14 August 2020
Senator Rex Patrick is calling on the Government to buy into its own cyber security and supply chain resilience requirements for Australian Businesses.
This call follows the Government's plans to mandate cyber security and supply chain resilience in critical infrastructure businesses including banks, universities and utility providers. Whilst these measures are worthy, they impose a cost on a business that will ultimately be passed on to customers making them more expensive than their overseas competitors.
"The measures proposed by the Government are important, but if the Government thinks a business is sufficiently important enough to impose cyber security resilience requirements on it, then it’s important enough to give preference to in Government procurement. Government must do its bit too," said Senator Patrick.
The Government has a track record of imposing rules, regulations and standards on Australian businesses and then buying from overseas companies that don’t have those encumbrances on the basis that they are cheaper. That’s not fair or equitable.
"If a class of business meets the Commonwealth's criteria for mandated resilience then the Government should not be permitted to look offshore for their goods or services," said Senator Patrick. "This needs to be enshrined in the Commonwealth’s Procurement Rules or its head legislation, the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. Free Trade does not prevent the mandating of Australian companies for national security purposes."
"As any legislation passes through the Parliament, I’ll be seeking to have procurement rules changed."
"It’s about time that we recognise the vulnerable state we’ve allowed our onshore capability to get to and do something, but that cannot be to just impose more regulations and raise the cost to businesses."
The Government has also suggested that some business entities will need to have “adequate stock on hand”, such as medicines, to ensure a cyber attack does not result in shortfalls of vital goods if production or distribution is disrupted.
"What’s good for business must also be good for Government," said Senator Patrick. "Australia has somewhere between 25 and 30 days of in-country liquid fuel supplies and will have to correct its total failure in relation to fuel security. Government must address this significant vulnerability”.
"COVID-19 is a wake up call. The Government needs to take its head off the pillow."