For a government supposedly committed to removing red tape, the Abbott government sure does a lot of regulating.

In its short stint in power it has imposed not one but two internet censorship schemes, including one at the behest of the world’s biggest copyright companies. It has also introduced Australia’s biggest mass surveillance scheme by requiring communications companies to retain a record of our communications for two years — mostly at their own expense.

Now, as part of a long-running process called the Telecommunications Sector Security Reform, the Attorney-General’s Department wants to impose draconian new laws on telecommunications providers and ISPs that would give the Attorney-General power to direct them in relation to security matters. The government want to force telcos to do more to protect their infrastructure from attack.

“Critical infrastructure protection” — a process whereby the government works with major providers to develop redundancy and recovery plans in the event of major failures — is not a bad idea in itself. But in the hands of the AGD it has become yet another power-grab by national security bureaucrats.

Telcos and ISPs are right to strongly object to a vague and unlimited power for a politician to seize control of their infrastructure and direct their business operations. And from a government that pretends to be “open for business”, it’s another example of blatant hypocrisy.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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