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 Annual Report 2008-09 Output 2.3

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National security and critical infrastructure protection


The Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for key aspects of national security policy and legislation. The Department is focused on leading whole-of-government policy and legal responses to high level and emerging national security issues within the Department and the wider portfolio. We operate in an environment of constantly changing demands resulting from legal challenges, reviews, emerging gaps and changing technology and provide support to the Government where policy and legal advice are increasingly contested.

The Department is responsible for developing and administering national security legislation, such as Australia’s counter-terrorism offences and telecommunications interception powers. To achieve this objective, we are working across the portfolio and government to respond to various national security-related reviews and establish new oversight and review mechanisms for security and counter-terrorism laws.

The Department develops Commonwealth policy relating to use of electronic investigative tools to monitor and prevent serious offences, which is complicated by frequent use of new and emerging technologies, and involves the efforts of multiple stakeholders across government, private and international forums.

The Department coordinates various crosscutting national security policy issues and projects, including the Wireless Priority Service System, and policies to counter violent extremism and prevent terrorism in the long term.

In progressing Output 2.3, strategic priorities for 2008–09 included implementing government decisions on homeland and border security arrangements, protecting Australia’s critical infrastructure, and developing e-security strategies that anticipate changes to the nation’s information systems and respond to emerging threats.

The Department engaged in a diverse range of projects associated with enhancing Australia’s security, its people and the infrastructure they rely on. This work aimed to help build a more resilient nation through promoting the concept of organisational resilience within the business community generally, and critical infrastructure in particular.

Major achievements

National security policy

Our national security environment is increasingly complex, given the broad scope of constantly evolving threats that Australia must address and the multiple departments and agencies involved. The Department plays a central role in working across the wide range of threats and stakeholders to ensure a consistent, coordinated, whole-of-government approach to developing and implementing national security policy issues, including portfolio budget outcomes.

A key achievement was development of a national approach to countering violent extremism. This work will ensure a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to countering terrorism into the future. Officers have worked closely with Australian Government, and State and Territory agencies to consolidate existing programs and develop initiatives to counter violent extremism within Australian communities. Of particular note is the joint work with Victoria to examine governments’ use of language relating to terrorism. This project will help governments frame effective public information messages on national security while maintaining the inclusive nature of Australian society.

Coordination of crosscutting national security issues, including working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to begin implementing the Homeland and Border Security Review recommendations, has been a significant task.

The Department manages the Wireless Priority Service System, which provides priority access to the mobile telephone network for senior decision makers and emergency responders at times when the network is congested, such as occurred during the Victorian bushfires.

Working through a number of national and Australian Government committees, the Department has provided leadership and coordination support towards greater interoperability and sharing of geospatial and other information across the counter-terrorism and emergency management sector. This work has included a cross-jurisdictional Common Operating Picture trial and a consultancy to identify an appropriate governance framework for registering, managing and disseminating Australian mapping and geographical information system symbol sets.

Ensuring a national regime for access to telecommunications

The access to and use of telecommunications information is a complex area that crosses multiple jurisdictions and affects departments and agencies from all jurisdictions as well as our international counterparts.

The Department undertakes a lead role in working with all stakeholders to ensure consistent application and development of policy. During 2008–09, the Department was pivotal in coordinating policy that ensured a whole-of-government approach could be taken to lawful access of telecommunications, access to stored communications and access to telecommunications data. The policy achieved a holistic approach to accessing necessary information for national security and law enforcement purposes.

The Department also played a pivotal role in coordinating policy to ensure a national regime for lawful access to telecommunications. During the reporting period, the Department worked closely with the Queensland Government to develop legislation allowing Queensland law enforcement agencies to access telecommunications interception powers. This means all relevant State and Territory law enforcement agencies can access interception as a tool to assist in the investigation of serious offences.

National security legislation

During the reporting period the Department worked closely with other Australian Government agencies to enable the Government to respond to a number of reviews relating to national security and counter-terrorism legislation, including the:

  • inquiry by the Hon John Clarke QC into the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef (November 2008)
  • review of sedition laws in Australia by the Australian Law Reform Commission (July 2006)
  • Review of Security and Counter-Terrorism Legislation by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (December 2006), and
  • inquiry into the proscription of ‘terrorist organisations’ under the Australian Criminal Code by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (September 2007).

The Government tabled its response to all these reviews and inquiries on 23 December 2008 and announced that it would be conducting extensive public consultation on proposed legislative amendments. The Department has prepared draft legislation and explanatory material for this purpose, which will be released in August 2009.

