American Australian Association Veterans’ Lunch

April 25, 2019


The best way we can honour the diggers of over a century ago is to support the servicemen and women, the veterans and their families of today.

So to all the servicemen and women, to all the veterans and their families - I thank you for your service. Our two great nations’ freedoms have been hard won and are hard held by you.

Thank you to all the corporate leaders here today for contributing over the last two years more than $2.0 million to the American Australian Veterans’ Scholarship Fund, supporting American and Australian veterans transition from military life to successful civilian careers.

This is a cause close to my heart and that of my family. Our son- in-law James Brown served in the Australian Army in Iraq and Afghanistan and through him I met many young veterans of his generation. We spent a lot of time discussing the challenges of moving into civilian life and the insights of those young men and women, many imparted over a beer at the North Bondi RSL, informed not just our increased support for veterans’ health and rehabilitation, but also the Prime Ministers Veterans Employment Initiative which I launched in November 2016.

Modelled on United States programs, the Veterans Employment Initiative has been taken up enthusiastically by the Australian business community as well as the public sector. And as our former CDF ACM Binskin will confirm military service is made much more attractive to would be recruits by the knowledge that the skills and experience gained in a military career are highly valued by employers.

I am delighted today’s lunch is focused on the Navy. Australia is undertaking the largest peace-time expansion and modernisation of our defence forces and defence industry and at the centre of that is our naval shipbuilding programme.

My Government committed to build 12 Attack Class regionally superior submarines to with France’s Naval Group, 9 Hunter Class future frigates with the UK’s BAE, 12 Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels with Lurssen of Germany and 21 Pacific Patrol boats with Austal of Western Australia.

And as the Annapolis midshipmen will see in the course of their careers, all of our new vessels have interoperable combat management systems enabling seamless collaboration with the US Navy.

With expectations that half of the world's submarines and almost half of the world’s advanced military aircraft will operate in the Indo-Pacific region, our agility and innovation in this area will ensure Australia is well equipped to meet future challenges. As Prime Minister, I ensured all our new naval vessels will be built in Australia.

Our naval shipbuilding program is a multigenerational national enterprise that will grow into a continuous sustainable and sovereign Australian defence industry with all of the spin off businesses and industries that entails.

I won’t today traverse the politics of the South China Sea or the rapid development of navies in the region, in particular the PLAN whose 70th anniversary has been celebrated in a Fleet Review at Qingdao this week. But rather discuss the significance of ensuring security in the cybersphere.

Fleets and armies are tangible, and menacing, examples of coercive power, but their usefulness is largely as a deterrent. Once deployed in combat, the consequences are costly and hard to control or calibrate.

However, cyber warfare is very different. There the cost of interference is much lower, and state actors do not by any means have the arena to themselves. It is very hard to deny the origin of a missile, but cyber attacks are notoriously hard to attribute, and that is assuming you know it is going on in the first place.

In other words the cybersphere offers opponents the ability to inflict damage at relatively low cost to themselves, with a high degree of deniability and relatively little prospect of effective retaliation.

And as every day goes by, as our economy becomes more connected in an Internet of Things, our dependence on cyber infrastructure and systems becomes so much greater. Cyber security was at the forefront of my national security strategy, set out in the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy.

Among several initiatives I appointed our first Cyber Security Minister, National Cyber Security Adviser and Cyber Affairs Ambassador as well properly resourcing and enhancing the Australian Signals Directorate (our NSA) as well as the Australian Cyber Security Centre to foster genuine government and private sector collaboration.

Just as the Internet is shared, so must be the effort to keep it, and those connected to it, secure, learning from each other as we all need to do in an environment where new threats are emerging every day.

Which brings me to 5G - the latest evolution of wireless technology.

5G offers greatly increased data rates and much reduced latency, but 5G is more than just faster wireless broadband. It is designed to connect in due course billions of devices from the mundanely domestic fridges and toasters to our electricity grids, water supply, communication and data storage platforms.

5G networks will differ from 4G and 3G networks in several important ways that can increase vulnerability. Our existing networks are divided into core and edge segments. On the edge is the radio access network, the mobile phone towers and antennae that connect directly with user devices like smartphones.

They send signals to the computers at the core which deal with call and data routing, billing, authentication, identity management and lawful interception among other things.

In a 5G network these core functions will be largely virtualized, that is rather than proprietary hardware they will be software running on standard processors and moved to the edge of the network in order to improve latency and increase network capacity and speed.

