Disputes kill key Australian government e-security initiative

One of the Australian Federal Government’s key e-security initiatives has been disbanded because of differences between industry and the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE).

The Consultative Industry Forum (CIF), a body of private industry representatives that provides input into government IT policy and advises the e-security coordination group, has come to an abrupt end.

The e-security coordination group was launched amid much fanfare by Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston in February to provide “a strategic approach to security policy” and is a council of representatives from two security agencies, the Australian Federal Police and the Defence Signals Directorate.

Both the CIF and the coordination group are chaired by NOIE. According to a former CIF member, “industry had become too critical of NOIE” so the Government is pushing to replace the industry advisory body with an annual roundtable or summit.

In a letter to CIF members obtained by Computerworld (Australia), NOIE admits: “Both government and industry representatives appear to be fundamentally dissatisfied with the operation of the CIF as currently structured. At the CIF meeting of February 20, 2001, industry members expressed a number of concerns about the operation of the CIF and government policies on e-security.”

The letter was signed by NOIE regulatory branch general manager Tom Dale, who confirmed the changes but said CIF was simply “under review”.

Dale didn’t want “to go into too much detail” about concerns raised by industry but said one issue is the size of the forum – “it’s too large” – and its membership is not representative of major interests.

“There are at least 20 different industry representatives; we want to improve the operation and structure of the body,” he said.

Dale said an annual summit is one of several options being proposed as NOIE values industry input and participation in policy development.