Issue No 23: 20 September 2018
Comms Essentials on Space and Satellite
Wednesday 26 September 2018
This Communications Alliance Comms Essentials seminar will focus on developments in the space and satellite sectors and their interaction with the broader telecommunications and next-gen service environment.
The seminar will provide insights into the early progress, work program and international orientation of the newly founded Australian Space Agency. It will also consider the challenges of managing spectrum, domestically and internationally, that come with increasing growth and innovation in the provision of satellite service and the use of those services in space sciences. We will also hear from Boeing about the challenges and opportunities in Australia for a global player in the aerospace and defence arena.
SPEAKERSThe Australian Space Agency
Speaker: Dr Megan Clark AC, Head of the Australian Space Agency
Spectrum Management Challenges and Outlook
Speaker: James Cameron, Authority Member, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
Boeing Australia: Challenges and Opportunities
QA - Facilitator: John Stanton, CEO, Communications Alliance
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Communications Alliance members and other stakeholders.
Following is the text of an Opinion article written by Communications Alliance and published in The Australian Newspaper on 18 September
Dutton Spying Bill Sparks Record Consensus
The Department of Home Affairs has just set a new speed record of sorts.
In the space of a few weeks Peter Dutton’s bureaucrats and spooks have built a huge global coalition of cyber stakeholders – all of them shocked by and opposed to elements of the Government’s new Encryption Bill.
The proposal to cement a breath-taking expansion of Australian security powers over telcos, internet players, IT companies, electronics manufacturers, installers, facility owners, component and software suppliers – you name it really… – both here and abroad, has captured attention across the world.
The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, as it is formally known, has sparked vocal concern from tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter, industry representatives of all the major telecommunications companies in Australia, the Australian IT industry, consumer rights advocates, international and local universities and even the global body that oversees the standards and protocols that govern the internet
The legislation is complex, but at its heart are two types of Notices that security agencies can use to direct communications providers (a definition that now includes the broad church of players mentioned above) to do almost anything required to help the Government access personal communications that have been encrypted. Encrypted, of course, to protect the privacy of those sending and receiving the message.
Security agencies argue that the increasing prevalence of encryption makes it harder for them to track down criminals and other ‘bad actors’ who can hide behind the walls of encryption while planning harmful or otherwise illegal acts.
That is true and it’s a problem that everyone wants to help solve.
Sadly, most critics believe that the Encryption Bill risks making matters worse, to the detriment of Australian industry, consumers and even the very fabric of the internet.
The Bill, for example, can force telcos or device manufacturers to install, maintain, test or use software (read, ‘spyware’) given to them by security agencies and designed to get around the barriers of encryption. Telcos and communications providers players can be forced to modify the services they provide to customers, to create a weakness that the agencies can exploit.
The problem with that, as many have pointed out, is that a vulnerability created for the agencies can equally be a vulnerability that criminals can discover and exploit – leaving services and the rights and safety of consumers mortally compromised.
The Government has argued throughout that it is not trying to create “backdoors” into devices or services. True perhaps – but who needs a backdoor once you have removed the roof?
The Bill might also put Australian companies which have an offshore presence in an invidious position by requiring them to break the laws of foreign countries. If other countries enact similar legislation, foreign operators with a physical or virtual presence in Australia could be compelled to break our laws.
This scenario is particularly troubling to those who suspect that the Australian Bill is a stalking horse for the Five Eyes group of nations – US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – which, the theory goes, want to see if the Aussies can get away with such sweeping measures, making it easy for other countries to do likewise.
Such fears were fanned by a joint statement of the Five Eyes nations earlier this month, pointing to “technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures” being potentially necessary to ensure access to encrypted communications.
Other concerns include that the Bill will have anticompetitive outcomes that damage Australia. The legislation could be used to direct the activities of an offshore player that sells only one – yes, one – service or gadget in Australia and to only one Australian user. If you are a global supplier for whom Australia is a small market, why would you court the risk involved in selling here at all? Does Australia risk becoming a technological backwater, with all that entails for international competitiveness?
One startling intervention in recent days came from the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) – the global body that manages the governance of the internet. While stressing that it does not usually review legislation, the IAB was moved to formally warn the Australian Government in a submission that the draft legislation, if enacted more broadly, “may result in the fragmentation of the internet”, while also seeing Australian views ignored in global governance fora.
Political commentary on the proposed legislation has so far been limited to the Australian Greens, who oppose it. When introduced to Parliament, the Bill will almost certainly be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) – a cross-party group that has in recent years taken a supportive and bipartisan approach to almost anything that comes before it bearing a ‘national security’ tag.
The Encryption Bill will be a test of the Committee’s willingness to listen to and assess a global chorus of concern.
Whether the Government even bothers to produce a revised draft of the Bill in light of the submissions it has received, and how long it gives the PJCIS to inquire into the legislation, will both be telling pointers as to whether it is serious about consultation and balance, or determined to ignore local and offshore experts in favour of its pre-baked ‘solution’.
100th Anniversary of the First Radio Reception in Australia
This coming Saturday, 22 September, marks the centenary of the transmission and reception of the first direct wireless message from the UK to Australia.
This first ‘official’ message was a Morse code exchange on 22nd September 1918 sent under the direction of the celebrated Guglielmo Marconi, from the Australian Prime Minister, William “Billy” Hughes.
The message was transmitted from a mountaintop in Caernarfon in the Welsh region of Snowdonia. It was received by Ernest Fisk, head of AWA, at the experimental wireless station attached to his residence “Lucania” in Pymble on Sydney’s leafy North Shore.
Hughes had returned to the UK after reviewing the Australian Armed Forces in Amiens, France - a politically sensitive visit given the horrific losses suffered both by the Australians and other commonwealth and allied forces.
The historic first message, sent at 1.25pm Sydney time, read: "I have just returned from a visit to the battlefields where the glorious valour and dash of the Australian troops saved Amiens and forced back the legions of the enemy, filled with greater admiration than ever for these glorious men and more convinced than ever that it is the duty of their fellow-citizens to keep these magnificent battalions up to their full strength. W.M. Hughes, Prime Minister."
Using radio to reach Australia in 1918 required a 400 kilowatt long wave transmitter which Marconi claimed at the time was the biggest in the world. Powered from a nearby hydroelectric power station, the transmitter was located on the top of the Cefn-du Mountain in Snowdonia and coupled to ten 400 foot masts. Locals remarked that snow never settled near the site due to the heat from the power and transmission lines.