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PJCIS Report on SoCI Bill

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) completed its review on the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020 and the Statutory Review of the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018.

As our members have been following the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (SoCI) since our first briefing on this subject back in March, the next step in the process has been completed as the PJCIS handed down their review.

The report is lengthy but reflects the complex nature and importance of the legislation before the House.  The Committee recognised the broad reach and impact of the SoCI Bill.  Importantly, the Committee acknowledged the regulatory costs that will be imposed on industry in an economy suffering from lockdowns and associated impacts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Committee has made fourteen recommendations.  The most important of these is to split the current legislation into two separate Bills:

  • Bill 1 – to proceed with Government Assistance Measures, notification requirements, the asset definitions and meanings and with amendments to the ASD Criminal Code and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.
  • Bill 2 – The Positive Security Obligations and CI Risk Management Program, Systems Of National Significance (with Enhanced Cyber Security Obligations) but the amendment should also be presented to the PJCIS for another review.

The Committee recommended that Bill One be passed immediately and that a much closer consultation process with industry should occur before Bill Two is submitted to the House.  Additionally, once Bill Two is introduced it will trigger an immediate review of that Bill by the PJCIS, including a review of the operational effectiveness of Bill One to that point in time.

There are not many sitting days left in 2021.  We will have a Federal election in 2022 which will also place pressure on the House.  Notwithstanding, the Committee heard from Home Affairs Secretary that the current cyber threat level posed to our critical infrastructure was dire and escalating.  It was in this context that 'urgency' was supported by the ACSC and several other agencies which are reflected in the recommended 'immediate passage' of Bill One.  Stay tuned.

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