In addition, the Department worked closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to establish a National Security Legislation Monitor whose task would be to annually review operation of national security legislation. Legislation to create the Monitor was introduced into Parliament on 25 June 2009.

Review of secrecy laws

As the Department administers the Australian Government’s key secrecy provisions and is generally responsible for secrecy policy, it has a strong interest in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of Australia’s secrecy laws. The review is examining the desirability of having comprehensive, consistent and workable laws and practices for protecting Commonwealth information, in the context of an environment of openness and accountability, and an increasing need to share information within and between governments and the private sector. The Department has been closely involved in the review and will play a pivotal role in coordinating policy and responding to the final report. The review commenced in August 2008 and is expected to conclude in October 2009.

Cyber security

A new E-Security Policy and Coordination Branch was established in July 2008 to provide policy leadership across the Australian Government on e-security issues. The Australian Government Computer Emergency Readiness Team (GovCERT.au) develops e-security exercises and e-security policy, and between June and October 2008 led a whole-of-government review of e-security policies, programs and capabilities.

GovCERT.au launched its secure website and established information exchanges in the banking and finance sector, the communications sector and water and power utilities. These information exchanges enhanced the ability of both government and business to understand e-security based threats and vulnerabilities, and together with the website, facilitate trusted information sharing. GovCERT.au provided grants to help business sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure participate in the 2009 International Control Systems Cyber Security Advanced Training at the Idaho National Laboratories, in the United States. GovCERT.au also coordinated the international notification of a number of vulnerabilities discovered in key computer systems.

Reporting from the international e-security exercise Cyber Storm II (in March 2008) was completed and the Attorney-General released a public report in September 2008. A discussion exercise conducted by the E-Security Policy and Coordination Committee affirmed many of the findings of the report and highlighted areas for further work.

Chemical security

In October 2008, COAG agreed to establishment of the Chemical Security Management Framework, which outlines Australian governments’ agreed approach to limiting terrorist access to chemicals used to make improvised weapons. The Department is coordinating national implementation of the framework. Significant progress has already been achieved, including:

  • establishment of the National Government Advisory Group and National Industry Reference Group on Chemicals of Security Concern
  • development of a methodology to undertake risk assessments for chemicals of security concern
  • agreement on the initial chemicals to be subject to risk assessments, and
  • initiation of a major communications development project to inform and build vigilance in the target audience to help police and security agencies deter and/or detect use of chemicals for terrorist purposes.

This work aims to reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring chemicals, and ensures robust and practicable measures are in place to alert authorities if terrorists do acquire such chemicals.

Critical infrastructure protection

The Critical Infrastructure Protection program helps ensure availability of essential services, such as power, water, telecommunications, banking and food supply, in the event of natural disasters, accidents and/or terrorism. The Trusted Information Sharing Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection (TISN) remained the heart of the Critical Infrastructure Protection program. The TISN is a set of groups, supported by government agencies, which allow business to work together to reduce the risk to the community from loss of essential services.

The program’s policy objectives continued to be met through a non-regulatory approach centred on the business–government partnership. The success of this partnership led to, for example:

  • advances in pandemic planning, including an all-sectors Trusted Information Sharing Network pandemic workshop, and
  • engaging owners and operators of critical infrastructure in issues of climate change, including the climate change adaptation policy framework.

Modelling and analysis

The Critical Infrastructure Protection Modelling and Analysis (CIPMA) pilot project moved to an operational capability following provision of funding in the 2008–09 Federal Budget. The Attorney-General announced transport as the fifth sector to be incorporated into the CIPMA capability, joining water, banking and finance, energy and communications.

CIPMA’s primary focus this year was on delivering responses to operational questions posed by government and business stakeholders, including:

  • support to the New South Wales Government for World Youth Day security planning
  • support for two communications sector exercises covering the broadcast and submarine cable subsectors
  • an urgent report on the Varanus Island gas explosion
  • upstream banking and finance sector dependencies
  • the impacts of a major port blockage incident
  • a cyclone hitting a major power generation and heavy manufacturing region, and
  • cost recovery work for the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation.

Purchaser/provider arrangements

The Department entered into a memorandum of understanding with the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), which is part of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Under the memorandum of understanding, the Scheme provides the Department with information on chemicals of security concern that have industrial uses. The information will be included in the security risk assessments the Department will conduct. Under the memorandum of understanding the Department provided $150,000 (GST exclusive) to NICNAS during 2008–09.

