Standing up for Canberra

AISA Conference: Innovate | Disrupt | Change

*Acknowledgements omitted*

Over the next two days you will be discussing: Cyber security and what it means for your workforce, cyber security and what it means for your workplace and your workplace culture, cyber security and what it means for micro, small and medium businesses, cyber security skills, cyber crime, cyber laws. 

There will be a lot of conversation about the risks and threats, but also the exciting opportunities of this era of innovation, disruption and change. 


Innovate, disrupt, change

So in an era where disruption rules, suggesting we should hit pause could be seen as radical, even revolutionary.

Suggesting we should occasionally slow the pace of change or say no to some of it could be seen as the most disruptive thing I could venture here today. 

Because not all innovation is good.

And not all change is progress.

So during your discussions over the next two days, under the conference theme banner of innovate, disrupt, change, I encourage you to consider:

  • Why are we innovating, disrupting, changing?
  • Will our innovation advance humanity? In what way?
  • Will it empower humanity? In what way?
  • Will it allow people throughout the world, no matter what their gender, race, religion or nationality, the opportunity to flourish and realise their potential? 
  • Will it benefit the many over the few?
  • Will it work to alleviate poverty, inequality or just reinforce it?
  • Will decency, integrity, democracy, the rule of law, due process be part of its DNA?

Don’t misunderstand me. I welcome the opportunities offered by this age, which were the stuff of science fiction when I was a child.

But as innovators and as people working at the cutting edge, you know there is good innovation.

There is bad innovation.

And there is just plain evil innovation.

This has always been the case. 

But the values that determine what is good, bad and evil also remain eternal, and should remain eternal.

Because these are the lights that guide us on an unchartered path, the unchartered paths we are forging today, as the stars guided navigators at sea for thousands of years. 

If they had not been there - and constant - then many more adventurous disruptors, innovators, change agents would have founded on the rocks.

So today, I encourage you to remember we need wisdom and a strong moral compass to guide our quest for knowledge and innovation. 

We need to pause and think about the kind of world we want as we innovate, disrupt, change.

We need to consider the unintended consequences and alternative applications.

Because the marriage of ubiquitous cameras, facial recognition, massive databases and artificial intelligence can make our cities more efficient and safe.

But they can also breathe Big Brother into life.

Because a fitness bracelet can gut bust and keep us healthy.

But it can also track the perimeters of defence bases from space.

Because a tracking device in a key ring can save us from ourselves.

But it can also allow a control freak boyfriend to monitor his girlfriend’s every move, to stalk her.

Because a doll with a camera can delight your child with its novelty. 

But it can spy on an abused woman fleeing domestic violence by her estranged partner.

So in your discussions over the next two days, I encourage you to consider the innovations we should do, the innovations we should never do, the innovations that should not be allowed and the values and norms that will guide our aim to use those innovations to build a better world.



As the Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence at every conference I attend I underscore the fact that, like national security, cyber security is a largely bipartisan area. But that does not mean the Opposition will not hold the Government to account. That is our job, and the Australian people expect nothing less.

So today I ask:

Where is the clear articulation of the values driving the Government’s cyber security strategy? 

Where is the clear articulation of what we are trying to achieve with the cyber security strategy? 

Where are the deadlines? 

Where are the key performance indicators? 

Because since the release of the strategy there has been a lot of activity on the cyber security front.

A lot of policies. 

A lot of action plans.

A lot of frameworks.

A lot of advisory groups. 

A lot of dialogues. 

And a lot agreements. 

And that is all great work. You are doing great work. 

But I don’t get the sense we are all pulling together towards a common goal. 

Because that common goal hasn’t been defined and agreed. 

And the values underpinning that common goal haven’t been defined or agreed. 


National mission 

What are we as a nation trying to achieve in the cyber security space, the cyber security ecosystem? 

What is our national mission? 

Our unique national mission? 

A unique national mission that is collectively defined, collectively agreed and collectively mobilised.

That ensures all Australians, particularly individuals and micro, small and medium businesses, are kept safe online - and through that our nation is kept safe online, our nation prospers online.

A collective agreement and collective empowerment that has us all signed up to protect our country and each other by:

Swimming between the flags.

Slip, slop, slapping. 

Stopping, reviving, surviving.  

So as I did at the ACSC conference earlier this year, over the next two days I encourage you to think about that mission, to define that mission, to clarify the values and principles that are driving that mission, the milestones that indicate we are achieving that mission, so industry, government, Parliament, businesses small and large and individual Australians are all clear on where we are going and what we are trying to achieve in cyber security for our nation. 

Values and principles and a national mission that will guide, prioritise, underpin and focus: 

Our legislation.

Our regulation.

Our defensive posture.

Our offensive posture.

Our skills shortage and skills development. 

Our education and training. 

Our research. 

Our standards.

Our awareness and empowerment campaigns. 

Our cyber culture. 

Our attempts to get more women in this space!

For government.

For industry.

For critical infrastructure.

For individuals.

And for micro, small and medium businesses. 

Values that will guide the way we engage with, and respond, to the norms that will govern cyber space and artificial intelligence. 

Values that ask the questions of Professor Genevieve Bell:

  • Where is the duty of care in this new world?
  • What are the ethics of smart machinery and how do they reflect our modern world?
  • How do we build a world that is not about our worst impulses, but our best?



Disruption and innovation and change are a constant in human affairs. 

The pace might be faster, but we have been down this path many, many, many times and we should learn from our mistakes.

Just over 100 years ago, mustard gas was the latest innovation of war.

It so horrified the combatants with its toll on human life and human suffering that the only positive thing that came from it was the 1925 Geneva Protocol that banned it.

One day.

One month.

One hundred years from Armistice Day, from Remembrance Day, I encourage you to consider the endless possibilities offered by this era of innovation, of disruption, of change.

But in your considerations, your deliberations, your discussions, I also ask you to remember that those endless possibilities can only benefit humanity, can only realise a better world, if we are driven by those values that seek to liberate, not enslave.

Those values that seek to improve lives, not control or harm them.

Those values that unleash potential, not harness it. 

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we have to do. 

So today, let’s ensure the innovations of the future do not require international protocols banning them a decade later.