Government wants telco security law passed this year

The government's calendar of proposed legislation (PDF) for the spring sittings of parliament indicates that it wants to introduce and pass before the end of the year a controversial bill intended to boost the security of telco infrastructure.

Parliament's spring sittings begin next week and run until early December.

The government in June released an exposure draft of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. (The measures are also known as the 'Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms'.)

The proposed legislation would boost the government's powers to monitor and intervene in the telecommunications industry, including allowing it to potentially kibosh equipment purchases from particular vendors and demand information about telcos' networks.

The draft bill has been savaged by industry groups including the Australian Industry Group (AiG), the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), and Communications Alliance, as well as Internet Australia.

Critics claim the bill in its current form would have a negative effect on the security of telco infrastructure in Australia and represents an unjustifiable regulatory burden for carriers and carriage service providers.

The government argued in a statement accompanying the release of the exposure draft that the bill "will ensure that businesses, individuals and the public sector can continue to rely on telecommunication networks to store and transmit data safely and securely — and to support other critical infrastructure sectors."

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has since said that the government recognises industry concern over the proposals.

The Attorney-General's Department has conducted a public consultation on the exposure draft, with submissions closing at the end of last month.

Although Labor has marched in lockstep with the Coalition over a number of recent pieces of legislation affecting telcos and ISPs, such as data retention and measures to potentially block piracy-linked websites, The Australian reported this week that Labor MPs are uneasy about the draft bill.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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