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Cybersecurity ‘gaps’ exposed by hacks, paper says – as it happened

Cybersecurity ‘gaps’ exposed by hacks, paper says – as it happened

The Optus and Medibank incidents have exposed “gaps” in Australia’s existing incident response functions, according to a discussion paper released this afternoon.

The discussion paper calls for regulatory changes – including potentially a new Cyber Security Act. Most controversially, the paper suggests that the government’s power to step in to assist organisations or companies respond to cyber attacks could be expanded to a wider range of circumstances. But it is worth pointing out that this is not government policy as yet.

The discussion paper was released shortly after Anthony Albanese addressed the cybersecurity roundtable in Sydney. It was drafted by an expert advisory board chaired by former Telstra boss Andrew Penn and whose other members are former air force chief Mel Hupfeld and cyber security expert Rachael Falk.

The authors say they have heard from industry that business owners “often do not feel their cybersecurity obligations are clear or easy to follow”. The paper says it is “clear from stakeholder feedback and the increasing frequency and severity of major cyber incidents, that more explicit specification of obligations, including some form of best practice cyber security standards, is required across the economy to increase our national cyber resilience and keep Australians and their data safe.”

It adds:

It is clear that a package of regulatory reform is necessary. How this would be implemented, including the potential consideration of a new Cyber Security Act, drawing together cyber-specific legislative obligations and standards across industry and government, and the details of these reforms is something on which feedback will be welcomed.

This should also consider whether further developments to the [Security of Critical Infrastructure] Act are warranted, such as including customer data and ‘systems’ in the definition of critical assets to ensure the powers afforded to government under the SOCI Act extend to major data breaches such as those experienced by Medibank and Optus, not just operational disruptions.”

That proposal would expand the circumstances where the Australian Signals Directorate could step in to “assist” in the response to a cyber attack.

Other proposals for feedback include strengthening Australia’s international strategy on cyber security (such as boosting assistance to south-east Asian and Pacific countries). The paper also urges the government to lead by example, highlighting the fact that Australian government entities “have a long way to go to properly secure government systems”. It also suggests more help for small and medium businesses. Feedback is sought by 15 April.

With that, we’ll end our live coverage of the day’s news.

Here’s a summary of the main news developments:

  • A court has ordered the parent company behind failed recycling scheme REDcycle be wound up following the discovery of tonnes of stockpiled plastic.

  • The Optus and Medibank incidents have exposed “gaps” in Australia’s existing incident response functions, according to a discussion paper released this afternoon. The paper was released shortly after Anthony Albanese addressed the cybersecurity roundtable in Sydney, in which plans for a new national cybersecurity coordinator were announced.

  • Malka Leifer, a former principal of Adass Israel school in Elsternwick, arranged for a student to meet her in another teacher’s office that had no windows and a lockable door before abusing her, a court has heard.

  • Queensland’s First Nations children experiencing domestic and family violence are being harmed – and funnelled into risk-taking and criminal behaviour – by failures in the child protection, youth justice and other support systems, a landmark report has found.

  • Woodside faces more challenges of its climate stance at its upcoming shareholders gathering with activist groups dismissing its latest annual report as a “fail”. The energy giant on Monday released its climate report 2022 while also revealing its underlying profit had more than tripled to US$5.2bn ($7.7bn).

  • The former New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro “inappropriately interfered” in the selection of former NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright to fill a senior UK trade position for the state government, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

  • Constable Zachary Rolfe may have made an “attempt to pervert the course of justice” in writing an open letter about his conduct, and media outlets that published it could be investigated for contempt, according to explosive evidence given to a coronial inquest.

  • Tasmania’s largest salmon company, Tassal, sought to block the release of monitoring reports submitted to the state’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) after using more than two tonnes of antibiotics at two of its fish farms.

  • A Queensland watch-house whistleblower says he witnessed “illegal” strip searches of children, a girl placed in a cell with adult men, and staff wrapping towels around prisoners’ heads to avoid spit hood protocols, causing them to “feel waterboarded”.

  • Australia’s renters are facing “staggering” increases in weekly costs, with worsening shortages of homes pushing up rents by a third or more in the past year in the most stretched markets.

