Ladies and gentlemen, it's a very important Summit here and I would like to firstly acknowledge all of the work done by the Home Affairs Department – you can see many of the staff out in the foyer, many of our senior leaders sitting up front who will form part of the panel this morning – but the work that they've put in to making this Summit a success and to build the numbers again this year is a great credit to many of them and can you please put your hands together for the staff from the Home Affairs Department.
Well it's great to see such a diversity of people within the room. As you know, the Home Affairs Department is now only 10 months old and the integrated Portfolio is working tirelessly to ensure that Australia is prosperous, that we are secure and importantly that we are united.
Threats posed by transnational organised crime organisations, terrorists, violent extremists, foreign states, non-state actors and people smugglers are ever-present in the background.
Advances in technology, as is always the case, mean that these individuals and groups are operating with a level of sophistication never before seen. They will use insidious and innovative means to exploit any perceived weakness. To counter these threats, effective collaborative relationships—such as those fostered within the Portfolio's operational agencies—are a necessity.
However, operational collaboration alone we know is not enough to ensure the continued prosperity, security and unity of our great nation.
This can only be achieved with the assistance of industry and the broader community. To this end, the Australian Government is deeply invested in developing robust relationships and fostering an ongoing dialogue with industry.
If you take a quick glance around the room this morning, you'll notice there are delegates from industries far and wide. We have migration agents, members of the digital sector, the telecommunications industry, representatives of critical infrastructure and agriculture – just to name a few.
It is only by working together that we can develop effective national policy and achieve the best possible outcome for all Australian citizens. Many recent initiatives and measures introduced by the Government have relied heavily on that collaboration with industry, business and the community. We are seizing opportunities and standing together in the face of today's new and emerging challenges.
In recent years, foreign involvement in Australia's infrastructure has, as we know, increased substantially. Whilst good for the economy, this trend exposes our critical infrastructure to national security risks such as sabotage, espionage and coercion. To put it bluntly, our sovereignty is being challenged.
In response, the Government has implemented two key reforms: The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 and the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms.
The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018, strengthens the Government's capacity and capability to identify and manage the national security risks resulting from foreign involvement in Australia's critical infrastructure.
The Act applies to assets in electricity, water, gas and ports and provides essential safeguards.
Australia's telecommunications networks are also a key target for foreign interference. This is compounded by our heavy reliance on international suppliers of equipment and services throughout the supply chain.
To appropriately safeguard the telecommunications sector, the reforms came into effect in September of this year.
These reforms protect networks and the confidentiality of information stored on and carried across those networks from unauthorised interference and access.
Of course it's not really possible to simply legislate your way to safety. It's essential that all levels of government, alongside industry partners, owners and operators, continue to work together to identify and manage the risks to Australia's telecommunications networks.
The Trusted Information Sharing Network is the Government's primary engagement mechanism for business-to-government information sharing and resilience building initiatives on critical infrastructure.
Through the sharing of information on threats and vulnerabilities, industry and government are able to collaborate on appropriate measures to mitigate risk and enhance the resilience of Australia's critical infrastructure.
Just as our critical infrastructure is under increased scrutiny, so too is our digital environment.
Cyber threats are increasing rapidly – to Australian governments at all levels, to our businesses, to our organisations and to our households.
Australia's increasing reliance on technology for almost all economic and social activities means the attack surface we need to defend is growing in size and complexity.
In order to combat this expanding threat, our cyber security functions must be highly responsive.
With this in mind, the Government established the ACSC – the Australian Cyber Security Centre – to bring together cyber security capabilities from across Government. The Centre also acts as the interface for collaboration between Government, industry and the community and obviously works very closely with ASD.
While Australians expect their Government to keep them safe from an ever growing list of cyber threats, the private sector controls the vast majority of internet infrastructure and this is why we need your help.
In some ways, advances in the cyber field are actually making it harder to protect the community. An area of particular contention and relevance today is in the field of encryption.
While encryption enhances our cyber security, it is also complicating criminal and national security investigations and prosecutions.
