New powers to protect vital infrastructure

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has new powers to beef up security for infrastructure projects.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has new powers to beef up security for infrastructure projects.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will have a last-resort power to force operators of Australia's vital energy and transport assets to beef up security.

Under laws which took effect this week, Mr Dutton will have increased powers to curb risks of sabotage, espionage and coercion in critical electricity, gas, ports and water infrastructure.

A register will be established of Australia's highest-risk critical infrastructure assets, including information on asset ownership, access and control.

"While foreign involvement in Australia's infrastructure and economy is welcomed, it does mean our critical infrastructure assets are potentially more exposed than ever," Mr Dutton said in a statement.

About 165 assets in the electricity, gas, water and ports sectors have been identified as critical enough to be subject to the new measures.

Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack backed Mr Dutton's increased powers.

"We need to make sure as a nation that we take every precaution and every step needed to ensure that facilities with infrastructure are safe," Mr McCormack told Sky News on Friday.

Senior cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said there were a range of steps in place before Mr Dutton would use his last-resort power.

"I think that all Australians would expect us to ensure appropriate security arrangements are in place to protect our national interest," Senator Comrann said.

Australian Associated Press