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Oz opposition says to stop hackers first stop refugee boats

Australian opposition says to stop hackers first stop refugee boats

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Australia's federal opposition has pledged more money for the nation's security agencies, and more online activity, and tied the latter increase to freeing up resources currently going towards dealing with “irregular maritime arrivals”.

Speaking yesterday at CeBIT Australia, Senator George Brandis said he is alarmed by the release of a report titled “Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 10 (2010 - 2011) - Australian Intelligence Agencies”, created by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Released on Monday May 27th, Brandis says that report (PDF) outlines degradation of the capacity of Australia's security services. The report includes a comment from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to the effect that it does not feel it can find the staff it needs without extra funds. Another un-named agency says it could not have achieved its goals without an extra injection of funding.

Brandis, who serves as Shadow Attorney-General, said an important pressure on ASIO is the extra work it has been asked to do on irregular maritime arrivals, bureacaratese for refugees who arrive in Australia on boats.

Such refugees are political dynamite in Australia, which is deemed by the opposition to have “lost control of its borders” inasmuch as around 25,000 arrived by boat last year. More “irregular” arrivals come by plane and Australia processes tens of millions of arrivals and departures each year. The “lost control” line is therefore not accurate but it is extraordinarily resonant in Australian politics, with the opposition pledging to “stop the boats” when next in office (which looks like being September 2013).

Making the ability to defend against an emerging threat – online attack – contingent on first dealing with the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat therefore paints the government as failing on the first issue and negligently ignoring an emergent second threat.

In light of Monday's allegation that plans to ASIO's new office found their way to an entity traced to a Chinese IP address, the line that Australia lacks resources to defend itself online another potent weapon with which the opposition can attack the government.

Brandis said that, if elected, the opposition will restore funding to Australia's spooks so they can build and operate better online defences.

The ultimate aim, he said, is to ensure Australia can defend itself against terrorism in all its forms, especially newfangled terrorism performed by state-sponsored entities that attack infrastructure. ®

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