Thanks for tuning in, we’ll be back tomorrow to do it all over again.

Have a pleasant evening.

Australian startup Recharge finalises deal to take over UK battery maker Britishvolt

The Australia-based company Recharge Industries will take over collapsed battery maker Britishvolt after finalising a deal with administrators late on Sunday in the UK.

The agreement revives hopes for the construction of a £3.8bn (A$6.7bn) “gigafactory” in northern England, the backbone of a plan to modernise the British automotive industry and supply the next generation of UK-built electric vehicles.

The deal was finalised three weeks after Recharge, an Australian company that sits under New York-based investment firm Scale Facilitation, was nominated as preferred bidder, placing a huge opportunity, and burden, on a startup yet to construct a project.

Scale Facilitation’s Australian-born founder and chief executive, David Collard, told the Guardian the factory and an associated supplier park, where components are manufactured, were still a focus.

“We’re working closely with one of the leading UK fund managers looking to team [up] on the development,” Collard said.

Read more:

Snow in LA, baguettes and a cup final: the weekend’s best photos

The Guardian’s picture editors select photo highlights from around the world

Little sign of a pullback in profits in December quarter, ABS data shows

We’ll get December quarter and full-year GDP figures this Wednesday, but most of the pieces of the puzzle are already in.

Today the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported some of the key business indicators for the quarter, including a surprising 10.6% jump, seasonally adjusted, in company profits. Wages and salaries, by contrast, rose a more modest 2.6%.

Westpac, for instance, had tipped profits to rise only 1%, while the market “consensus” was for a 1.8% increase.

The profit surge is likely to bolster the case to look at whether companies pushing through higher prices than the underlying cost of inputs (such as labour) might be the real source of inflationary pressure. The Australia Institute is among the groups that reckon so, as we saw last week:

The spread of profit, as you might expect, varies by industry. The real estate industry, where property sales and prices have been on the skids, was the lagging sector in the December quarter. Given the way interest rates are headed, this trend might well persist.

Inventories, meanwhile, sank 0.2% in the quarter. Sounds a bit dull, but the shift reversed a 0.4 percentage point rise in the September quarter, and the shift alone will lop off 0.8 percentage points of GDP growth for the final three months of 2022.

Foreign trade figures out tomorrow from the ABS will provide the last of the GDP figures that economists need to update their forecasts for what Wednesday’s numbers should look like.

Delegation of vice-chancellors to join education minister on India visit

A dozen vice-chancellors are joining education minister Jason Clare on an official visit to India this week, as the federal government moves to strengthen its ties with the nation’s tertiary sector.

On the five-day visit, Clare will sign a mutual recognition agreement for qualifications with India, while Universities Australia (UA) will also renew its formal partnership with the Association of Indian universities.

Clare has raised the possibility of establishing Australian campuses in India to capitalise on India’s goal to educate 500 million students by 2035 under its national education plan.

UA said education would be key to a growing trade relationship with India, currently Australia’s second largest and fastest growing source of international students after China. There are around 128,979 Indian students enrolled with Australian providers, representing 17% of the entire makeup.

CEO of UA Catriona Jackson will accompany the prime minister on a visit to India following Clare. She said universities “fully support” the federal government’s commitment to sign the agreement.

Higher education and research are central pillars of our relationship, and universities are eager to use the opportunities in front of us to ratchet up our engagement … we are entering a golden era in our education relationship with India. We must make the most of it for the benefit of both our nations.

Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) executive director, Luke Sheehy is among the delegation. In semester one of 2022, there was a 275% increase on Indian enrolments at ATN universities.

This delegation will help solidify the already deep affinity we share. There is an enduring genuine affection with India, along with great partnerships which have been signed in economic agreements, and education has always taken a leading role.

It follows the resignation of 13 academic fellows last year from the Australia India Institute – Australia’s leading India thinktank – over concerns about academic freedom, as reported by the Saturday Paper.

Leifer allegedly abused student in another teacher’s windowless office, court told

Malka Leifer, a former principal of Adass Israel school in Elsternwick, arranged for a student to meet her in another teacher’s office that had no windows and a lockable door before abusing her, a court has heard.

