Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson
Shadow Minister for Communications
Interview with Chris Smith, Credlin, Sky News
23 September 2022
Chris Smith: Joining me now is Liberal Senator and shadow communications minister Sarah Henderson. Sarah, welcome. We’re still awaiting all the details, but this could be our worst ever cyber attack.
Senator Henderson: Chris, good evening, and there is no doubt that this is a very serious data breach. It could be the worst we’ve ever seen in Australian history and I do really feel for Optus. They are trying desperately to protect their customers under the most egregious circumstances. As the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton pointed out, we have seen very little said by this government. What steps are they taking?
And as for Michelle Rowland, the Communications Minister for Labor, she’s completely missing in action. As I’ve made clear, this must be a wakeup call for the Albanese Government to take action on the safety and privacy online of all Australians.
There’s things that the government can do right now, including enacting the Online Privacy Act, which was an initiative of the Coalition, including to protect children from things like data harvesting and location tracking. And yet we’ve seen absolutely nothing. And also, as the Cyber Shadow Minister James Paterson has pointed out – he has called on the government to detail the steps that are being taken – but so far, Chris, there has been very, very little action from this government.
Chris Smith: To your credit, you’ve been calling for this for months for tougher online privacy, and those data protection laws you’ve mentioned. But these calls have fallen on deaf ears. Michelle Rowland needs to start learning and act fast. OK, they’ve got other things on their plate right now; but when it comes to the Communication Minister, it doesn’t get more serious than this.
Senator Henderson: Well, this is extremely serious. Now, this is a slightly different issue, of course, to the cyber attack, but it is indicative of the Albanese Governments refusal to act quickly. I mean, there has been a review that’s been pushed through to the Department of Home Affairs by Claire O’Neil, but that review won’t even be known until next year. All of us, Julian Leeser, James Paterson and myself and of course, Peter Dutton, have called for immediate action. We need all regulatory options on the table.
But of course, at the moment for Optus customers, there’s obviously some warnings about being extra vigilant in relation to their data. This is very serious and we absolutely do need to know what has happened.
Chris Smith: I want to turn to Treasurer Jim Chalmers as the US Federal Reserve issues fresh recession warnings and rate rises. He’s so pessimistic, Jim Chalmers, he’s warning that the worst is yet to come. But we know the global economy is facing tough times, but we’ve just seen a surprise addition of $50 billion come through from higher commodity prices.
We have record low unemployment and the Treasurer is going to cut spending dramatically in that October budget. But all he seems to be doing is driving down confidence. That is a dangerous thing to do.
Senator Henderson: It’s very dangerous. He doesn’t want to admit that the Coalition left the economy in a very strong position, a AAA rated economy, of course, very low unemployment, very strong terms of trade. So we are seeing a treasurer that doesn’t want to acknowledge the hard work of the Coalition, the $50 billion turnaround in the deficit and of course, more, I hope, good news to come on that score.
What he’s promised is a bread and butter budget. So that means higher taxes, higher spending, and I am particularly concerned about the attack that Labor is planning in the regions. Right across rural and regional Australia, whether it’s regional communications, infrastructure or roads, they are looking for cuts to make. I am extremely concerned that they are going to look to regional communities. I am, like my Coalition colleagues, calling on Labor not to attack the regions.
Chris Smith: Now of course, most of next week will be taken up with debates about integrity commissions and the model that has been put forward by the Teals, by the Greens, by Labor, by you guys. So we’ll put that aside, we’ll get that out of our head because it’ll send you mad next week. But let’s talk about the Grand Final tomorrow at the MCG, back in heavenly territory, of course. Cats or the Swans?
Senator Henderson: Look, Chris (waving balloons!) what do you think? I am Geelong through and through, a Geelong girl, I love the Cats, all I can say is Go Cats. They are a wonderful team, underpinned by incredible values. I’ll be there tomorrow and I’m so excited. I’m keeping everything crossed that the cats can get over the line.
Chris Smith: And Gazza Ablett’s son is turning up. He’ll be on the field as well. Great gesture to the Ablett family, huh?
Senator Henderson: Oh, that is so beautiful. Joel Selwood will take him across and it’s a really very strong family club, as I say, underpinned by wonderful values. And what a heart-warming story for Gary Ablett and his family and of course, his son Levi. Just so incredible. I can’t wait. They are a magnificent club. When the Cats go well, Geelong goes well, our regional economy goes well and we are all just so excited. So I say, Go Cats!
Chris Smith: An economic revival through the Geelong Cats. Why not? Sarah Henderson, good luck tomorrow. Thank you very much for your time tonight.
Senator Henderson: Thank you, Chris.