Private sector involvement in national security management

Alena Titterton writes:

The ties between the business community and the Government in co-ordinating management of national security matters continue to strengthen with the sixth meeting of the Business-Government Advisory Group on National Security being held in Canberra today. This is the first BGAG meeting since the Federal Government’s National Security Statement was released.

The Prime Minister, when delivering the National Security Statement in Parliament on 4 December 2008 stated:

“I would like to emphasise two other assets, outside of government, which make an important contribution to our national security—they are business and the general community. In some areas, up to 90 per cent of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. Our economy and our future as a trading nation depend on our ability to protect national assets such as our airports, ports, bridges, and water and power facilities from catastrophic failure. We will work with the private sector, and state and territory governments, to protect this infrastructure and the people visiting our national icons and monuments and other places where large numbers of people gather. The business community has a great deal of knowledge and expertise and plays a vital role in our combined efforts.”

The BGAG, which is chaired by the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, was formed as a result of the business community’s desire to have a continued engagement with Government on national security issues expressed during the Business – Government Ministerial Forum on National Security held in June 2004. The BGAG provides an opportunity for business leaders to advise the Federal Government of national security issues and a forum for the Government to discuss with business new security regulatory initiatives and developments. Business representatives are drawn from companies which have responsibility for significant infrastructure assets in Australia.

Attendees at today’s meeting included business leaders from Qantas, Telstra, Westfield, Rio Tinto, Santos, Accor, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia.

Government representatives included the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus and senior officials from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department.

It is unclear whether Duncan Lewis, Australia’s National Security Advisor was present at the BGAG meeting today.

Among the agenda items of today’s meeting were the following:

• noting the role of business in national security and resolving to continue the business-government partnership to strengthen Australia’s national security and ensure a safe and secure environment for the Australian community;
• noting the Government’s security reform agenda as set out in the National Security Statement and the commitment to a strong partnership between governments and business;
• receiving a briefing from Telstra on security threats emerging in the media and communications arena; and
• receiving an update on disaster risks and the role for business in disaster resilience strategies.

For more information, see the Communique here.

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