The Federal Attorney General’s Department's Critical Infrastructure Centre (CIC) has released a proposal to introduce new legislation to safeguard Australia’s critical infrastructure - the Security of Critical Infrastructure Bill.
This bill which comprises a policy statement and a plan for practical implementation aims to ensure the continued operation of critical infrastructure in the face of all hazards. WSAA is seeking to submit an industry response and welcomes any comments.
However, it appears to be primarily concerned with foreign ownership, both direct and indirect, and the risk of State-sponsored espionage, sabotage and coercion.
The bill essentially does two things:
- Requiring the commonwealth to maintain a register of all critical infrastructure. For water, this is defined as all water businesses supplying more than 100,000 property connections. There does not appear to be any intention to consider other sectors supplied by that infrastructure.
- Establishing a ‘last resort’ power that will allow the Federal Minister to issue a direction to an 'owner or operator of a critical infrastructure' asset to mitigate significant national risks. The intention is that this power would be in consultation with State government and regulators. It would also be subject to judicial review.
The key areas of interest are:
- Protections and compensation for an impacted water services organisation for a breach of contract following an adverse decision
- The potential risk for an unfunded, direction which requires a manifest change to a service delivery level outside the normal operating licence requirements
- Another directed action requiring an unfunded human and expenditure resource commitment
- The proposed legislation provides for legislative Federal overreach into constitutionally defined State/Territory jurisdictional accountabilities and Regulatory regimes.
The Water Services Sector Group (WSSG) are reviewing the proposal with the CIC on 2 November at their national meeting in Canberra.
The consultation period is currently open, with responses due by the 10 of November. In providing a response it is suggested that you:
- Review and discuss the proposals with their WSSG representative,
- Look to escalate the bill to the attention of your Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer, who may wish to engage with their State/Territory First Ministers Departments and/or Regulators
WSAA is seeking to submit an industry response, and we would welcome any responses you are willing to share. Please forward to Greg Ryan by the 10 November 2017.