Minister Rishworth interview on Weekend Today


JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: Now onto more serious matters and the latest in the Medibank data breach. The Albanese Government launching a new joint task force that will hunt down cyber criminals before they strike. To discuss this, let's bring in the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth and Nationals Leader David Littleproud. Good morning to both of you. We'll start with you, Amanda. While this obviously is welcome news, why has it taken two major cyber-attacks for the Government to do this?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Of course, we've been working very hard. First with the Optus breach, but then of course with this Medibank breach. What we have when it comes to the Medibank breach is a very sophisticated, as we've identified most likely, an international hacker. So we have put the best in the country onto tracking these criminals down. What they have done is absolutely appalling and we have put, as a priority, our best law enforcers onto this. There is unfortunately an increasing potential attack against Australians, but our response is very important as well. I would encourage anyone that's been affected to contact the one stop shop in which people can get assistance. And I would also urge social media companies to be responsible, not access this data that's been released on the web along with the Australian public and media organisations.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: David, getting the best law enforcement on the job sounds like a good thing but shouldn't they have already been doing that? Do you think the Government has done enough?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD, LEADER OF THE NATIONALS: It was a wake-up call with Optus, and Medibank is now the next phase in this. And I'm a customer of Medibank so I'm caught up in this, as is the Prime Minister. We had some ransomware legislation that was to be put up about a month and a half ago and we're just saying to the Government, let's, actually expedite this, let's work together, let's make sure we get this right, because this is people's private data that's being shared on the dark web for reasons that shouldn't be put out there. So let's actually work together on this. There's an opportunity to actually expedite it. We're just saying to the government let's see the urgency in this. There's a lot of platitudes, a lot of saying, ‘yeah, we're very upset about this’. I am, too. These people are scumbags, as Claire O'Neil has said. But it comes down to action. And action isn't about words. It's actually about getting the legislation in, lifting the penalties, making sure that we do empower our men and women who are the best in the world to go after these people. And we have them. And so just give them the tools to go and do it. That's all we're saying.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Yeah. You don't want to wake up tomorrow and find out another bank or telco company has fallen victim to one of these scammers. Let's move on to another issue now. And the Prime Minister is on the world stage this week. He's rubbing shoulders with other leaders at a series of international meetings. David, there's still hopes that he'll be meeting with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Yet under the previous government, the Morrison Government, you guys couldn't even get them to pick up the phone. 

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, look, things are difficult with China and they're going to continue to be difficult with China. I've got to say, the Prime Minister and Penny Wong got this right. We don't engage until we get to the basis of them giving away the financial coercive powers that they put on us, on whether it be on beef or grain or on seafood.  We've made it clear and I think the Prime Minister has been strong on this and I've got to congratulate him and Penny Wong about how they've been consistent on this, as we were, about making sure that we will re-engage. The best way to solve any difficulty is through dialogue. But there has to be a basis and there has to be a line in the sand in which you move forward from. We put that line in the sand. I've got to say, the Prime Minister has done a good job in this and I hope he can meet with the Chinese president. That would be a good thing for our nation. But  there has to be a premise of which he has to do that. And I think he's done a good job in living up to what we said. And if he does that, as has Penny Wong, that's a good thing for our nation. But there has to be a line in the sand in which we do it.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Amanda, there isn't any meeting locked in yet. Do you think it will happen? And if it does, will it try to mend all the issues that we currently have with that relationship?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that the Prime Minister is very much interested in a dialogue with China. I must say that the Foreign Minister and Defence Minister have already had a dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. So it is incredibly important. I think through dialogue you do develop mutual respect and you're able to have a conversation. But as the Prime Minister has said we will be able to have discussions where we can, but we will always, stand up for Australia's national interest as well. So I think we're working towards that. Obviously a lot of the meetings haven't been locked in, but we come from the premise that dialogue, conversation does help build mutual respect, which is important. Of course, Australia will be putting the case though that we have products, particularly agricultural products, the best in the world. We absolutely want a market for them in China and I think China will benefit from those products as well. 

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: All right, Amanda and David, thank you both for your time this morning.