Four leading telecommunications industry groups have raised ongoing concerns with the most recent draft of the federal government’s proposed security reforms for the sector, despite changes designed to soothe the industry.
In June last year, the Attorney-General's Department released its draft telecommunications security sector reforms, aimed at managing national security risks from interference with Australia's telecommunications networks while giving the government power to intervene when a security risk is identified.
Following the bill’s release, Australia's largest telco Telstra, industry representative body the Communications Alliance, four other industry representative groups and the OAIC as well as individual companies all made submissions critical of the bill.
In response, the government made a number of changes it hoped would soothe telco concerns, including a higher test threshold before a direction to a telco can be made by the government.
But despite the changes, in a joint submission, the Ai Group, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Communications Alliance outlined “continuing areas of concern” with the bill.
The submission details several issues with the bill, including that the "onerous" nature of the compliance requirements will hamper telcos' ability to respond to cyber threats.
They argue that the voluntary, industry-led standards approach in the US, the certification model used in the UK and Canada’s industry-driven cybersecurity framework were all preferable approaches to the TSSR.
“In comparison to other relevant jurisdictions, the proposed legislation is out of step and over reaching,” the submission states.
The telcos also claim the legislation is out of step with the government's innovation agenda.
“Australia will reap an ‘innovation dividend’ if regulatory structures, including the development of standards, operate on a collaborative basis rather than placing undue requirements on industry," they wrote.
“Apart from the previously mentioned concerns with the general premise of the legislation, the revised draft gives rise to some new concerns and still carries some drafting concerns.”
In a statement accompanying the submission, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said while he welcomed the government's response to some industry concerns, further adjustment was needed.
“We remain especially concerned with the potentially negative consequences of the proposed reforms on businesses and innovation, particularly in the context of the internet of things," Stanton said.