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Peter Dutton now responsible for cyber security portfolio

27 August 2018 by Michael Giffney 0 Comments

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has ditched a separate Minister for Cyber Security, instead folding the portfolio into the Home Affairs department under Peter Dutton.

scott morrison and peter dutton

No dedicated cyber-security minister 

In announcing his first Cabinet, Scott Morrison has removed the focus on cyber-security and digital transformation that was a pet priority for former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Delivering a clear message that cyber-security and digital transformation are no longer a priority  there will be no continuation of a specific ministerial cyber-security role and the digital transformation role will not report to the Prime Minister.
The first cyber-focused ministerial role was a key action of the national cyber-security strategy. It was introduced in July 2016, with the appointment of a Minister Assistant to the Prime Minister for Cyber Security. In December last year, the position was upgraded to Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security and moved to the Home Affairs remit.

Rolled into Home Affairs Portfolio

The former Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Angus Taylor, is now the Minister for Energy, and the ministerial role has been dropped. There's now no specific focus on law enforcement and cybersecurity. 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, now has two new ministers working with him but neither of them will bear a title which singles out cyber-security.  Dutton will be supported by an Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Linda Reynolds; and a Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman .
Prime Minister Morrison has suggested the cyber-security focus will be absorbed back into the general ministerial overview and guidance provided by Dutton himself.

“Minister Dutton, as the Minister for Home Affairs, will be focusing on everything from cyber security through to law enforcement, border protection, security agencies, and he’ll have his focus more principally on this security tasks,” Morrison said. 

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Concerns for Strategic Direction

The change will be concerning for those in the information policy industry on several fronts:

  • The new government structure for Australia's cyber defences is only eight weeks old. TheAustralian Signals Directorate  (ASD) became a statutory authority, taking with it the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), on July 1. ASD reports to the Minister for Defence, now Christopher Pyne. Cybersecurity policy development, however, remains within the Department of Home Affairs. How that will work in practice is unclear.

  • Earlier this month the Government launched a consultation on a draft of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, which will strengthen police and intelligence organisations’ ability to request cooperation from tech companies during investigations. In essence it will require 

  • In April, Peter Dutton's head of department Mike Pezzullo proposed the ASD be allowed to monitor Australian citizens. "Secret plan to spy on Aussies," The Sunday Telegraph headlined the story as it outlined the plan to access the emails, bank records and text messages of Australians. At the time the Government said no "formal proposal" had been submitted.

Digital Transformation stays but at a distance

Elsewhere in the cabinet reshuffle, Michael Keenan has retained his oversight of the government’s digital transformation agenda.

In Turnbull's ministry, Keenan was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation. Now he's Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation.

This represents both a positive and a concern for the industry. The role itself is a promotion for the digital transformation portfolio, which has been elevated from the level of assistant minister; however it no longer reports directly into the Prime Minister, instead being further aligned with the Human Services portfolio and at a distance from the leadership.

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