Leifer has been charged with 29 offences against three sisters between 2003 and 2007, including 10 counts of rape.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is facing trial at the county court in Melbourne.

Dr Vicki Gordon, a clinical and forensic psychologist who treated one of Leifer’s alleged victims, told the court on Monday about the notes she had taken after an appointment in March 2008.

During the session, Gordon said the woman had been “full of shame” and would send her text messages regarding the alleged abuse committed by Leifer while sitting across from her “because she couldn’t mouth the words. She was too embarrassed”.

Read more:

Zachary Rolfe may have tried to pervert the course of justice, inquest told

Constable Zachary Rolfe may have made an “attempt to pervert the course of justice” in writing an open letter about his conduct, and media outlets that published it could be investigated for contempt, according to explosive evidence given to a coronial inquest.

The inquest into the shooting death of Warlpiri teenager Kumanjayi Walker resumed on Monday.

Walker, 19, was shot dead by Rolfe during a botched arrest in the remote Northern Territory community of Yuendumu in 2019. Rolfe was cleared of all criminal charges in relation to the shooting. He has been pursuing legal action to avoid giving evidence at the inquest, and wrote an open letter before leaving the country late last week.

Rolfe said in a 2,500-word statement published on Facebook that he was a “good cop” who “loved the job”, but that he had been “painted” as racist and violent.

Acting for the NT police, Ian Freckleton SC on Monday said the force was “extremely concerned” about Rolfe’s conduct.

Read more:

Robodebt inquiry hears former departmental lawyer thought government’s legal position on program was ‘weak’ in early 2017

The commission heard on Monday from two lawyers who were asked to look at the unlawful program’s legality when it exploded into public view in early 2017.

Mark Gladman, a former deputy general counsel at the Department of Human Services, told the commission that after researching the scheme he believed it was “weak”.

Gladman said he advised his superior at the time, acting chief counsel Lisa Carmody, that the department should seek the Australian government solicitor’s (AGS) opinion on the program.

The inquiry was shown draft instructions that Gladman and colleagues had prepared for the AGS.

As it turned out, the AGS didn’t end up providing a legal opinion until late March 2019, more than two years later. It said then the scheme was likely unlawful.

Carmody, who was acting in the role in early January, told the commission on Monday she had brief discussions with the AGS before her usual boss, Annette Musolino resumed in the role.

Carmody said she also provided hard copies of the documents – including Gladman’s teams draft advice on the scheme – to Musolino when she returned from leave in January 2017. Musolino is expected to appear again at the royal commission.

Carmody agreed the draft advice – which sought to mount a legal defence for the scheme – was “unconvincing”. The advice was never finalised.

The inquiry before Catherine Holmes AC SC continues.

Qantas announces leadership changes

Andrew David, the chief executive of Qantas Domestic and International, will retire from the company in September, as the airline announces changes to its leadership structure.

Less than a week after announcing a record $1.43bn half-year profit, Qantas on Monday announced that ahead of David’s departure, his role – which was combined during Covid – will again be split into two portfolios for domestic and international.

From July, former Air New Zealand executive Cameron Wallace will take over as chief executive of Qantas International. David will remain as chief executive of Qantas Domestic until his retirement in September.

“This will provide the management bandwidth required as each business welcomes new aircraft and expands its network,” Qantas said in a statement.

Both the roles will report to the chief executive of the broader Qantas Group, Alan Joyce, who himself is expected to leave Qantas later this year.

NZ to stage global fundraiser to support Cyclone Gabrielle recovery

New Zealand will stage an international fundraising appeal to support its Cyclone Gabrielle recovery, and a one-off lotto draw next month.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins said the appeal was modelled off a similar fundraising effort following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, which raised more than $NZ94m ($A86m).

This global appeal means we can harness local and international donations and channel them to the communities and projects that need them the most.

The cyclone was NZ’s biggest storm in a generation, affecting one-third of its land mass and causing billions of dollars worth of damage.

The final bill may never be known, but includes huge rebuilds of road, rail and energy infrastructure, as well as housing, and lost earnings from vast swathes of agricultural land.

Hipkins said he hoped Kiwis in the one million strong diaspora – which includes hundreds of thousands in Australia – would consider giving.