Evaluations and reviews

Clarke inquiry

In March 2008 the Government appointed the former Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judge, the Hon John Clarke QC, to inquire into the case of Dr Haneef. An objective of the inquiry was to consider lessons to be learnt from the case and any potential improvements to how Australia’s security and law enforcement agencies work and cooperate in counter-terrorism matters. Mr Clarke’s report and the Government’s response were tabled in Parliament on 23 December 2008. The Government accepted the 10 recommendations Mr Clarke made and we are working with other departments and agencies to implement them.

Parliamentary committee reviews of terrorist organisation listings

In the reporting period the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security undertook several reviews into the listing of specific terrorist organisations. Officers of the Department provided evidence to the committee for each review and coordinated the Government responses, which were tabled in Parliament on 28 May 2009.

E-security review

The Department led a multi-agency team in a review of the Australian Government’s e-security policies, programs and capabilities. The review, through consultation with government, business and the community, investigated a range of e-security issues, including current agency arrangements, emerging technological changes and opportunities presented through international cooperation. The review found that while the current e-security arrangements work well, it recommended a number of changes to strengthen them.

Critical Infrastructure Protection program review

The Department conducted an internal review to examine if the Critical Infrastructure Protection program, as a national security initiative, should be subjected to a cost-sharing arrangement. The Department of Finance and Deregulation accepted the Department’s recommendation not to apply a cost-sharing regime to the core Critical Infrastructure Protection program.


A number of counter-terrorism related prosecutions will continue or conclude next year; the new office of the National Security Legislation Monitor should be established; and extensive public consultation on development of new national security legislation will be undertaken. These measures will aid the Department’s ongoing assessment of Australia’s national security legislative framework and provision of advice to the Attorney-General.

During 2009–10 the Department intends to continue:

  • Taking a lead role in developing policies responding to new and emerging technologies, stakeholder liaison and collaboration with foreign justice agencies to strengthen international cooperation, frameworks and capabilities.
  • Delivering an effective and efficient national security budget for the portfolio and working with other agencies to ensure contribution to the whole-of-government outcome.
  • Focusing on leading development of whole-of-government responses on national security policy issues, including implementation of the Homeland and Border Security Review.
  • Working with communities and the States and Territories to build on existing policies and programs to counter violent extremism. In particular, the Department will focus on research into violent extremism in the Australian context to ensure targeted and appropriate responses, enhanced information sharing, use of appropriate language relating to terrorism, and the role of the internet in violent extremism.
  • Providing policy leadership on e-security issues across the Australian Government. A key goal will be implementation of the e-security review recommendations, including creation of the new national computer emergency response team and release of a new Australian Government e-security policy framework.

In terms of chemical security, 2009–10 will see development of an annual work program under the Chemical Security Management Framework. The Attorney-General has proposed a work program that focuses on:

  • developing and finalising the chemicals of security concern risk assessment methodology
  • completing the security risk assessments for the first chemicals
  • developing and implementing a public awareness campaign to increase community awareness of chemicals of security concern and encourage a response that may aid in thwarting a terrorist attack, and
  • identifying and reviewing relevant industry codes of practice that encourage organisations to take a proactive approach to securing chemicals.

The Department will also continue driving a cultural shift in critical infrastructure protection towards organisational resilience to better help critical infrastructure respond to and recover from disruptions, regardless of their cause. The Trusted Information Sharing Network will be used to foster business partnerships to support development of a disaster resilience strategy. It will continue to work with business on pandemic influenza preparedness, climate change adaptation strategies, and to improve industry threat briefing processes. Demand for CIPMA services is expected to grow in recognition of the value the capability has provided to key stakeholders’ risk management activities.

Using funding allocated in the 2009–10 Federal Budget, the Department will implement a technical upgrade of the Wireless Priority Service System and will work with the States and Territories, as well as other Australian Government agencies, to expand the number of Wireless Priority Service System users across the country during 2009–11.

Performance indicators

Table 16: Performance indicators, Output 2.3—National security and critical infrastructure protection

Key performance indicators 2008–09 target Result

Development and implementation of legislation in accordance with government priorities.

Bills introduced in accordance with the Australian Government’s legislation program

Legislation is implemented in accordance with government-determined timeframes and to the satisfaction of Ministers


Consistently met legislative priorities. The legislation entering into force was:

  • Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 2009
  • Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Act 2008.

Introduced the National Security Legislation Monitor Bill (through providing significant assistance to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and undertook substantial work on a national security legislation package for public consultation.

Development, coordination and implementation of national security policy initiatives and programs in accordance with Australian Government priorities

Proposals developed in accordance with government targets and Secretary’s Committee on National Security/National Security Committee requirements


Developed the Department’s contribution to the first National Security Statement and implemented recommendations from the Smith Review.