Encryption is impeding at least nine out of every ten of ASIO's priority cases. Similarly, over 90 per cent of data lawfully intercepted by the AFP now uses some form of encryption.
Encryption has directly impacted around 200 operations conducted by the AFP in the last 12 months alone, all of which related to the investigation of serious criminality and terrorism offences carrying a penalty of seven years or more.
All communications among terrorists and organised crime groups are expected to be encrypted by 2020.
For our security and law enforcement agencies, that is the equivalent of a digital intelligence blackout. That is, quite honestly, an unacceptable prospect.
In response, the Government has developed the Assistance and Access Bill.
The legislation will assist law enforcement and intelligence agencies to lawfully access specific communications, without compromising the security of a network. Robust measures will ensure individual privacy is protected and cyber security safeguarded.
The Bill strengthens the existing cooperative relationships between industry and agencies that are critical to dealing with the impact of technology.
It will modernise existing laws, including by extending obligations to assist authorities to the next generation of communication service providers.
This legislation does not permit so-called 'backdoors' and there will be no weakening of encryption.
Encryption is an important and essential asset to safe and secure communications, but the Bill specifically provides that companies cannot be required to create systemic weaknesses in their encrypted products or be required to build a decryption capability.
Importantly, the Bill ensures powers are only used when required. Existing warrant regimes are not degraded.
This is a very measured – in our judgement – and a very necessary response to an increasingly serious national security vulnerability.
Cybercriminals and our international adversaries are not the only ones refining their methods of attack.
Organised criminal groups are today better resourced, more professional in their organisation and more sophisticated in their operation. Further complicating the issue, 70 per cent of Australia's serious and organised crime threats are now based offshore, or have strong offshore links.
Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime networks are using technology to obscure their criminal activities from law enforcement and expand their reach.
These groups, both onshore and offshore, are doing real damage to our country.
The estimated cost of serious and organised crime to the Australian economy each year alone is estimated now to be $47 billion. To put that in perspective, it equates to approximately $1,900 for every person in our country every year.
Combatting serious and organised crime is a difficult challenge and many of you are involved in that fight. Its targeted coordination and engagement with industry that plays an important role in maintaining our domestic security and prosperity.
But as I say, in most of these areas, Governments cannot and should not act alone and certainly not in the fight against TSOC. Partnerships with industry are key to preventing, detecting and disrupting these criminals.
To ensure targeted coordination, the Government appointed Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Karl Kent as Australia's first Commonwealth Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator.
In his role, he will develop and strengthen the national effort – including engaging with industry partners – against crime.
The Coordinator is developing a National Strategy to fight TSOC and ongoing engagement with industry forms an absolutely crucial aspect of that strategy.
One of the most insidious and evil threats we face as a society is that posed by child abuse and exploitation. It is a priority of the Government to make sure that we protect our children from what is sadly a growing problem.
The violent and repulsive abuse of children is becoming more prevalent and the organised nature of offending is becoming more complex.
Like other serious crimes, the scale of the challenge is compounded by the continuing evolution of technology for what is becoming an increasingly borderless crime.
It has never been easier for perpetrators to contact children and share images of torture and abuse.
Within the 'Dark Net' – and 'Deep Web' more broadly – child abuse has become a growing commodity.
Through pay-per-view arrangements, an offender can watch in real-time a child be sexually abused by an adult or another child. Even more appallingly, they can pay to 'direct' the film.
Last financial year, the AFP arrested and charged 58 offenders with a total of 285 offences relating to child sexual exploitation.
In order to combat this abhorrent crime, we must adopt a well-coordinated, consolidated and strategic approach.
In response, the Australian Government has established the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation – a $70 million initiative – working very closely with the states, with NGOs, to make sure that we can put our best foot forward.
We have experts who deal with the perpetrators, casualties and consequences of child exploitation working side by side. It's an area where we want further industry engagement and we look forward to your engagement with the Deputy Commissioner.
While Governments are responsible for implementing policy and legislation to protect children's privacy and security online, we also have to have an international approach to this problem as well and we are working very closely with our international partners.
In August I met with my counterparts in Queensland. They were here in Australia from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States for the annual Five Country Ministerial meeting.
