Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 17 March 2023

FRIDAY, 17 MARCH 2023 

SUBJECTS: Cyber-attacks; AUKUS

NATALIE BARR: Well, for their take on the hacking attack, I’m joined now by Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Morning to both of you. Jason, let’s start with you. Your government has already made these big reforms on this issue. Is Latitude going to be the first test? Are you going to fine them?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: You’re right. Last year, we passed laws that increased the penalties from $2 million to $50 million or more. Whether this affects Latitude or not will depend on the investigation and whether they’ve been negligent in protecting their customers’ data, so time will tell there.

On top of the laws we passed last year, we’re also reviewing the Privacy Act holus-bolus, looking at what else we need to do to protect people’s data and look at whether companies need to hold the sort of data that they’re holding for as long as they do.

BARR: Yes, Sussan, that’s one of the big issues, isn’t it? Because a lot of these companies are holding customer’s data years after they left the company. Should the government crackdown on that? And should Latitude cop a big fine for this?

SUSSAN LEY: Well, these are really critical areas for discussion. The problem is, Nat, that for many months we had no cybersecurity strategy. The previous government did, it was $1.7 billion worth of measures and the current minister tore those up. Now, cybersecurity is not political, so I don’t know why they did that. But this morning, Australians are waking up worried yet again about their personal information. You know, you scan your sensitive health information, you upload it to Medibank and you expect it to be secure. So there are really serious issues. And whenever private information is released in this way, I just feel for those who worry about the sensitivity of that being made available to people who may then come back and demand some sort of ransom from them. But disappointed that this cybersecurity strategy that we had in place was effectively ripped up by the incoming government.

BARR: Well, I know we’ve done this before. Their government disagrees.

CLARE: They were like a sloth on valium on this. They shouldn’t be picking a fight on this. They promised to jack up the fines, never did. They promised a review, never completed it. You’re right, this isn’t about politics. We should focus on helping customers. But that sort of political rhetoric doesn’t help when their record is so bad.

BARR: We’ve got 330,000 Australians waking up this morning with their details hacked, people who shop at JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, big Australian stores, and that’s what we’re focussing on this morning. Also, this disagreement from state leaders over where to store nuclear waste from the AUKUS submarines. Jason, we now have state premiers saying, ‘NIMBY’, not in my backyard. How are you going to sort this one out?

CLARE: What we’ve said is that it’ll be on Defence land. We’ve got a little bit of time to work out where. The first of these submarines comes out of the water in the 2050s. That’s 30 years away, so we’ve got a bit of time to work out where around the country, which parcel of Defence land should be where we store this nuclear material.

BARR: But the Prime Minister has said we’re going to do it pretty soon. Sussan, where do you think the nuclear waste should go? Do you want to say?

LEY: I think we need a collective noun for peeved premiers, Nat. I’d rather be working in the shearing sheds of western Queensland, where I used to be, than wrangling some of these premiers. But if they’re lining up cap in hand for funding to come to their state from the AUKUS agreement, then I think they need to be prepared to step up and have these discussions. As Jason has said, it’s possibly 50 years away, so there is time, but it is an important discussion for premiers to engage with the Federal Government on.

BARR: Yes, engage being the key word. Thank you both. We’ll see you next week.

CLARE: Thanks, Nat.