Australian Signals Directorate 75th Anniversary | Senate Speech

November 23, 2022

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Senate speech

Australian Signals Directorate 75th Anniversary

President, I rise today to recognise the men and women who have for 75 years quietly and without fanfare served our nation.

The Australian Signals Directorate this year celebrates its 75th anniversary of defending Australia from global threats and advancing our national interest through the provision of foreign signals intelligence.

For 75 years, the ASD has been tasked with collecting the national secrets of foreign adversaries while protecting our own. First emerging in the Second World War, this critical national task remains as important today.

In 1947, the Defence Signals Bureau – as the ASD was originally called – was officially established in Melbourne under the leadership of British Commander J.E. ‘Teddy’ Poulden.

But in the preceding years, the spirit of the ASD was already beginning to form when the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force personnel were brought together to support General Douglas MacArthur’s South-West Pacific campaign by intercepting and decoding Japanese radio signals.

Until then, Navy, Army and Air Force ‘wireless’ units and intercept stations operated independently, and without central coordination.

From its early inception, Australia’s signals intelligence was intimately intertwined with America and the United Kingdom in the war effort. It formed the basis of the Five Eyes network which ensures the intimate sharing of the most sensitive intelligence continues today.

Beyond the Second World War, the ASD has been, as they say, “hidden in plain sight”, protecting Australia’s national security and interests throughout the Cold War and during the War on Terror.

Over the years, the ASD’s capacity and capabilities have deepened and expanded just as the threat environment has evolved and become more complex.

While the ASD’s primary role will always be to support the war fighter, the Australian Cyber Security Centre was established within the ASD by the previous government in 2014 to boost our nations defences against cyber-attacks.

On this 75th anniversary, it is timely for us to recognise the call of duty that once again is being required of Australia’s best and brightest at the ASD.

Director-General Rachel Noble has been honest with the Australian people about the threats we face. Australia’s national, economic and social wellbeing is increasingly the target of interference, espionage and attack by both foreign nation states and criminals.

Our deteriorating strategic environment is seeing rapid military expansion, coercion, intrusion and cyber attacks on the march in the Indo-Pacific and indeed around the world.

We have seen in Ukraine the impact cyber operations can have on conflict. Many military strategists believe the first shots in future wars will be fired in cyber space. But they won’t remain there.

They will have real world effects on critical infrastructure and services, which are increasingly being targeted by our potential adversaries.

It is critically important that we can defend our country against those attacks, and that our adversaries know we can hit them back if they strike us first.

That’s why in government, the Coalition delivered the most significant single investment in the Australian Signals Directorate in its 75-year history.

Our $9.9 billion investment in REDSPICE will deliver cutting-edge capabilities in signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber.

It will allow ASD to almost double in size by hiring 1,900 new personnel.

Because as Ms Noble has said, “an organisation is only as good as its people.”

REDSPICE must be delivered in full. Anything less would expose Australia and its citizens to unacceptable threats both on and offline.

ASD’s people are mission-focused and patriotic Australians.

As the head of the ACSC, Abigail Bradshaw has said; “there’s nothing more important than contributing to your country’s national security, economic prosperity, and social unity than this cyber mission. I can’t think of a better job.”

I couldn’t agree more.


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