Cyber strategy a missed local opportunity

James Riley
Editorial Director

If anyone were waiting on the Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy 2020 to include a set of industry policies that would help grow the local cyber security sector, they will have been massively disappointed.

The strategy document, delivered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday, is strangely bereft of any new commitments to building Australian cyber companies targeting the fast-growing global markets for cybersecurity products and services.

Even AustCyber, the cybersecurity growth centre that was funded in part through the original 2016 cybersecurity strategy, did not enjoy further commitments of funding or program extensions.

Tim Watts and Clare O'Neil
Tim Watts: The Cybersecurity strategy has little to support the development of the local industry

Labor cybersecurity spokesman Tim Watts said the lack of industry development policy within the broader cyber security strategy was a surprising omission, given the technical and creative strength of the local industry and the opportunities in global markets.

“It looks like the government has given up on the developing and growing the Australian cyber security industry altogether,” Mr Watts said.

“There was no commitment on industry policy, on local content, on procurement, on SME involvement, or on maximising R&D spend to grow the Australian industry,” he said.

“During a recession, when we are trying to build sustainable, high-wage jobs for the Australian recovery post COVID-19, it is inexplicable that industry development seems to be completely missing from this strategy.”

Without a focus on building domestic cyber capability within the 2020 cyber security strategy, the government was demonstrating a “lack of vision” and leadership to take advantage of global opportunities.

“This is a real shame, because we have world-leading cybersecurity companies like Senetas and its work on post-quantum encryption, or Red Pirahna with its firewall work. These are world-leading companies that need a government that is willing to back them in, that will help grow this Australian industry.”

Mr Watts said $1.35 billion of the spending in the $1.7 billion was “repurposed” existing Defence budget. But unlike Defence spending across the rest of the Commonwealth, there was no focus on building domestic capability.

“Where we are in the broader context in Australia at the moment is [we are in] a generational recession,” Mr Watts said, “where we are thinking really hard about how we rebuild the economy after COVID-19.”

“Cybersecurity strikes me as an industry that is going to be sustainable, where there is going to be enormous demand for the foreseeable future, and that can support high-skill, high-wage jobs in the Australian economy,” he said.

“Now of all times we should be investing in it.”

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