The core is no more - the intelligence it contained will be distributed throughout the network. In the past we have kept high risk vendors from providing core equipment or capabilities leaving them with the, still very lucrative, market of edge equipment (of which there is obviously a great deal). But with 5G we have had to recognise that core/edge distinction no longer exists. Right now a mobile network operator, like AT&T or Verizon, has just four full service vendors from which to choose for its 5G network equipment.

Two are from China (Huawei and ZTE) and two are from Scandinavia (Nokia and Ericsson). Ferocious competition from the Chinese vendors on price and an absence of mind in Washington and other Five Eyes capitals has got us to the position where, when network security is more important than ever, there is not one 5G vendor from the United States or its Five Eyes allies.

Indeed there isn’t one from Japan either, and the closest new prospect is Samsung of Korea. That’s why, as Prime Minister, I discussed the issue with President Trump and other members of his administration on several occasions and in considerable detail.

I encouraged the President to take the lead and ensure that we had at least one viable and secure 5G vendor from the United States and/or its Five Eyes partners. It is, frankly absurd, that in this arguably the most important enabling technology of our time, the United States and its closest allies like Australia are not leading players.

That’s why I was so pleased to see President Trump announced earlier this month that 5G is now a priority for his government to ensure US companies got up to speed.

He said: “We cannot allow any other country to out-compete the United States in this powerful industry of the future. We are leading by so much in so many different industries of that type, and we just can’t let that happen. The race to 5G is a race America must win.”

There is no doubt In this field to date we have been out competed. I do, though, applaud the President for acknowledging the issue and making it a high priority.

The President finished his remarks in the White House by saying:

“American companies must lead the world in cellular technology. 5G networks must be secure. They must be strong. They have to be guarded from the enemy — we do have enemies out there — and they will be They must cover every community, and they must be deployed as soon as possible. “

He is exactly right.

In August last year my Government’s National Security Committee resolved to set in place a ban on high risk vendors that could not meet our security requirements participating in our 5G networks. High risk vendors we defined as those that could be subject to directions from foreign intelligence services to act contrary to our national security. The Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 makes it abundantly clear that Huawei and ZTE are subject to such obligations and accordingly they were excluded from the 5G rollout in Australia. Australia was the first nation to do so. Our decision was not taken lightly.

I asked our agencies to thoroughly investigate how the risks could be mitigated to allow the two companies to participate. After that very intense research and investigation, their unequivocal advice was that mitigation was not effectively possible. The decision was not a judgement on present or near term threats, but as is more often the case, a long term prudent hedge.

Remember threat is the combination of capability and intent. The former can take years or even decades to put in place, intent on the other hand can change in a heartbeat. Which is why a nation who feels it is surrounded by friends, particularly well armed ones, would be unwise to allow that neighbourly warmth to lead it to neglect its own defences.

As the Australian Signals Directorate, recently observed: “If a state-sponsored adversary has enduring access to staff, software or hardware deployed into a target telecommunication network, then they only require the intent to act in order to conduct operations within the network. This greatly reduces the cost of operating within the network, and by extension this increases the effective likelihood of their doing so. Traditionally, cyber security is premised on raising the cost for an adversary to such an extent that the adversary will not find it worthwhile to compromise a network. When an adversary can persistently and effortlessly pre-position, the effective cost of activity is greatly reduced.”

Some people will say that end to end encryption reduces the risk of malicious interception because what is exfiltrated cannot be read. There is some validity in that, but it does not address what we regard as the major risk, namely an adversary with a permanent beach head in an economy’s most important enabling platform technology would have the ability to make all or parts of the network, or devices and institutions within it, unavailable or unresponsive. In other words there is a lot more to this than simply confidentiality of data.

President Trump appears to be making 5G a priority, in practical terms that will require a response from and cooperation with the telco and technology sectors. It should be, as the President and I agreed, the highest and most urgent priority to retake American and Five Eyes leadership in this critical field.


It is more than a century now since Australians and Americans first went into battle together, at Hamel in France. And ever since then in every major military conflict we have fought together side by side.

The battlefields of 2019 are far more complex than they were a century ago. But now, as then, while technologies have changed, the values we are defending have not. Our cause is that of freedom, defending the self evident human rights of individual to respect and liberty. The threats to those values are more complex and diverse than they were a century ago.

The technology that has done so much good has also given the individual actor, or a small group, a lethality and reach which in years past was only availability to nations. But however freedom’s foes are arrayed, as authoritarian states, or as terrorists as we have recently seen so tragically in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, we can be sure that Australia and the United States will be standing together.

I said at the outset that we best honour the diggers, and the doughboys, of a century ago by supporting the servicemen and women, the veterans and the families of today. And I would add in conclusion, we best honour the values for which th fought, by upholding those democratic values as tenaciously today as our servicemen and women have defended them in every age.


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