Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has said that he doesn’t support an expansion of the Australian Signals Directorate’s mandate to include “spying” within Australia, but has called for a “sensible discussion” of a domestic role for the ASD.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) last month raided the home of a senior News Corp journalist over a 2018 Daily Telegraph story about a secret proposal to give the ASD an on-shore role.
Dutton said that any suggestion the government supported the ASD “spying on Australians” is “complete nonsense”. However, the minister indicated he would favour empowering the ASD to attack, for example, domestic live-streaming of child abuse if that was necessary to disrupt its broadcast.
“Similarly in relation to a cyber attack on our Australian banks,” Dutton told ABC’s Insiders program.
“If people weren’t able to tap and go and pay and conduct their business for four or five days if the system was out, I think that people would, by about the second or third hour, let alone a day, be demanding ‘What is the government is doing to put it back online?’”
At the moment the government doesn’t “have the sophistication or capacity to be able to mount a counter-attack or ... have the technical capacity to be able to deal with that,” Dutton said.
“I think there needs to be a sensible discussion about whether or not we've got the ability to deal with threats that we face,” Dutton said, citing the mammoth ANU data breach and attacks on Australian political parties, although there has been no suggestion either involved some kind of local hacking outfit.
In 2017 the government expanded the mandate of the ASD, empowering the agency to play a role in countering off-shore cyber crime activity.