Developed telecommunications interception policy to address serious and organised crime priorities.

Developed the Government responses to various national security and counter-terrorism related reviews, and led implementation of the Clarke Inquiry recommendations.

Provided whole-of-government leadership on e-security policy. This included implementation of E-Security National Agenda, conduct of E-Security Review 2008, and implementation of its recommendations; as well as national implementation of capability building measures for chemicals of security concern.

Administrative and statutory reviews conducted in a timely and effective manner

All reviews are completed in accordance with imposed deadlines


Provided submissions to and appeared before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in its separate reviews of the relisting of several terrorist organisations.

Provided documentation to the Clarke Inquiry into the Dr Haneef case.

Completed the E-Security Review 2008 in October 2008 for the Government’s consideration.

Recommendations of reviews are implemented in accordance with government decisions and priorities

Partially achieved

The Department is overseeing implementation of recommendations made in the Homeland and Border Security Review, which is ongoing.

The Department has been involved in ongoing work flowing from the recommendations of the Street Review on interoperability between the AFP and its national security partners, and is leading implementation of the Clarke Inquiry recommendations.

A number of recommendations of the E-Security Review 2008 have been implemented. Implementation of other recommendations is progressing in accordance with government decisions and priorities.

Effective engagement with Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, international partners and the community

Engagement occurs in accordance with government targets


The Department continues to liaise and consult with State and Territory Governments as part of ongoing work to counter violent extremism. This has included several multilateral discussions with all jurisdictions, and bilateral discussions with specific States and Territories as needed. Engagement with the community has also occurred through existing programs.

The Department provides chair, secretariat and policy support to the National Spatial and Information Management Working Group, and the Australian Government Spatial Information for National Security Working Group, and is working with national security agencies on the Department of Human Services-led Commonwealth Spatial Data Integration project.

The Department continues to liaise with States and Territories on counter-terrorism and national security legal issues through the NCTC’s Legal Issues Subcommittee.

We provide daily operational and policy advice to agencies. Strategies are consistently reviewed to ensure compliance with agreed timeframes.

Types of engagement include:

  • liaison with other departments and agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to significant counter-terrorism and national security related cases
  • provision of policy advice on interpreting various provisions in the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Intelligence Services Act 2001, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004
  • formulation of appropriate secrecy provisions in proposed new legislation
  • provisions for calling out the Defence Force in Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903
  • liaison with stakeholders to enable compilation of annual reports under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 in accordance with legislative requirements
  • liaison with industry to ensure compliance with statutory obligations, in particular the increase in submission of interception capability plans
  • provision of education sessions to law enforcement and industry about operation of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, and
  • chairing and presentations at various international meetings.
Examples also include the briefing of critical infrastructure and key business entities on e-security threats by GovCERT.au and establishment of a National Government Advisory Group and National Industry Reference Group on Chemicals of Security Concern.

Our people

Security sensitive chemicals – a collaborative approach to risk mitigation

Alex Webling, Protective Security Policy Branch, 
National Security Resilience Policy Division

Flexible and responsive approach to solving policy problems

The Department is coordinating a partnership with the chemical industry and State and Territory Governments to reduce the risks posed by unauthorised use of chemicals of security concern. Terrorists often use commonly available household and farm chemicals to make homemade explosives with deadly effect, such as in Oklahoma City in 2000, Bali in 2002 and London in 2005.

The Department is developing a program to rigorously assess the risks to the community. The program is underpinned by a solid evidence base, drawing on science, security intelligence and supply chain data from the private sector. The work builds on the strong partnerships the Department has built with the business community in national security over the past eight years.

In October 2008, COAG agreed on the need for a chemical security management framework to strengthen security around chemicals that terrorists could use against Australia or its interests.

Leading the project, Alex Webling, from the National Security Resilience Policy Division, coordinated design of the $13.3 million program. He has enjoyed the project’s many and varied tasks, especially the opportunity to build a dedicated new team.

‘This project consolidates our position as the Government’s key security risk management policy agency and demonstrates our flexible and responsive approach to solving policy problems,’ Alex said.

‘Crucial to the project’s success is developing and maintaining relationships with the diverse parts of the chemical supply chain from producers to suppliers, from farmers to consumers like you and me. So many everyday products contain chemicals that terrorists might use to make improvised explosive devices or toxic weapons to harm Australia.’

A highlight for Alex has been working closely with other areas across the Department to make the vision a reality.

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