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Australian Telcos Unanimously Plea to Drop New National Security Laws

The Australian government has published the submissions made by the major telecommunications providers on the telco national security Bill, with none accepting the draft legislation in its current form.

While Telstra and Optus offered up exhaustive lists of what should be amended in the draft legislation, Vodafone and TPG delivered a complete smackdown, with the latter recommending that “abandonment is a better option than amendment”.

Current Situation

In November, the government released its second exposure draft of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill containing additional national security-related measures, which would force telcos to provide information about their networks and services to the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), or face injunctions, enforceable undertakings, and civil penalties such as fines.

Under the proposed legislation, carriers and carriage service providers (CSPs) “must do their best” to protect their networks against unauthorised access. The Bill also vests an information-gathering power “to facilitate compliance monitoring and compliance investigation activity” with the secretary of the AGD; provides the attorney-general with the vague power to direct a CSP “to do or not do a specified thing”; and outlines enforcement mechanisms and remedies for non-compliance.

Telcos continue to take issue with the Bill, despite the latest exposure draft containing a number of amendments made after industry consultation, including narrowing the scope; vesting directional power in the AG rather than the secretary of the AGD; making directions from the AG reviewable; and increasing the implementation time frame from six to 12 months.

The government had also increased the threshold for the exercise of powers by requiring an adverse security assessment from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), as well as requiring the AG to be satisfied that the activity is prejudicial to security, and that all reasonable steps have been taken to negotiate an outcome in good faith.

Submissions by the individual telcos in response to the draft legislation:





Internet Australia

Joint Submission
Communications Alliance, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), and Australian Industry Group (Ai Group)

Law Council of Australia



Read the full article and analysis here on: ZDNet