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Behind proposals for a new national security strategy

Written by: (Contributed) on 9 May 2020


Proposals by a major government advisory lobby organisation, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), for a new national security strategy should be viewed as a matter of concern by all progressive people and organisations. (1)

The fact the proposals have included a widened definition of what is considered national security with reference to a new style of Cold War, has projected concern to domestic factors and civil society, particularly in light of recent technological developments.
Australians, as shown by recent developments, have few workable safeguards when dealing with the massive erosion of civil liberties which has already taken place and how they have been used to penalise ordinary working people, while strengthening the hands of the business-classes.
The ASPI proposal to have a national security adviser directly for the Prime Minister raises serious questions about the creation of another senior government official, with a new set of networks. The PM already has an Office of National Assessments (ONA) for round-the-clock intelligence gathering, analysis and personal briefings.
How many more spies does the Morrison government need? 
The ASPI proposals acknowledge traditional security considerations include defence, intelligence and foreign policy concerns. They now also want the definition of national security broadened to include health and bio-security, climate, human security, security of supply of petrol, oils and lubricants, the ever-expanding range of cyber-security challenges and university and industry research and development. (2)
Such a definition reveals a vast expansion of intelligence-gathering capacity into domestic considerations and civil society, which subsequently raises questions about accountability and security of the information itself. Numerous questions arise from everyday considerations: Will the new national security strategy include those involved having access to Centrelink, Medicare and Australian Tax Office records together with other personal information?
Reference in the ASPI publication about a 'new style of Cold War' raise further questions about those involved in what are considered sensitive positions and their access to information regarded as being useful to adversaries. The contentious issue of security vetting is not covered in the ASPI document.
The ASPI document has also called for increased defence provision which would also entail greater powers for intelligence-gathering.
A further consideration concerning intelligence-gathering has arisen with the recent introduction of a COVIDSafe app modelled upon Singapore's Trace Together facilities for tracking COVID-19 through mobile telephones. It was publicised by the Australian government mid-April and eventually introduced on Sunday 26 April amid numerous concerns about confidentiality. (3)
It took about 48 hours for serious questions to arise about a possible hacking of the app.
On the 28 April the Australian Federal Police begin an investigation following images of an SMS message from what was taken to be the COVID-19 tracking app publicised on social media, alerting recipients they were more than 20 kms from their place of residence and required to telephone: 1300 169 468, presumably to explain their movements. (4) For all intents and purposes the tracking app appeared to have been hacked or compromised.
While later media coverage about matters arising with the COVIDSafe app included a so-called independent body, Cyber Security Co-operative Research Centre and Data 61, it did little to dispel concern for many people about the expansion of state power. (5) Many people remain apprehensive about the whole security matter, for good reason.
The media coverage stated the app was not trackable, although did not elaborate about the mobile telephone to which it was linked. Through a SIM card and the device, a mobile telephone can to be easily monitored. Such facilities are used on the regular basis for investigations.
There is also the question about information contained in a mobile telephone and standard meta-data, which on occasions has been allowed as evidence in legal cases. The claim, by federal government, that the COVIDSafe app does not store meta-data has also raised questions about how it is removed, when a standard mobile telephone accumulates such information.
It is no surprise, therefore, to find a recent study of attitudes of Australian people toward the federal Morrison coalition government has revealed support is steadily falling due to their 'steadily mounting loads of fibs, lies, spin and evasion'. (6) It is not difficult to find everyday examples.
We should be on our guard when dealing with the likes of Scott Morrison and his cronies in the ASPI who are now lobbying for changes to national security provision, particularly in light of recent announcements where economic prospects are forecast 'to be the weakest seen in almost a 100 years'. (7)
With federal government debt likely to reach $1 trillion by next year, linked to the problem of weak economic growth, longer-term unemployment and bank forecasts of a massive financial crisis on the way, those concerned are already lobbying Canberra to ensure the present system is fortified and ordinary working people pay for the problems of the business-classes.
No way!

1.     After COVID-19, ASPI, May 2020; and, National Security Strategy can help us build key alliances, Weekend Australian, 2-3 May 2020.
2.     Weekend Australian, ibid., 2-3 May 2020.
3.     Contact tracing app, The New Daily 21 April 2020; and, Big Brother is already watching, The New Daily, 27 April 2020.
4.     Police Investigate, The New Daily, 28 April 2020.
5.     News, Channel 9, 8.45 am., 3 May 2020; and, App is good for us, Australian, 4 May 2020.
6.     We're paying the price for the government's deceit, The New Daily, 3 May 2020.
7.     'Trillion dollar debt', by 2021, Australian, 28 April 2020.



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