New Zealanders who have gone abroad and done well and want to get something back to the country, my message to them is ‘We would love your support’.

Businesses that have a relationship with New Zealand and want to chip in and help out with the rebuild, again, we would love to hear from them as well … This is a charitable appeal. So we’re really targeting anyone who’s in a position to feel that they can contribute and do something that’s for the wider community.

Gabrielle’s death toll remains at 11.

Earlier fears of a much larger toll are subsiding, with police revealing they had whittled down the number of missing people from almost 7,000 to five. Of the outstanding people, three are on active charges, including two who breached bail prior to the cyclone.


Thanks for your attention this Monday, Elias Visontay will take you through the rest of today’s news.

Young girl in critical condition after falling from rocks in Queensland

A young girl is in critical condition after falling from rocks at North Stradbroke Island on Saturday. is reporting the eight-year-old girl fell from the lookout on the island:

Her father jumped in after her and found her unconscious, holding her head above water as they waited for help.

It is believed she was swept off the rocks and under water for a period of time.

Queensland Ambulance Service have told Guardian Australia two patients were assessed “following a post immersion incident” off South Gorge Beach shortly before 11.30am on 25 February.

A female child was airlifted to Queensland Children’s Hospital in a critical condition and a male adult was transported by road to Murrie Rose centre and further transported to Princess Alexandra hospital stable.

UN scolds Australia for its treatment of sick refugees

Australia has copped a pasting from the United Nations for its treatment of asylum seekers who remain stuck in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, AAP reports.

The UN high commissioner for refugees has joined human rights groups and grassroots advocates in demanding the immediate evacuation of about 150 people being held offshore.

Greens senator Nick McKim has introduced proposed laws that would see 66 people on Nauru and another 92 in PNG transferred to community detention in Australia if they posed no security risk.

People evacuated to Australia would be provided with access to medical treatment.

A parliamentary inquiry investigating the bill has received more than 30 submissions, with unanimous support for the legislative amendment.

The UNHCR and Human Rights Watch were among those to support a more humane and cost-effective approach to achieving “immigration enforcement goals”.

The UN lambasted the government, saying it had a legal responsibility towards the safe settlement of asylum seekers under international rules.

The agency said:

The government of Australia cannot seek to divest itself of responsibility or limit jurisdiction and responsibility under international law for those taken to Nauru or Papua New Guinea.

Its submission described observing first-hand how the physical and psychological health of asylum seekers and refugees transferred offshore by Australia had deteriorated over the last decade.

Human Rights Watch said 12 asylum seekers had died since 2013, when the offshore processing policy was introduced.

The organisation also pointed out Australian taxpayers had been left to pay the exorbitant bill.

Salmon company Tassal tried to block release of report on antibiotic use, documents show

Tasmania’s largest salmon company, Tassal, sought to block the release of monitoring reports submitted to the state’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) after using more than two tonnes of antibiotics at two of its fish farms.

In early January 2022, Tassal and Huon Aquaculture reported outbreaks of vibrio, a bacterium the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association says can cause an infection with a “high mortality rate”.

Read more here:

Labor says NSW on track to build more trains if elected

Some 1,000 apprentices will hop on board a manufacturing push to build trains in NSW if Labor is voted into power next month, AAP reports.

Labor announced the creation of three centres in the Hunter, Illawarra and western Sydney at a cost of $42m to form the vocational backbone needed to build trains, buses and ferries.

Labor leader Chris Minns told reporters at Lake Macquarie today:

There is a proud tradition of train building in the Hunter. It’s been happening in this region for over 100 years and I firmly believe that Australians are world leaders when it comes to engineering and manufacturing – they just need a government in this state that’s going to back local and buy local.

We’re determined to change government policy to make sure that we can build trains right here in NSW.

The opposition said 1,000 jobs building trains in the region would be created in its first term through Domestic Manufacturing Centres of Excellence, run by Tafe.

Minns said relying on overseas contractors had blown the budget for the Liberal-National coalition government in the top six transport infrastructure projects by 40 to 50% and domestic manufacturing was needed to jump start the economy.

Nothing will change unless there’s a change of government. We believe in domestic manufacturing and we’ve got the policies to back it up.

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