National

New powers to protect vital infrastructure

By AAP Newswire

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will have a last-resort power to force operators of Australia's vital energy and transport assets to beef up security.

Under laws which took effect this week, Mr Dutton will have increased powers to curb risks of sabotage, espionage and coercion in critical electricity, gas, ports and water infrastructure.

A register will be established of Australia's highest-risk critical infrastructure assets, including information on asset ownership, access and control.

About 165 assets in the electricity, gas, water and ports sectors have been identified as critical enough to be subject to the new measures.

Mr Dutton said he wanted to work with businesses to ensure Australia's infrastructure was properly protected from sabotage.

"We do see potential attacks and actual attacks by state actors and by non-state actors particularly in the cyberspace," Mr Dutton told reporters in Queensland.

"I am worried about whether or not some even quasi-government organisations have the proper protections in place."

He said autonomous cars and people being remotely monitored for health reasons were part of a future in which security would be increasingly important.

"We need to make sure we have the infrastructure and telecommunications networks which are able to withstand the hacks and attacks people know exist in their own businesses and own homes," he said.

Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack backed Mr Dutton's increased powers.

"We need to make sure as a nation that we take every precaution and every step needed to ensure that facilities with infrastructure are safe," Mr McCormack told Sky News on Friday.

Senior cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said there were a range of steps in place before Mr Dutton would use his last-resort power.

"I think that all Australians would expect us to ensure appropriate security arrangements are in place to protect our national interest," Senator Cormann said.