Australian politicians have admitted they do not know enough about technology despite being increasingly asked to legislate on the emerging threats of the digital world.
After contacting 24 MPs from the last parliament, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a report on Tuesday showing many did not feel they possessed adequate knowledge on artificial intelligence, quantum technology, cyber security and critical infrastructure and did not know where they could learn more.
“We are probably getting most of (our) cybersecurity information (from) Hollywood,” one politician was quoted as saying in the report.
On quantum computing and engineering, another parliamentarian said “I read and see that it’s something that there is a lot of Australian interest and activity in, but I couldn’t explain it to you”.
Put bluntly, “they openly admitted to being struck by how little they know”, the report said.
While Australian politicians want to learn more, getting parliamentarians up to speed could present issues.
“You see this in the very large discrepancy in knowledge and technological literacy – some people have made an effort; some people just throw their hands in the air,” one MP said.
In March, US politicians were lambasted across social media after their attempts to grill TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew demonstrated a laughable and misinformed understanding of the internet.
To prevent Australian parliamentarians from falling down the same path, ASPI recommends creating an education program on critical technologies and cyber security.
Their report also found that politicians believed they were vulnerable to cyber attacks with some lacking confidence in the security of government networks, and one-third of respondents claiming they never felt safe online.
“I treat my mobile phone as if it’s an open line of communication to the CCP, because that’s basically what it is,” one MP said.
State-backed attacks on critical infrastructure was MPs biggest concern, followed by foreign interference.
Broadly, the politicians believed Australia needed to keep up with technological developments to ensure national security and prosperity in the future, suggesting an integrated strategy on data management, improving digital literacy among politicians and the public and setting up cyber and critical infrastructure standards.
On Monday, dock operator DP World Australia was forced to close port operations in four major cities after detecting a cyber attack, just over a year after 10,000 Optus customers had their licence, passport, and Medicare numbers stolen and leaked online following a similar breach.
The government has introduced new laws which will classify telecommunications companies as critical infrastructure to bring their cyber security reporting requirements in line with energy companies, hospitals and ports.
(Australian Associated Press)