February 27, 2023

SUBJECT | Labor's broken promises on superannuation tax, cyber security | 27 February 2023

PETE STEFANOVIC: Joining us live now is the shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan. Dan, good to see you. Thanks for your time, as always. So how do you feel about the government and the Signals Directorate, in particular, taking full control of any business during a cyber attack?

DAN TEHAN: Well, we need to be able to see the detail of what's planned, how it's going to work. The Government scrapped the Australian Cyber Security Strategy six months ago now we're hearing talk that there might be a new strategy put in place by the end of next year. There seems to be a lot of talk from this government, but we've got to see the actual details. We've got to see specifically how it's all going to work, how business and industry are going to be engaged on this, how they're going to make sure that they know what's occurring because they need to be able to work with our defence agencies, with the Australian Signals Directorate, to be able to make this work. So, once again, a lot of talk, but we're yet to see the actual detail, and we're waiting for that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. But on the face of it, I mean, given the flip-flopping around of Optus and Medibank last year, I mean, the idea of the Signals Directorate basically coming in and overriding businesses who are victims of a massive attack, would you support that?

TEHAN: Well, better coordination and immediate action - absolutely, we would support that. But what we've got to see is the actual detail of how it's going to work. There was a cyber security strategy that was put in place that the government could have built on and could have taken initiatives like this and done it immediately. Rather what we've seen is another six months wasted. It seems like we're going to get further detail in 2024 at the end of 2024. What we need to start seeing from this government is less talk and the actual detail on the implementation of how things are going to work. It's all very well floating new ideas out there after you've been in office for 12 months, but the Australian people want to start seeing real action on the ground. We know that Clare O'Neil was asleep at the wheel when the Medicare hack took place. It took three or four days for any real action to take place. So if we can get immediate action, absolutely, but give us the detail and don't say that there's going to be more consultation and this will be put off for four months and months ahead.

STEFANOVIC: Well, she says the current patchwork of laws is not fit for purpose. She's put on you to a certain extent.

TEHAN: Well, I mean, it's typical of this government that they blame the old government. Those laws went through the parliament with bipartisan support, now they've got to be implemented, and they are being implemented, and they can be built on. But just sitting there saying, ‘the old government got it wrong’. We're going to have a big talkfest. We're going to discuss all this and maybe next year will do something. It's not what the Australian people are looking for. Stop the blame game; build on the success of what we put in place, and internationally we're very well regarded for what we've done in the cyber security space. We've been seen as a world leader. So stop the blame game, and put in place good, sensible reforms and changes which build on the good work that's already been done. That's what the Australian people want to see.

STEFANOVIC: Should there be a formal ban on paying ransoms? We have a policy of not paying ransoms, but do you think there should be a formal ban on them?

TEHAN: In principle, we shouldn't be paying ransoms, but you shouldn't rule it out full stop because there could be a time or a circumstance where it is in the national interest or in the interest of an individual for something to be paid. We've seen it work with kidnapping. So a blanket ban can place you in a situation where it mightn't be the right thing to do. You might be in the best interests to be able to pay something. Now, in 99.99% of the cases, we shouldn't pay it, but every now and again, you should leave open the option to be able to do so.

STEFANOVIC: But wouldn't that open the door, though, and justify someone doing something because there may well be the reward of payment at the end of it?

TEHAN: Well, let's put it, let's just take a hypothetical if there was an individual who could unlock the key to saving a major hack on a hospital, which could lead to hundreds and hundreds of deaths, then you would be placed in a situation where you might want to consider taking some action, and that might be in the case if they have asked for a ransom to save hundreds and hundreds of lives. So, these are difficult scenarios. The best advice that I had when I was Australia’s cyber security minister was that you should leave open the option. It might be very rare that you need to use it, but if you have a blanket no, it actually could be counterproductive in rare circumstances, but those circumstances could save lives.

STEFANOVIC: Just a follow on here on super, Dan. Australians could be limited in terms of how much super that they could save under reforms being considered. Andrew Clennell was reporting this yesterday. What's your thoughts on that?

TEHAN: Well, what, once again, we need to see the government come clean. Are they going to put new taxes on super in the budget if they are, then come out and say it, be upfront with the Australian people. I think people are starting to look at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and just wonder whether he's being upfront with them. We know they promised a $275 cut to electricity before the election, we're not seeing anything done in that regard now. They said, and Anthony Albanese said, there's no changes to super, and now we're seeing them floating these proposals for super changes. Anthony Albanese, as Prime Minister, needs to start being upfront with the Australian people. If they’re going to make changes in the budget, he should come out and say so.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Dan Tehan, we'll leave it there.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232