National: Turnbull Announces Security Briefing Plans for Political Leaders amid Concerns of Cyber Attacks

Defence intelligence officials will be giving security briefings to Australia’s political party leaders next month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday.

Turnbull said the briefing plan was prompted by concerns following a United States intelligence report claiming that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections through cyber means.

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Homeland Security said in a report that Russian intelligence agents had allegedly hacked into and leaked the emails of the Democratic National Committee.

“This is the new frontier of warfare — the new frontier of espionage. It’s the new frontier of many threats to Australian families, to governments, to businesses,” Turnbull said.

“We all have a role to play to ensure our cyber security and that includes the custodians of our electoral system and democracy.”

Turnbull’s cyber security adviser, Alastair MacGibbon will be joining officials from the Australian Cyber Security Centre to brief the politicians.

Assistant Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said that while there was no indication that Australia had been targeted, it was important to raise awareness among political leaders in the country.

“We have seen no indication whatsoever that anyone has sought to use cyber influence on our elections or on our electoral system, but obviously our democracy goes to who we are as Australians and we have to do everything we can to protect that,” Tehan told the ABC.

Labor has accused Turnbull of putting his political purposes ahead of national security concerns by announcing the briefing through the media.

“It is a long-standing convention that the activities of our intelligence agencies and specific security vulnerabilities are not made public or discussed publicly in detail,” wrote shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus in a letter to the prime minister. “This is irresponsible in the extreme – Australians have every right to expect their prime minister would put national security ahead of their own political purposes.”

National: Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson Resigns Amid Conflict with George Brandis

Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson has resigned after an open conflict with Attorney-General George Brandis, following the latter’s decision to restrict parliament members’ access to the former’s legal advice.

As Junkee’s Osman Faruqi explained, Brandis’s legally-binding decision in May to restrict access meant that “no minister, including the Prime Minister, could seek legal advice [from Gleeson] without going through Brandis”.

Gleeson said he had been left out of the discussions surrounding public matters such as anti-terror legislation and same-sex marriage. Brandis has been reported seeking advice on same-sex marriage from former Solicitor-General David Bennett after rejecting Gleeson’s advice.

The outgoing chief legal officer also said his resignation does not indicate a backtrack from “any position I have taken in relation to matters of controversy between us”.

“It is not Mr Gleeson who should have resigned today – it is Senator Brandis,” Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said. “The Commonwealth has lost from its service a great legal mind and one of the most experienced constitutional lawyers in this country as its most senior legal adviser.”

“It’s imperative that we have somebody of absolute integrity [for the Solicitor-General role], it’s imperative that we have somebody who is not afraid to give advice which will be potentially distasteful to the government of the day,” Law Council of Australia president, Stuart Clark said.

“We had that person in Justin Gleeson.”