We heard a lot about telecoms and national security last year. So what’s happening next?
Last July the government announced an inquiry into National Security Legislation. There was a discussion paper, a month for interested parties to submit a response, followed by a series of hearings by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. Since then we’ve heard very little. Does this mean, with an election looming, the whole thing has fallen into the too-hard basket? The Green’s communications spokesman Scott Ludlam says it isn’t buried, but he doesn’t expect much to happen before September.
The most discussed element of the government’s proposal was that companies should retain customer usage data for two years. But what of the stipulation “to provide Government with information on significant business and procurement decisions and network designs”. Steve Dalby, iiNet’s Chief Regulatory Officer, describes this as a “very vague statement” which his company is very uncomfortable with.
But is the industry being too precious? National security is clearly an important issue and one that telecommunications companies need to be more involved with. That’s certainly the view of former RAAF intelligence and security specialist Brett Biddington: “Ultimately these people are making their profits by selling services to the Australian people. It seems to me to be a pretty stupid company that, at the same time as it’s doing that, is doing it in such a way that imperils the very market that it wishes to serve and take profit from.”
This week on CrossTalk we ask whether the telecommunications sector needs to be more engaged in discussions on national security and, if so, who will take the lead?