill' or if we have 50 per cent women on the front line or even whether a tweet on the internet or a criticism in the media calls for the punishment of our own Australian armed forces personnel. It seems that they remain guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.
Is that the way to run the armed forces of Australia? Why? Because people are wanting to ingratiate themselves to the proponents of the conventional wisdom of the day. They think that that is infinitely more important than defending their country. Well, in a time of war I know what would happen to people like this, and, believe me, this happens. For almost three years in World War II, certainly over 2½ years, the Army refused to have a submachine gun. One in three weapons held by the Germans and by the Russians, the major combatants in the Second World War, was a submachine gun, but here was the Australian bureaucracy—the colonel blimps on top of the bureaucracy—saying, 'We don't use submachine guns in the Australian Army.' The politicians then had the guts to stand up to them, although it took them two years to get the courage to do it, and overrule them and give our Australian troops fighting in New Guinea the most necessary weapon that they needed: the submachine gun. Even then, they bought sten guns that didn't work in the jungle. Thank the good Lord the government once again forced them to introduce another gun, the Owen gun.
All aspects of the protection of this country should be a hundred per cent under the ownership of Australians, not corporations where we don't know the ownership of the corporations—they might be registered in Australia, but we don't know who owns them—and never ever a foreign corporation itself. There has been focus upon China, but it should be upon, as my learned colleague who is seconding this motion will put very strongly, any foreign corporation.
Infinitely more important than fixing this problem—a classic case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted—overwhelmingly more important, is the cancer of free-market policies and the most irresponsible attitude that enables anyone to get the contracts for our soldiers' combat boots, our information storage and retrieval systems, and heaven only knows what else! The honourable member for Herbert, who represents Townsville, is in the House. It bears mentioning that in the Anzac Day march some three years ago, or whenever, reportedly over 1,000 soles of the combat boots worn by the soldiers marching on Anzac Day were left in the streets of Townsville. Where did the combat boots come from? They came from China. What sort of a country has its combat boots—well, I wear Blue Steel, and if there is a better boot made in Australia than Blue Steel, I'd like to wear it. Tell me about it. Their boots are made in Australia. Why didn't they get the contracts?
Steel Blue? I'm sorry; I correct myself. Steel Blue are magnificent. And I'm sure that you play a part in backing them up and helping them. The numbers in this parliament must be used to aggressively back up the Peter Duttons and the Andrew Hasties of this government; shore them up and steer them for the battle that needs to be fought in eradicating not defeatism but the enhancement of the power of foreign countries over our country's vulnerability and the contracts that are so vital for the protection of this country.
I second the bill moved by the member for Kennedy. I agree very strongly with the member for Kennedy that no Australian security data should be in the custody of any foreign owned company. This isn't about any one particular country; this is about all countries other than our own. No defence or other security data should be in their possession. It should be in our possession.
I spoke in some detail about this matter quite recently, and I made a number of points. And, ever so briefly, I will make those points again. For Australian defence data to be in the custody of a foreign owned company is an affront to our national security. It is an affront to our sovereignty. It is an affront to Australian companies and Australian jobs. Now, I do note the Assistant Minister for Defence came into this place recently and defended the government continuing with a foreign owned company keeping our defence data. I have enormous respect for the Assistant Minister for Defence, and I thought he did a pretty good job of defending the government's position. The problem is that what he said is completely and utterly out of step with community expectations. At the end of the day, we are hired to represent the community. We have a three-year contract to represent the community, and it does not represent the community to allow a foreign owned company to have our defence data in their custody.
As the member for Kennedy and I have often remarked, you can't make this stuff up. It's just an absurdity. You can't make it up that we've got a foreign owned company storing our defence data. It must stop and the member for Kennedy's bill would ensure that. I call on the government and the opposition to support this bill.