National security policy to cover cybersecurity

Cybersecurity will be a priority under the prime minister’s new National Security Division which has been dubbed Australia’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary of the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold said the new division will oversee all security agencies and national infrastructure initiatives and will set the policy agenda.

“It is the number one agency for the commonwealth with regards to security matters and IT is a component of that; the division will make sure cybersecurity is included in policy,” he said.

While the U.S. Homeland Security department bought together immigration, the coastguard and other agencies, Shergold pointed out that it excluded the FBI whereas government agencies in Australia including the Attorney General’s department, Defense, ASIS and the Australian Federal Police will be reporting to the new division across the board.

“Some say we needed a super department in Australia to coordinate across agencies as a counter-terrorism measure to reinforce a whole of government approach to national security issues,” Shergold said, adding that getting the government’s own house in order to ensure government IT systems were secure was the first priority.

Reporting will occur via the Secretaries’ Committee on National Security which meets once a month with reports prepared for the National Security Committee of Cabinet which is chaired by the Prime Minister John Howard.

Shergold said the new division is an expansion of the existing International Division and will be staffed by about 30 people.