The government’s second attempt at a draft bill intended to strengthen the security of Australia’s network infrastructure has had a better reception among industry stakeholders, but major telcos have expressed continued reservations about the ‘Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms’ (TSSR).
The proposed legislation will boost the government’s power to give directions to telcos in relation to infrastructure security, including issues such as vendor choice and network design, as well force carriers to inform government security agencies of significant changes to their networks.
A public consultation on a revised exposure draft of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill concluded last month.
A joint submission by the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance, details of which were revealed in January, said that although the revised draft was superior to the government’s initial proposal, the bill will still potentially result in the diversion of resources away from ensuring the security of communications infrastructure into compliance with the TSSR regime.
Submissions from individual telcos, including Vodafone, TPG, Telstra, and Optus, and Telstra include a number of suggestions for changes and clarifications to the draft bill and its explanatory memorandum.
Telstra’s submission said that in its view the bill was now “workable in a practical sense”. In contrast, TPG’s submission acknowledged government efforts to respond to telcos’ concerns but repeated its call for the TSSR bill to be dumped.
“TPG believes that the objectives of ASIO and the Attorney-General’s department would be much better served by increased information flows from those agencies to telecommunications providers that would substantiate the risks and by education for customers of telecommunications services,” the telco argued.
Vodafone reiterated its concerns about “regulatory overreach through the relatively unfettered powers proposed to be given to Government officials to influence decisions relating to the way in which we manage our network and supply services to our customers.”
The telco called for the competition effects of the proposed legislation to be assessed.
“Australia cannot afford more government regulation to further buttress unprecedented market dominance in the Australian telecommunications market,” Vodafone argued.