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 Strategic Priority 2 - Security

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Protect Australia by delivering effective national security policies, legislation and programs

Our government is responsible for protecting Australia's people, assets and international interests. We work closely with our partners to identify potential threats and undertake initiatives to keep Australia safe and secure.

All stakeholder survey targets for this strategic priority were exceeded in 2017-18. A range of stakeholders including Australian, state and territory government entities and private industry provided feedback on our delivery of activities under this strategic priority. In the 2016-17 survey, client awareness of the department's national security strategies and their satisfaction with those strategies was assessed via a single question. This was split in the 2017-18 survey, thus the 2016-17 result is not directly comparable.

There was improvement in 'the efficiency of the department in delivering national security policies, legislation and programs' (87 per cent, an increase from 81 per cent in 2016-17) and 'professionalism, skills and commitment of the department's staff in delivering national security initiatives' (94 per cent, an increase from 90 per cent in 2016-17).

A range of functions transferred from the Attorney-General's portfolio to the Home Affairs portfolio as a result of machinery-of-government changes. The second phase of the machinery-of-government changes occurred on 10 May 2018 following the passage of the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Act 2017. ASIO and associated functions transferred from the Attorney-General's portfolio to the Home Affairs portfolio at that time. As a result, some activities in our 2017-21 Corporate Plan are not included here.

Stakeholder survey percentages (Table 4) for this strategic priority include results for functions that transferred to the Department of Home Affairs under the change to the Administrative Arrangements Order on 10 May 2017. The results for this function are consistent with the satisfaction ratings given for other areas that contribute to the delivery of this strategic priority.

Table 4: KPI performance statement for Strategic Priority 2: Security
KPI Performance criterion (a) Target Result
Effectiveness Stakeholder and client satisfaction with the effectiveness of the department's contribution to national security 80% 91%
Efficiency in meeting goals National security policy advice, program work and legislation changes Work is completed on time, within budget and in compliance with relevant guidelines 87%
Professionalism, skills and commitment Stakeholder and client satisfaction with the professionalism, skills and commitment of our staff delivering national security initiatives 80% 94%
Community impact Satisfaction with and awareness of national security strategies

80% 88%
(a) Performance criteria as per Corporate Plan 2017–21, p. 9 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18, Program 1.2, p. 14.

The key activities under this strategic priority and a summary of relevant progress are provided in Table 5. Further information about progress of achievements follows in the Analysis section.

Table 5: Activity performance statement for Strategic Priority 2: Security
Key activity Result
Sustain our collaboration and engagement with regional countries and traditional partners to build capacity to minimise threats ONGOING
Cooperation with international organisations
Develop strategies, policies, programs, activities and tools to counter violent extremism and engage with jurisdictions on intervention and diversion programs and community referral pathways TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs
Support the establishment and successful operations of joint cyber security centres in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth ACHIEVED
Joint Cyber Security Centres opened in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth
Adelaide Joint Cyber Security Centre planning
Provide incident response and information exchange through the Computer Emergency Response Team ACHIEVED
1499 incidents were handled
Develop and implement counter-terrorism legislation reforms ACHIEVED
Amendments to the Defence Act 1903
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2018
Support the Australian intelligence community through legislative reviews and policy development and implementation ACHIEVED
Amendments to the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill and Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme
PJCIS review of questioning and detention warrants
PJCIS and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor reviews of sunsetting counter-terrorism powers and offences
Secretariat support to the review of legal frameworks governing the National Intelligence Community
Protective Security Policy Framework reforms
Implement programs, reviews and reforms in the areas of cyber security, critical infrastructure, telecommunications interception and facial biometric matching TRANSFERRED
Critical infrastructure, telecommunications interception and facial biometric matching were transferred to Department of Home Affairs
Four initiatives under the 2016 Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy
Coordinate the Commonwealth's response to the Lindt Café coronial inquest and monitor implementation of relevant recommendations TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs
Finalise national-level security arrangements for the Rugby League World Cup 2017, the Commonwealth Games 2018 and centenary of ANZAC commemorations TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs
Ensure an adequate level of physical security measures are in place at the electoral offices, ministerial offices and residences of Australian high office holders and 'at risk' parliamentarians TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs
Operate the National Security Hotline by providing information from members of the public to Australia's policy and security agencies for further analysis and investigation TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs
Operate the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre and provide whole-of-government situational awareness to inform national decision-making and to coordinate Australian Government physical assistance during nationals security events TRANSFERRED to Department of Home Affairs

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Minimising security threats

Rapid technological change and increasing international mobility provide new tools to conceal threats. We work at the global level with international partners for regional collaboration and greater capacity to respond to security issues.

We participated in bilateral discussions with other central authorities on joint initiatives to increase efficiencies in casework processing. Australia actively participates in multilateral forums to simplify formal international crime cooperation processes. For example, Australia provides operational expertise to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime to streamline processing of mutual legal assistance requests. We also collaborate with countries and international law enforcement agencies (including Interpol) to further efforts to electronically process requests.

Establishing and operating the joint cyber security centres

The Joint Cyber Security Centre (JCSC) program provides cyber security protections through collaboration between government industry, academia and the not-for-profit sector. Information is shared about threats and best-practice ways to prepare and respond to cyber security threats.

Joint cyber security centres were established in Melbourne (September 2017) and Sydney and Perth (December 2017) nearly two years ahead of schedule. The centres assist industry partners to protect their networks and provide critical services for Australia.

