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12 May 2021

In an adjournment speech in the Senate last night, Independent Senator Rex Patrick called on the Australian Government to adopt a much more proactive strategy to deal with the Chinese Government’s continuing cyber offensive against Australia. 

While the Australian Government recently joined with the United States in attributing the Solar Winds hack to agents of the Russian Government, it has been very reluctant to similarly publicly identify the much bigger cyber elephant in the room – the Chinese Government.

Senator Patrick last night urged the Australian Government to move beyond a purely defensive response to China’s cyber intrusions, and adopt a more pro-active, indeed offensive strategy including:

  • Publicly naming the Chinese Government as a major source of cyber attacks and attributing responsibility for specific intrusions; 
  • Imposing targeted sanctions against individuals and organisations involved in the Chinese state's hacking and cyberwarfare programs;
  • Imposing a direct diplomatic price for cyberattacks that can be attributed to the Chinese state or its proxies by progressively expelling Chinese diplomats and consular officials from Australia. 
  • Being prepared to use Australia’s significant offensive cyber capabilities to retaliate in kind, including targeted intrusions and actions against Chinese state owned enterprises operating outside China, Chinese communist propaganda outlets and Communist Party controlled United Front organisations.

Another focus should be on exfiltrating data from Chinese state agencies that highlight the Chinese state's systematic human rights abuses and the rampant corruption that pervades the top echelons of the Communist Party power structure.

Senator Patrick said: “Unless Australia imposes some consequences, there is no reason for Beijing to dial back what are unquestionably hostile actions against Australia's national interests. Without consequences they will continue to treat Australia as a hackers' training ground and may eventually secure electronic footholds that may deeply harm our national interest, including defence capabilities. This cannot be allowed to continue, and the Australian Government needs to move from a strictly reactive defensive posture to a proactive offensive one.” 

The text of Senator Patrick’s speech can be found here