One of the outcomes of this meeting was a call-to-action to industry in regards to countering child exploitation.
We have asked that industry develop and implement capabilities to prevent child abuse material from ever being uploaded and to seek out and immediately remove such material already on the internet.
I am confident that the new Centre – with the assistance of industry – will bring together the best of us to combat the worst.
Sadly, we have witnessed an increase in recent years in the severity of the terrorist threat here in our own country.
While the operatives and their objectives may have changed over the years, the end result – the loss of life and critical infrastructure – remains the same.
Countering the 21st century terrorism threat requires a broad array of measures and an extraordinary level of engagement and coordination.
Australia's Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism highlights the crucial role that business and industry play in working with Government to respond to terrorism.
The Strategy provides guidance and advice to owners and operators to make crowded places across Australia more resilient.
It is informed by the facts and lessons learnt from around the world and it outlines core protective security principles to consider for risk mitigation and contingency planning purposes.
The Strategy contains a self-assessment tool and security audit to aid industry in understanding how attractive their location may be to terrorists, along with their level of preparedness in the event of an attack.
It also places an emphasis on enhanced information sharing in relation to the threat environment.
The Strategy highlights the necessity of implementing protective security measures to increase the resilience of a crowded place in the event of an attack. It includes basic guidelines to help protect venues from armed offenders, hostile vehicles, chemical weapons and improvised explosive devices.
While the unfortunate reality is that it is impossible to introduce failsafe security in every crowded place, we have to continue that work together.
Home Affairs is of course, as many of you are well aware, much more than just a national intelligence and security portfolio. Some of the most important economic and social levers at the disposal of the Government rest with the Home Affairs construct. Our migration program is key among them.
Historically, migration has been overwhelmingly positive for Australia, helping to strengthen our economy and shape our successful, diverse and multicultural society.
The Government though has heard the concerns of Australian business owners and industry. We recognise that there are skill shortages in our workforce across a variety of sectors.
That's why today our migration program – which prioritises younger, highly skilled migrants – is helping to provide these workers where no Australian worker is available to fill that job. This helps our economy to grow and helps our international competitiveness.
While we have undertaken significant reforms through the abolition of the 457 visa and introduction of the Temporary Skills Shortage visa, there is a lot more to be done by government as you well know working in this area right now.
We are committed to ensuring industries in regional Australia can grow, to thrive and to compete on an international scale; and an effective and targeted migration program is essential to achieving this ambition.
The Government has made available a range of temporary visa programs available for regional employers to obtain the labour they require.
The Seasonal Worker Program for example offers seasonal labour to employers in agricultural and accommodation industries who cannot meet their seasonal labour needs with local jobseekers.
The Pacific Labour Scheme allows citizens of specific Pacific Island nations to participate in non-seasonal, low and semi-skilled work and that work needs to be in rural and regional Australia and can be up to three years.
So the Government's skilled visa program supports employers and state and territory governments to attract skilled migrants to regional, remote or low population growth areas through the RSMS, labour agreements and points tested programs.
For employer-sponsored visas, regional businesses have access to more occupations than metropolitan employers, with the vast majority of skilled farming occupations eligible for temporary and permanent sponsored visas.
While many agricultural industries also have labour agreements in place, we have access for them to greater flexibility through visa criteria, including access to semi-skilled occupations.
In addition to these measures, in recent weeks the Government has flagged our intentions to develop a dedicated Agricultural Visa and we look forward to continuing to work with industry in that very important sector.
Regional development is a multifaceted issue requiring a coordinated response and it involves a range of stakeholders from both government and industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here today, for your engagement in the sessions and the panel discussion that will follow my presentation.
As you can see, there is a wide breath of policy responsibility within the Home Affairs Portfolio and we really have brought together the best of the Australian Government in the Home Affairs Portfolio. The five statutory authorities within the organisation have incredible day-to-day responsibility for keeping Australians safe, for keeping our economy strong and it is only through engagement and continued engagement with many of you in this room and much wider across the country and indeed our global footprint that will enable us to continue the success into tomorrow.
Thank you so much for being here and part of it.