Senate passes controversial telco sector security bill

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Senate passes controversial telco sector security bill

To be implemented over a 12-month period.

The senate has passed new laws that will force Australia's telcos to inform the government of changes to their networks and procurement intentions.

Attorney-General George Brandis hailed the bill as another significant tranche of national security legislation passed by the Coalition government since 2014.

"The bill establishes a framework to better manage national security threats to the telecommunications sector, and obliges carriers and carriage service providers to do their best to protect their networks from unauthorised access and interference," Brandis said in a statement.

The so-called telecommunications sector security reforms (TSSR) were introduced to legalise previously informal arrangements.

The bill was given the green light by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security in June, pending a handful of changes that the government later agreed to.

Australian telcos have been up in arms about the obligations the proposed laws will impose, and which are expected to cost each provider $184,000 a year to comply with.

Similarly to New Zealand telecommunications security laws that came into effect in 2014, telcos will need to tell the Attorney-General's Department about any changes they plan to make that could have a material impact on their obligations to secure their networks.

This includes moves like outsourcing network management, offshoring, and purchases relating to sensitive parts of telcos' infrastructure.

The laws were proposed as a response to potential security threats to communications infrastructure from foreign telco equipment and managed services providers such as Chinese company Huawei.

After the bill passes the house of representatives, which is expected, the Attorney-General's Department will consult with the telco industry on how to implement the new laws.

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