House debates

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Questions without Notice


2:38 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence. Will the minister update the House on the Morrison government's plan to keep Australians safe by protecting Australian families, businesses and critical infrastructure from threats posed by malicious cyberactors?

2:39 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the honourable member for her question. Obviously the government's No. 1 priority is to make sure that we make every decision to keep Australians safe and secure. We've demonstrated that in the budget—a $270 billion investment over this decade to provide support to the Australian defence men and women to keep Australia safe. Now, when Labor were in power they took $18 billion away from the men and women of the Australian Defence Force, and it meant that they couldn't invest in the sort of equipment that can give the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Signals Directorate the capacity to deal with the very real reality of cyberattacks and ransomware attacks.

Every Australian knows somebody in small business or in their own family group—their mum or their dad, one of their grandparents—who has been the subject of a cyberattack, and for some small businesses, for some health networks, it can be absolutely crippling. In some cases, entire databases are locked down until that particular business provides a ransom payment. It might be that the software program for a small business is held at bay from the owner of that software until they pay a ransom. This is a continuing scourge. We know that there has been an almost 60 per cent surge in reports of ransomware that have taken place in the last 12 months over COVID. With criminal groups operating online, the reality is that more Australian businesses, families and government groups will be targeted.

We know that the Morrison government is investing $15 billion over the next 10 years into Defence's cyber- and information warfare capabilities, and the Australian Signals Directorate, of whom not every Australian would have heard but every Australian should be proud, is providing a broad range of defensive and, importantly—and these crime groups and other state actors should hear this very clearly—offensive capacities to protect Australians from that ransomware and those cyberattacks.

We know that over the last week the Prime Minister, standing with world leaders at the G7, raised this issue as one of great concern to the Australian government. To the Prime Minister's credit he was able to deliver a very clear message to our agencies and our counterparts in the United Kingdom—that we want to continue to work even more closely with our Five Eyes partners and our Quad partners to make sure that we can stare down this threat. The work that the Prime Minister did with British intelligence officials in London means we can work even more closely together, and that's exactly what the ASD and ACSC will do through the Department of Defence.