Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull says he understands industry concern about the government's proposed Telecommunications Sector Security Reform.
The long-mooted TSSR regime, which will be implemented by the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, will oblige telcos to take a measures to protect their infrastructure and give the government a range of new powers to request information and issue directions to carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries.
For example, the bill could require a telco to provide procurement plans to the government and notify the government of changes to its network.
Telcos could face fines for not complying with a direction from the government.
The government in June released an exposure draft of the bill for public consultation.
"A regulatory framework would formalise and strengthen existing industry-government engagement and information sharing practices and ensure greater consistency, transparency and proper accountability for the management of national security risks across all parts of the telecommunications sector responsible for owning and operating telecommunications networks and facilities," states the draft bill's explanatory memorandum.
"To effectively address cyber security threats, all levels of the telecommunications sector need to understand the threat and play a role in enhancing the security of the entire Australian telecommunications network."
"Cyber security and network security are important for everybody," Turnbull said in an ABC Radio interview last night.
"We all have a vested interest in our telecommunications network being safe from intrusion and interference — whether it's from other countries or indeed from criminal hackers, of which there are more than a few."
The government already has broad powers allowing it to intervene to protect the security of telco infrastructure, the communications minister said.
"What the new proposed laws are seeking to do is to provide greater certainty to telcos," Turnbull said.
He said he was sympathetic to telco concerns about the bill.
"We're all on a unity ticket here, right?" Turnbull said.
"The telcos want their networks to be safe from interference, the government wants to be able to cooperate and help them protect their networks."
"The bottom line is: Yes, I recognise the telcos' concerns about [the new regime] being heavy handed," the minister said.
"The relationship between the telcos and the government, which obviously has access to a lot of security information through its own security agencies... should be one that is extremely practical and, if you like, collaborative.
"It's got to be very collaborative. And we do understand — we are a government that wants to de-regulate not re-regulate, so we do understand industry's concerns about it being heavy handed."
The government will work with the telco industry to ensure "an outcome that is workable and practical," Turnbull said.
The CEO of the Communications Alliance, John Stanton, had in an ABC interview earlier yesterday criticised the bill, saying it would give the government "significant additional and intrusive powers".