Over 130 organisations are partners in the JCSC program. A wide variety of collaborative activities have been staged, including incident response best practice, threat intelligence sharing and cyber security training initiatives. These activities focus on critical infrastructure and other systems of national interest.

Operating the Computer Emergency Response Team

Through Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Australia), we supported Australian industry to prepare for and defend against threats from malicious cyber activity. During 2017-18, CERT Australia increased the range and scale of its cyber security advice and assistance to industry through resources allocated under the 2016 Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy.

In 2017-18, CERT Australia provided cyber security alerts and advisories to industry, particularly critical infrastructure and other systems to help protect their networks. CERT Australia responded to 1499 incidents, including 390 related to critical infrastructure and other systems of national interest.

The CERT Australia information exchange program allows industry and government to share cyber security information, experiences and best practice to help protect their networks. This information and advice supports industry efforts to better prepare for, defend against and mitigate cyber security threats.

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Strengthening counter-terrorism legislation

The threat of returning foreign fighters, domestic lone-wolf terrorism and those affiliated with known terrorist groups remains a key priority for the government. Robust legislation and policy that facilitates inter-jurisdictional and inter-agency cooperation is essential to combat the threat of violent extremism.

We worked with the Department of Defence on the Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018, which was introduced into Parliament in June 2018. This Bill streamlines the legal procedures for the deployment of the Australian Defence Force in responses to instances of significant violence, including terrorist attack. The amendments to the Defence Act 1903 make it easier for the government to provide this assistance when requested by state or territory governments. The amendments are the most significant reforms since provisions were enacted in 2000 for the Sydney Olympic Games.

In 2017-18, we introduced counter-terrorism provisions in the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2018. The amendments extend the operation of critical counter-terrorism provisions in the Criminal Code, the Crimes Act 1914 and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. This allows law enforcement and security agencies to respond to the ongoing threat of terrorist activities in Australia. The Bill was subject to inquiry and report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which recommended that the Bill be passed. The Bill passed the House of Representatives on 25 June 2018 and is before the Parliament.

We progressed the outcomes from a COAG special counter-terrorism meeting that reviewed Australia's laws and practices for protecting the Australian community from violent extremism. Legislative measures include:

  • enhancing the Commonwealth pre-charge detention regime under Part IC of the Crimes Act 1914
  • creating a new Commonwealth offence to allow law enforcement agencies to intervene when an individual is in possession of instructional terrorist material
  • creating a new Commonwealth terrorism hoax offence to criminalise terrorism hoaxes in all jurisdictions
  • developing nationally consistent principles to underpin legislation so that bail or parole will not be granted to people who have demonstrated support for, or have links to, terrorist activity.

Reforming the protective security framework

We have substantially reformed the Protective Security Policy Framework to better protect the people, information and assets of Commonwealth entities and to provide greater assurance to government. We are working with stakeholders to finalise these reforms for implementation in 2018-19. The new framework:

  • improves clarity
  • reduces unnecessary duplication and red tape
  • focuses on security maturity levels rather than tick-box compliance
  • fosters a strengthened security culture across government.

We have also progressed projects to improve risk management of personnel and to strengthen and streamline personnel security vetting decisions. This is needed to address the threat of 'trusted insiders' exploiting their position. The reforms keep the Commonwealth in-step with increasing threats and can provide confidence to Australia's international partners.

Reforming cyber security

Under the 2016 Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy, the department is responsible for six initiatives. Four of these initiatives are on or ahead of schedule, while two have been deferred.

A national exercise program delivered cyber security exercises and activities tailored to national and organisational needs. Cyber security exercises and activities (national and CERT Australia programs) increased from 11 in 2016-17 to 48 in 2017-18. The exercises and activities inform incident management and business continuity plans and better define the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in responding to cyber security incidents.

The current national cyber security awareness program, Stay Smart Online, has grown significantly as evidenced by its subscriber alert service, Facebook and website views. Through a number of cyber security awareness initiatives, including Stay Smart Online, the audience reach increased by 20 per cent and a wide range of information was produced about cyber security threats and ways for people to protect themselves online.

A 24/7 incident monitoring and reporting capability within CERT Australia commenced operations in March 2018 for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. It expanded operations, becoming fully operational in June 2018. Its 'global watch' capability provides early warning for the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and assists in disseminating information to government and ACSC partners, including how to manage public messaging and policy and operational advice in relation to rapidly emerging cyber incidents.

We have deferred the design of an online portal for sharing cyber threat information between government and business. Scoping work was completed in 2017-18 and further work will continue following the move of CERT Australia to the ACSC in the Australian Signals Directorate.

We have also deferred the development of voluntary guidelines on good cyber security practice until a review is completed into the viability of this initiative.

Countering espionage and foreign interference

A key achievement in protecting Australia's democratic and government processes was the passage of the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill and Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill in June 2018. The Bills strengthen existing espionage, secrecy, sabotage and related offences and introduce into Australian law for the first time offences for foreign interference and theft of trade secrets. This work addresses concerns raised by the ASIO Director-General of Security that espionage and covert foreign interference was occurring within Australia and on an unprecedented scale.

The Bills ensure that law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to respond to foreign interference and related criminal activities. They contribute to the protection of Australia's national security and democratic institutions and processes. They also provide transparency to the Australian Government and the community about foreign influence in Australia.

The Bills were subject to inquiries by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and we provided detailed submissions and appeared at public and private hearings.

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