Interview with ABC Central West Breakfast with Alex James

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson - +61 404 648 275

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6 December 2022

ALEX JAMES, HOST: Well, it feels like cybersecurity threats are becoming increasingly common. The past few months have been littered with high profile security breaches, leaving many Australians with their personal data exposed. So, what's being done to address these concerns? I spoke with Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite who will be in Orange today.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: I'll be speaking at the Orange Regional City Cyber Security Conference, and I'll be joining a number of experts to highlight the opportunities that exist for small regional businesses to partner with Defence and the Australian Signals Directorate to improve Australia's cyber capabilities and resilience into the future. We'll also be discussing some of the workforce challenges that we're facing in Australia around the information and communications technology industry and cybersecurity. We need more people from all over Australia to think about a career in cyber security because we know that Australia, like the rest of the world, is facing challenges from increasing cyber threats.

JAMES: Why is it important that regional businesses and small businesses look at these opportunities and become engaged, I guess, in this conversation around cybersecurity?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, the great thing about modern computers in the ICT environment is that people can work remotely, so you don't have to be situated in a capital city. And there are many businesses in places like Orange that now have opportunities to work with the Department of Defence and the Australian Signs Directorate to provide services to Defence and our nation's protection into the future. And they include jobs around cyber, resilience around artificial intelligence, software engineering. All this can be done online, so it's a great opportunity for regional businesses in places like Orange and for skills capacity as well into the future.

JAMES: So, you're out here to, I guess, promote that a little bit, also to encourage people out this way to look towards a cyber, I guess, path for their career. But, I mean, out here in the regions, Minister, groups have identified that we're way more at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. Does the Government have a plan to specifically help regional and rural residents become more resilient to this?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, we certainly do, Alex. And the Australian Cyber Security Centre has an online portal,, which has a partnership program where we look to partner with regional businesses and organisations through that portal, we provide technical expertise, intelligence and insights, collaboration opportunities and measures to improve resilience, like the Essential Eight program, which goes through the Essential Eight measures that small businesses can put in place to protect their cyber resilience, with exercises that they can go through with the ACSC to improve their cyber resilience. And Defence is actually looking to improve into the future as well. We're establishing an information warfare facility and a Defence cyber college as well to ensure that we're training the next generation of Australians that can work in this important space in the future.

JAMES: Can we talk about this generation of Australians, though, that are not necessarily business owners or small business owners, but everyday residents who might not necessarily have the capability to even log onto a portal? I mean, how are you looking to help them?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, there's plenty of information on the website and individuals and businesses alike, educational organisations, can actually sign up to regular updates around cyber resilience. Unfortunately, there's very few organisations, particularly in regional Australia, that have taken up that opportunity. It costs nothing and you can sign up today. And that's the message that I'll be spreading in Orange during my visit and throughout the regions of Australia, that we want more organisations to sign up to the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s information portal and to work with us. We see this as a two-way street. Individual businesses and Australians can learn from government agencies, but we can also learn from those individuals and businesses as well. Because we know how agile and how quick paced information communication technology is moving. And government doesn't have all of the experts and all of the information. So, the more we can partner, particularly with regional businesses, the better we can all improve our cyber resilience.

JAMES: Millions of Australians have had their data stolen, Minister, I mean, I don't need to tell you this. Just this year, we've had the Optus breach, the Medibank breach, multiple others as well. Has the Government failed to protect them?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, the Government is working with organisations to improve cyber resilience. At the end of the day, they were private organisations that had responsibility for their members data. And we've all seen the consequences when organisations and businesses aren't prepared. And we need to know now that Australia is subject to millions of cyber attacks every day, and that includes the Department of Defence. And we need to make sure that Australian businesses have the resilience that they need, and indeed Government departments as well. So, the Government is looking at a number of changes. There's a review going on at the moment. We've already introduced some changes to privacy legislation into the Parliament. All of this is aimed at protecting Australia's data into the future.

JAMES: That's the Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite, who is in Orange today speaking at a cyber security conference.


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