Address to the Australian Signals Directorate 75th Anniversary Event

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The Hon Andrew Hastie MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

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Ella Kenny 0437 702 111

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31 March 2022

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a great honour to be here to celebrate 75 years of the Australian Signals Directorate.

I welcome our guests:

Senator James Paterson, Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security. James is a close friend of mine and fellow traveller on the big issues facing Australia. James has shepherded ASD enabling legislation through the committee and it went through the Senate last night so James well done. It’s hard work and I want to acknowledge you for that tonight. 

Can I acknowledge Tim Watts, Member for Gellibrand and Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications, and for Cyber Security.

Abi Bradshaw, Head of Australian Cyber Security Centre. Abi – you’ve done great work this past year and we are grateful for it. 

There is one person I’d like to acknowledge who isn’t in the room tonight, but someone who has brought this important gathering together, and that’s our current ASD Director-General, Rachel Noble. Thank you for all you do for our country, Rachel. But the Noble family is represented here tonight, and when I was visiting the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station in Geraldton recently, it was great to travel down Noble Road, named after the founder and father of that incredible facility – Jim Noble. So welcome to you too, Jim. 

To my current and former parliamentary colleagues who have been able to join us for the occasion – thank you for your attendance on what has been a busy Budget week. 

And can I thank the National Museum of Australia for hosting this wonderful event.

In the room we also have the heads of our domestic intelligence agencies, secretaries of several government agencies.

And we are privileged to have with us tonight our distinguished international friends and partners, who have been our steadfast allies for more than 75 years.

[International attendees’ names omitted]

Welcome to you all.

And thank you to the National Museum of Australia for hosting this event.

This large gathering of past and present governments, Defence, the intelligence community, the private sector, and our Five Eyes partners, bears testament to the record of ASD and the esteem in which it is held by its friends and partners.
Winston Churchill, in his final post-war years at 10 Downing Street, visited an English school.

A young student, who would later go on to become one of President Eisenhower’s speechwriters, asked the Prime Minister what he should study. 

Churchill replied, ‘Young man, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.’ 

As we all know, history can be hard work—if written poorly—and even harder when you are trying to uncover these so-called secrets of statecraft on your own. 

But tonight—we have a unique offering—an historical journey into one of the most important arms of Australian statecraft for the last 75 years. 

Secrets of Australian statecraft that have been shielded from public view, as ASD operated in the shadows alongside cousins like ASIO and ASIS. 

We have much to learn from the past, as we gird ourselves to meet the challenges of today and the years ahead. 

As Sir Jeremy reminded us this morning: we are straddling a period of generational upheaval as we navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic, the preeminence of cyber, a rising China, our pivot out of Afghanistan and now Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against the Ukrainian people. 

As we push our bow out into these stormy seas, many Australians are unfamiliar with the ASD—its operational achievements over the past 75 years—or the vital role it plays in protecting Australia’s sovereignty today.

Trust is vital to successful relationships. We all know it on a personal level—in our family and friendships. 

We know it professionally: it is the lifeblood of successful intelligence operations and partnerships. 

So, it therefore follows that trust is important for the relationship between our governments and the people we serve. 

The upheaval of the last two years reminds us how fragile that trust can be. People are very cynical right now—and who can blame them—in a media environment saturated with disinformation. 

It is therefore vital for organisations like ASD to engage more openly with the public, and the exhibition that we open tonight is an important step in this journey as we uphold that sacred trust with the Australian people.

‘Decoded’ provides a unique insight into the history of our nation’s signals intelligence agency.

It shows what this first-class intelligence agency has done and will do to protect the nation it serves.

ASD’s existence has been quiet—in the shadows—a humble sentinel rarely seen but always ready to defend Australia from malignant threats over the past 75 years.

On this 75th anniversary, it’s time to share ASD’s achievements and celebrate the dedicated Australians that have protected Australia and built the stellar reputation of ASD.

Over the coming year, Australians will learn more about the untold deeds of ASD. 

There will be a new recruitment campaign. A significant tranche of past operational material will be declassified. 

And ASD will publish the first volume of its history, covering its establishment through to the Vietnam War.

It’s a chance for Australians to learn about the ASD and continue to build and strengthen that relationship of trust. 

Of course, we can’t celebrate ASD’s successes without acknowledging our partners from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.

The importance of our Five Eyes partners is central to our security. This relationship owes its origins to the agreement to share signals intelligence, or SIGINT, between us.

So many of our intelligence achievements are because of this incredible relationship of trust and collaboration. Five Eyes is unique and we must carry it forward to the next generation—in a better state than when we inherited it. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we can be justly proud of where ASD has come from and what it is today.

But let’s now turn towards the future.

The strategic picture is bleak. 

Putin’s barbarous war in Ukraine, the Chinese and Russian no-limits partnership—once again on display yesterday—reminds us that the strategic situation is increasingly disordered and fragile.

We desire a strong, stable and peaceful world – but we must also be prepared to defend ourselves.

Australia must have capabilities that can deter conflict, and provide options to strike back if circumstances demand it.

Weakness is provocative. And we must stand up to bullies. 

I learned this in the schoolyard more than 25 years ago, in my first year of high school. I got bullied by an older student. 

But I was good friends with a boy, whose brother was the biggest bloke on the senior rugby team. He took care of the bully. And I didn’t have any more problems after that.

I learned—in the language of Canberra—that allies and capability overmatch are vital inputs to a strategy of deterrence.

Cyber threats are on the rise. And we cannot leave ourselves vulnerable to malicious online activity targeting Australia and our critical infrastructure.

It is clear that ASD’s people and capabilities will be vital to our security over the coming decades.

This is why the Government has made a 10 year, $9.9 billion investment in ASD – the largest ever investment in its cyber and intelligence capabilities.

Project REDSPICE – Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber, and Enablers – will triple ASD’s offensive cyber capabilities, double its ability to detect and respond to cyber attacks, and introduce new intelligence capabilities.

It will also create over 1,900 new jobs within the decade, almost doubling ASD’s size.

This record investment represents a real increase in the potency and resilience of ASD.

It will help ASD anticipate and deter a crisis, block sophisticated cyber-attacks against our critical infrastructure, strike back if—and when needed—and ensure Australia’s cyber and intelligence capabilities remain resilient to attack.

It will preserve ASD’s capability edge and deliver strategic advantage over the coming decade and beyond.

It will demonstrate Australia is not a soft target: that we are more resilient to attack and capable of striking back from a distance.

After 75 years, ASD is long overdue a public celebration.
It has been operating in the shadows, without the recognition it deserves. 

I wish the Directorate every success in its vital mission, as you operate in the slim area between the difficult and the impossible.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, please join me in congratulating ASD for 75 years of commitment and dedication to the safety and security of our nation.

Thank you.



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