Interview with Gareth Parker – 6PR

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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 2021

GARETH PARKER, 6PR: On the line, the Assistant Minister for Defence, and the Member for Canning, West Australian Liberal MP, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, good morning.


PARKER: Thanks for your time. Is this another new normal, to use that phrase we've heard so much about?

HASTIE: It is the new normal, and it's something that every single Australian has to grapple with, intellectually, and understand it, and then they have to act personally to protect themselves – and by protecting themselves, they'll be protecting Australia's digital sovereignty, because we're all in this together.

PARKER: So this isn't just something for IT managers of big corporations?

HASTIE: Absolutely not. We've been thinking about cyber in more private terms – my phone, my laptop – businesses have been thinking about it from a commercial perspective. But Australia now finds itself in the midst of great change in the Indo-Pacific region. The Prime Minister launched the Defence Strategic Update in July of last year. We're seeing more strategic competition between China and the United States in the region. We're seeing increased military modernization, we're seeing technological disruption, and we're seeing an increase of what we call grey zone tactics, which really is just shorthand for states pursuing their national interests through coercive activities – whether it be espionage, foreign interference, economic warfare – but we're seeing more and more cyber attacks. We've always thought about conflict taking place in land, the air, the sea, but cyber is now a battlefield, and we're all very exposed, and we need to do more to protect ourselves.

PARKER: So we think about wars as the mobilization of troops and armies and air forces and navies, are you saying that we're sort of, you know, in a- we're basically being attacked, we're at war now, but in a different way?

HASTIE: That's right. Traditionally, go back to World War Two, where we saw a lot of large scale bombing of cities and infrastructure. If you can just take down a power grid through a cyber hack, that's a lot less costly, there's a lot less risk involved, and you can do it from afar and potentially mask your activities. So as our economy is increasingly networked, digitally, that means that we're exposed to cyber disruption, denial of service, malware being uploaded. We're seeing a range of different attacks – ransomware, for instance, where someone hacks into your computer, steal your data, and then basically says you can only have it back if you pay me some money for it. These are the sorts of things we're seeing, and so we've always thought about it in the terms of criminality. But at one spectrum, yes, there are very sophisticated online criminals, but at the other end, we have very sophisticated state sponsors, running cyber-attacks. We've seen in Ukraine, where Russia allegedly knocked out Ukrainian power grid a couple of times in 2015, 2016. So there is definitely precedent and we are doing a lot with this government to prepare Australia for the decade ahead.

PARKER: So who wants to attack us specifically, can you name countries?

HASTIE: Well Gareth, we only, we only make attribution when it's clear and in the national interest – and we need to be careful about these things – but certainly, there are a number of states out there that have very sophisticated cyber capabilities. What we're trying to do is educate the public. So we're putting $1.3 billion over the next decade into building up the Australian Signals Directorate, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre based in Canberra. Now the ACSC and the Cyber Security Centres, they have offices around the country in every capital city, less Darwin and Hobart. I was there for the opening of the Perth one, and those Cyber Security Centres are there to liaise with industry to share threat information to help small and medium businesses build up their cyber defences. We're also running a campaign throughout the year encouraging everyday Australians, whether it be seniors, children, small business owners, to look after themselves and to protect themselves, have complex passwords; use multi-factor authentication – which is two pieces of evidence before you gain entry into your bank account or your email – and backing up your data; really, really important. If someone steals your data and you've got it backed up you can always get on with the job, but if someone locks up your computer and takes your data, you’ve lost everything. So these are small measures that Australians can be taking.

PARKER: Just before I let you go, there's a significant anniversary for one of the branches of our armed services today?

HASTIE: Yes, the Royal Australian Air Force started 100 years ago. It's their birthday today. On behalf of all Australians, I want to acknowledge our air men and women who serve our country every day. More than 350,000 people have worn the blue uniform over the last century, and more than 11,100 have given their lives defending Australia and we honour them and their service today – particularly those up at RAAF Pearce. We’ve got some great capabilities in the West and we should be very proud of them.

PARKER: Andrew, thanks for your time this morning.

HASTIE: Thank you, Gareth.


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