Bolstering technology co-operation . . .
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has unveiled her country’s new International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy designed to build a “safe, secure and prosperous Australia, Indo-Pacific region and world enabled by cyberspace and critical technology.” Canberra has committed C$36 million to the strategy, with more than half earmarked to strengthen cybersecurity capacity and technology resilience among its Southeast Asian and Pacific Island neighbours. The funding will improve regional online safety, fight cybercrime and anti-misinformation efforts, and secure and collaborate on new technologies like the internet of things and artificial intelligence.
Mixed reactions . . .
Australia has a government-wide approach to technology policy, with multiple ministries involved in policy formation around online safety and co-operation with like-minded countries in the digital space. However, recent legislation has been criticized for either doing too little or too much to protect citizens and businesses from cybercrime. The Online Safety Bill, tabled in 2020 and still being discussed in parliament, for instance, has received criticism for the sweeping discretionary powers it would grant the country’s eSafety Commissioner. The new strategy announced this week has already been criticized by the opposition Labour Party, which claims the government is not doing enough to address ransomware attacks against Australian businesses.
Foreign policy for cyber-space . . .
Australia experienced large-scale cyber-attacks targeting government offices in 2019 and 2020, with analysts believing a state-based actor launched the 2020 attack. The new strategy may be an attempt to signal to foreign governments that Australia is taking active steps to thwart future attacks. The strategy comes at a time when the Southeast Asia digital trade and business sector is booming, especially as COVID-19 has forced many businesses to adopt online platforms. It presents an opportunity for the Australian government to work with other countries to provide a co-ordinated response to cybercrime and is an attempt by Canberra to influence global standards on cybersecurity and digital technologies.