Topics: Microsoft announcement; Australia’s support for Israel;

08:02AM AEDT
Tuesday, 24 October 2023


Journalist: Senator, big announcement in Washington this morning. A $5 billion investment from Microsoft into essentially cybersecurity for Australia working with the ASD. Is this a welcome announcement?


Simon Birmingham: Any investment in Australia is welcome and the previous Coalition government put the single largest $10 billion investment into the Australian Signals Directorate. This is a vote of confidence in the fact that our strategy, our investment in ASD and our cyber security plans are working and are attracting the type of cooperation to help make Australia stronger and safer in the future.


Journalist: It’s been a difficult few years for some in the private sector when it comes to cybersecurity. We’ve seen high profile incidents involving Optus, Medibank, etcetera. Is it wise for the government to be bringing the private sector in to work with the ASD in this way, particularly when it comes to intelligence matters like this?


Simon Birmingham: Cybersecurity is the ultimate private public partnership necessity to make sure that in terms of data and the cooperation is there, we need to ensure that we have a private sector that is able to invest to protect citizens and the data that they need to use. Also, to be able to innovate and to keep our country and our partners and allies at the cutting edge of investment. But ultimately, what we can see here is the Australian Signals Directorate, already well regarded, but thanks to a $10 billion investment by the Coalition in operation REDSPICE is now seen as a hugely credible partner for international companies like Microsoft.


Journalist: Do you have any concerns about the progress of the AUKUS legislation that’s required in the US getting through Congress? The Prime Minister says patience is required here, but does the Anthony Albanese need to come back with certainty that will pass in the reasonably near future?


Simon Birmingham: It’s critical to see the AUKUS legislation passed as quickly as possible. There isn’t time to waste in terms of investing in our national security and ensuring AUKUS capabilities are delivered. Anthony Albanese needs to be doing everything he possibly can to speed the passage of that legislation up while he’s in Washington.


Journalist: I miss the start of what you said. But does the opposition welcome this new deal with Microsoft?


Simon Birmingham: We welcome any new investment in Australia, and this is a big vote of confidence in the strategy the Coalition laid down through a $10 billion investment in the Australian Signals Directorate, making our cybersecurity capabilities in Australia world leading and worthy of partnership with companies like Microsoft.


Journalist: So, are you taking credit for this?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I think this is a decision that Microsoft has made, and Microsoft have given a vote of endorsement to Australia and the Australian Signals Directorate, and that is an endorsement of the strategy laid down by the Coalition through our $10 billion investment of operation REDSPICE into the ASD.


Journalist: Both Australia and the United States have been very firm in their support for Israel during the current Israel-Gaza war, but how do you think Palestinian communities in Australia will see Anthony Albanese standing beside Joe Biden in the White House this week, expressing that support for Israel? Is there a delicate line that has to be walked there to maintain social cohesion in that space?


Simon Birmingham: It’s important that all Australians know they are welcome in Australia, that there is no place for anti-Semitism, nor is there any place for Islamophobia, and that we work to ensure that social harmony here. In Australia, we ask, as people come from all faiths and all walks of life, to come here, that they are welcome to bring their faiths. They are welcome to bring their cultural heritage and backgrounds, but they should leave their differences behind, and they should simply respect one another within Australia. And we see, yes, long standing and difficult differences and conflicts in the Middle East. But on this occasion, it is very, very clear that Hamas acted in the most brutal of ways and that Hamas needs to be removed from a position of power or capability to be able to undertake such terrorist attacks in the future and that is why we should be standing very clearly with Israel in the removal of Hamas from those positions of power or capability. Thank you.