National Security

Transcript | Sky News News Day | 16 May 2024

May 16, 2024

Thursday 16 May 2024
Interview on Sky News News Day
Subjects: Reported data breach impacting health provider, Budget cuts to cyber, Budget Reply, Migration Bill, Taiwan delegation

KIERAN GILBERT: We start with breaking news today, Sky News can reveal there's been another nationally significant data breach. Government sources have told me this breach has impacted a medium sized health provider. Now it's not the public health system or public hospitals we're talking about, but a provider within the health system. We're waiting to hear back from the Department of Home Affairs. We'll have that statement from the Cyber Coordinator for you in a moment. I'm told it's going to be arriving any minute now. In the meantime, let's get some immediate reaction with the Shadow Home Affairs and Cyber Security Minister James Paterson. What do you make of this? Another apparent breach, this time within the health system. Who would be the most likely culprits here?

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning Kieran. Look it's a significant story, and yet another reminder of the very dangerous cyber threat environment that we live in. The health sector is a major target for both criminal and state backed actors. Criminal actors like to use it for ransomware because the health sector is often vulnerable to those targets, and sometimes they do pay. And nation state backed actors use it as an opportunity to gather intelligence and information about us. But also, as we've seen reported in the media in recent weeks, they are seeking to establish dormant presences on significant networks, critical infrastructure networks, and the health sector is included in that.

GILBERT: I'm told that the scope of this is not like the Medibank or Optus breaches, but still, when we're dealing with medical information, it is highly sensitive.

PATERSON: It's some of the most personally and privately significant information that exists about a person, that the medical treatment that you're receiving, the medicine that you might be using, your private health insurance details. This is very distressing for Australians when it is released publicly. And it is important that the federal government get on top of this straight away and do whatever they can to stop the proliferation of this information online.

GILBERT: You touched on the recent reports of state actors targeting critical infrastructure. So where does the health system fit in that mix?

PATERSON: Well, health is categorised as critical infrastructure under Australia's security of critical infrastructure legislation. It's something which is systemically important to our country, because the continued operation of health services in a crisis is utterly essential to our security as a nation, and so it is an attractive target for nation states. The US government and us have joined them in publicly assessing that Volt Typhoon, which is a representative of the Chinese government, an actor on behalf of the Chinese government, is targeting critical infrastructure and is seeking dormant presences in that critical infrastructure to be used for sabotage in the future.

GILBERT: Cyber and our defences have been funded very strongly in recent years. Most of our viewers would remember the and know of the Red Spice program, a multi-billion dollar initiative. What's the trajectory like now as we face this ongoing threat?

PATERSON: Well, I'm going to have questions about this in Senate estimates. It looks like it on face value that the Redspice program continues as funded by the previous government. But Home Affairs own funding for cyber security appears to be falling over the forward estimates. It's, assessed at $77 million this year, dropping to $70 million next year, 64 after that, 50 after that, and just $23 million at the end of the forward estimates. Now, to me, this seems like a very strange time to be cutting funding for cyber security. I don't think the threats are falling away like that. And I don't think the funding should either.

GILBERT: Does that does that equate to a cut, though, when you look at the other funding that is being afforded, as we said, through Red Spice and other programs?

PATERSON: Well, just within the home affairs portfolio, that would be a cumulative cut of $100 million over the forward estimates. The ASD funding under Redspice is in the defence portfolio. As I said that appears to continue and I hope that's the case, but we'll be seeking confirmation of that in estimates.

GILBERT: And on to the Budget Reply. The Opposition Leader to speak tonight. Security message is going to be central to that. It seems as well?

PATERSON: Well, all your viewers should tune in to Sky News at 7:30 pm to watch that speech by the Opposition Leader, where he will set out an alternative approach on the economy, on cost of living, on immigration, on housing. But will also touch on security and community safety, which has been a significant concern for Australians in recent months.

GILBERT: On a similar issue, the migration bill that the government was talking about rushing through, there's no sign of it yet. Have you been received any briefings as to when that might happen? The Opposition?

PATERSON: Well, the government told us several months ago that this was so urgent that it had to be rushed through the Parliament in 36 hours that we couldn't have a Senate inquiry into it. And yet it has not even been listed on the Senate program today. The government has pulled the bill. They're not seeking a vote. They haven't sought to bring it to a vote. We are none the wiser as to why that's the case. We put out our own dissenting report with 17 recommendations to improve the bill. We're happy to work with the government to do it, but they have to list their own bill if they want that to happen.

GILBERT: And, just quickly, a bipartisan delegation going to Taiwan for the inauguration of the new leader there. China's already pushing back who he's going to be attending on behalf of your party. And why is that important?

PATERSON: Well, Senator Claire Chandler, Senator David Fawcett and Scott Buchholz MP will be attending on behalf of the Coalition. It's very important that we go. Taiwan is a fellow democracy, a very important partner of Australia, and consistent with our own one-China policy, we have extensive people-to-people and unofficial links. We don't need any advice from the Chinese government about what Australia's one-China policy is. We know what it is, and this is perfectly consistent with that.

GILBERT: Senator Paterson, thanks. Appreciate it.


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