Cyber, DTA still up in the air

James Riley
Editorial Director

The reporting lines for key components of the Australian Government cyber security infrastructure remains unsettled following last week’s change of Prime Minister, while the fate of the Digital Transformation Agency awaits the new Administrative Arrangements Order.

The future of the DTA is intriguing. It was a central pillar in Malcolm Turnbull’s public service modernisation effort, and was a key to digital initiatives in the broader economy through programs like the national Digital ID roll-out

But the agency has had only mixed success in its current formation, and machinery of government changes may see it shifted from the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and into the Social Services portfolio.

Michael Keenan: A change of marching orders for the digital transformation minister

Michael Keenan retained his role as Human Services minister, but was dropped from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Cabinet. He is also Minister for Digital Transformation as a result of the reshuffle, rather than minister assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Transformation.

Malcolm Turnbull was the steering hand on digital delivery in the public sector as Prime Minister, and it made sense that the DTA as an independent agency be managed through PM&C.

That changes under Scott Morrison, and there is some expectation that it will shift to the Families and Social Services portfolio where Paul Fletcher is the senior minister.

The move would be unusual. The management of ICT issues has generally found its home in Finance and more recently in PM&C.

But it might have its advantages being inside a massive delivery agency like Social Service, giving the agency more budgetary and delivery clout.

Until the reshuffle, Michael Keenan had chaired the Cabinet committee on Digital Transformation and Public Sector Modernisation, a committee that included Scott Morrison, Matthias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Kelly O’Dwyer and Bridget McKenzie.

The reporting lines for Australia’s cyber security infrastructure remains obscured following the reshuffle with the erasure of Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity as a separate ministry within the Home Affairs portfolio.

While the Prime Minister made clear on Sunday that Peter Dutton, who retained the Home Affairs portfolio, would assume responsibility for “everything from cybersecurity through to law enforcement, border protection, [and the]security agencies”, but the precise arrangements are not clear.

The industry is waiting to better understand precisely how cyber would be managed in Home Affairs, and what role the new assistant minister Linda Reynolds will take in that portfolio.

The elevation of cybersecurity in the national consciousness and was a key success of the Turnbull Government and remains central to everything that government does.

While the reshuffle meant Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity did not get its own ministry after Angus Taylor was promoted to Cabinet as Energy Minister, the reality is that being handed to Peter Dutton – who is effectively the minister for national security – cyber is elevated to a Cabinet level role.

The reporting lines for Alastair MacGibbon will be closely watched. Mr MacGibbon is currently a deputy secretary and national cyber security advisor inside the Department of Home Affairs, and the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre as deputy director of the Australian Signals Directorate within Defence.

As a national security role, there are dotted reporting lines through the Prime Minister’s Office – just as there is for the director-general of the ASD, Mike Burgess.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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