Peak lobbies welcome two bills on cyber-security

Unis groups weren’t happy with one bill to rule them all

what’s proposed: The parliamentary committee inquiring into the government’s expansive cyber-security legislation proposes splitting the bill in two. One needed now, to deal with imminent security needs. A second, to come, that addresses concerns, including expressed by universities, of anomalies and over-reach in the existing bill.

and why: The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security states it, “received extensive evidence in submissions and at public hearings that many companies, industry bodies or stakeholders did not feel like their input or feedback had been actioned or acknowledged.”

This certainly seems to apply to the higher education community where institutions and interest groups pointed out that the original legislation regulated them way beyond risks. As the Group of Eight put it. “The catch-all nature of the legislation as proposed for the higher education and research sector to be highly disproportionate to the likely degree and extent of criticality of the sector …  (CMM February 15).

how it happened: The highly-regarded PJCIS got involved in considering the existing Bill when then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton introduced it into the House in December. Then Attorney General Christian Porter put a brake on what then looked like a quick passage by asking the committee to consider it.

what’s next: HE will be pleased if the government accepts the committee report – as it probably will. For the bill as it now stands to go to the Senate would likely attract the close and critical attention of the scrutiny of bills committee.

The Group of Eight welcomes the committee’s recommendation for two bills. “By splitting the urgent and non-urgent elements … Australia will have the capacity to respond rapidly to looming cyber threats, while enabling a thorough consultation process to take place between universities, business and government,” CEO Vicki Thomson says.

She particularly points to the committee recommendation that the second bill be designed in consultation with industry, to take account of regulatory impact, and “importantly, provides the best possible protections for Go8 research critical to Australia’s national security.”

The Australian Technology Network agrees, “the best outcome for Australia’s prosperity and security will be a risk-based and proportionate system, adequately supported by the Government, that builds on the risk management and protections universities already have in place. The recommendations of the PJCIS will will help ensure that the Critical Infrastructure Bill is fit for this purpose.”