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Advanced Manufacturing and Defence Industries - National Security

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: State Budget, Economy

Ms O'CONNOR - First of all, I don't support the war machine and we have had this conversation before, but I am very interested in how we protect national security sensitive intellectual property. Is the agency here working with ASIO? For example, what sort of guidance is given by the Department of Defence to make sure that if we are producing national security sensitive defence manufacturing goods or other equipment that the intellectual property is safe and it does not feed into a national security problem? We have seen overseas the theft of highly-sensitive defence technologies and intellectual property.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I do recall a conversation that we had about a defence industry in Tasmania, largely if not all, about protecting rather than weapons and more aggressive action in terms of defence. I reiterate that I am Minister for Defence Industries and not defence in that sense and so your question is more related to the Commonwealth defence minister in that sense rather than defence industries minister. In the Commonwealth there is a defence minister and a defence industries minister.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand that but do you accept the premise of the question about the need to protect manufacturing that is happening here that may have a national security sensitivity?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I can appreciate that. Mr Bowles will talk about that and then Mr Gilmore also wants to add some voice as well.

Mr BOWLES - The companies that are tendering for programs that involve highly sensitive information or technology, part of their tendering process is that they meet the very high standards of information security that Defence requires. That is part of their tendering process. The state government doesn't get access to any of their sensitive information so we have a wall there and that's where, for example, the Advanced Manufacturing Tender Incentive Grant Program - $600 000 over two years - that assists smaller businesses to deal with some of those complexities.

Regarding information that the agency may hold, yes, we do engage regularly with home affairs and the security agencies there regarding their foreign interference arrangements. We're briefed, with all of the other states, in terms of how to manage those risks and when we're engaging with international counterparts we do that hand in glove with DFAT as well.

Mr GILMORE - Defence companies or companies that contribute to defence in our country are subject to the Defence Industry Security Program, which is a relatively new program established by the Commonwealth Government to ensure just what it is that you were talking about. That covers personal security, cyber security, physical security to the varying degrees applicable to whatever the product or service is that that company might be provided.

There are some that are very highly sensitive and are subject to different levels of qualification by the company in the defence industry security program, which is then monitored. Those companies are helped get to that point before they can handle any of that information or provide a product to that level. Then they're monitored appropriately through annual inspections and those sorts of things.

In our unit, we work to help the companies understand the security program, engage with that program and then achieve their qualifications, so they are working appropriately, legally, and creditably within defence.

Ms O'CONNOR - If possible, I would like to understand, Chair, who does that monitoring. Is it undertaken by the Commonwealth agency or does Tasmania have a role in the monitoring?

Mr GILMORE - It's undertaken by the Commonwealth agency. It's Department of Defence, and we assist with it.