TV interview with Minister Wells and Sarah Abo, Today Show on 29 September 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Wells' TV interview on the Optus cybersecurity breach, National Anti Corruption Commission, and Queen Elizabeth II.

The Hon Anika Wells MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Sport

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SARAH ABO: For more, we're joined by Minister for Sport and Aged Care, Anika Wells in Canberra and deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell in the studio. Thank you both for joining us.

Now the PM has demanded the embattled telco cover the cost of replacing passports for affected clients. But beyond that, Anika, I think the Federal Government can really only fine the company.

$2 million. Is it time, do you think, for our cyber laws to be overhauled in this country?

ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE AND SPORT: Yeah. And that's something that our Minister for Home Affairs and Cybersecurity Clare O'Neil flagged this week in the Parliament when she was giving us all an update on the Omni shambles over at Optus. And I know in my patch I look after aged care for the Federal Government, I'm worried about our older Australians. They're particularly vulnerable in this situation. There are millions of them. Some of them might not have even seen the email yet Sarah, So I want to hear a lot more from Optus about what they're going to do because it really has not been good enough.

SARAH ABO: Well, perhaps they haven't seen the email because they've been sent yet. I mean, that's the problem we're facing, right? So many people that are getting delayed information and the FBI is being brought in now to try and help us navigate through this.

But do you think that sort of highlights our inability to investigate these things properly and adequately ourselves?

ANNA CALDWELL: Absolutely. I think it's another piece of evidence which shows you how shocked we have been by this and how, in a sense, caught on the hop everybody has been, as Anika says, particularly Optus. You know, Optus, this response has been so slow, so shocking. People are highly distressed. And, you know, the need to bring in the FBI certainly does highlight that. You know, and I agree, I think the pressure needs to be put back on Optus to pay for those passports and they need to give the information to people to calm them down sooner rather than later.

SARAH ABO:  And the part I don't understand either, I don't know, Anika, whether you can shed any light on this, but I had a girlfriend of mine who was an Optus customer ten years ago received an email saying that her details - her date of birth or address have all been hacked in this data leak.

I mean, how on earth can this happen… ten years? Why do we have information held for that long?

ANIKA WELLS:  That's a great question that Optus has yet to fully answer for us, because some of the ways that they are required to keep information with respect to federal data and privacy laws, this has nothing to do with that. This is on them. And like I said, there's been some fairly basic breaches and they owe us all an explanation. Like you say, some people don't even know yet that they've been affected by this.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Anna, any friends of yours being affected?

ANNA CALDWELL: Well, yeah, absolutely. My mom has been affected and my mom is an older woman and it's been quite distressing for her because people don't quite understand what it means for them. You know, they think the worst. But really, the truth is nobody actually knows. And that question of why Optus would still have people's details from ten years ago. That needs to be answered.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, it's crazy. It makes you think about your own details and whether you want an Optus customer too. Right. That's right. And let's move on now. And National Anti-Corruption Commission bill will be introduced into Parliament, promising wide ranging retrospective powers.

But hearings won't be held in public unless in exceptional circumstances. And how transparent will it be?

ANIKA WELLS: This is being canvassed this week in the Parliament and Mark Dreyfus, our Attorney-General, has explained the point of that is to give the Commission the ability to make the decision about whether it's public or private. It's for the Commission to decide that rather than politicians like me. But ultimately, given that the point of the bill is scrutiny, I think us all having a discussion about that and the bill being scrutinized is a good thing and it's the first step towards achieving its purpose.

SARAH ABO:  And I guess, we've seen numerous politicians in New South Wales come on down because of the nature of these public hearings in Victoria it's much more private and the Premier being questioned behind closed doors too.

Do you worry then that the public won't actually get an insight into what's going on?

ANNA CALDWELL: Yeah, it's really interesting. I mean, as a journalist, your first position is always that things should be a light should be shown on things, and they should be known by the public. But on the flip side, I do actually really see the case for the Commission to make that decision. You don't want scenarios where people's lives and reputations are being completely destroyed before conclusion has been reached necessarily.

So I think the balance is probably about right. Interestingly, in relation to New South Wales, I read a statistic in the ABC report this morning that only 5% of New South Wales hearings have been public and anyone who's been watching them, it feels like a lot more than 5%.

SARAH ABO:  A lot of the contents being so salacious to it's made headlines for days, of course. All right. Now, with the passing of the Queen, who do we think should feature on our $5 bills going forward? Should it be the new king should be the spin king. Anna, do you have any suggestions?

ANNA CALDWELL: Oh, what a controversial topic it is. I have to say, $5 doesn't buy you very much any more. So, to hear the Treasurer say I wouldn't think it would be a top order issue, however, Id almost make the case to keep the queen on there for a while. I think that her relevance as an icon extends her position, exceeds her position as a reigning monarch. I'd make the case to leave it.

SARAH ABO:  Yeah, absolutely. And that's what I mean. Jim Chalmers… Anika, he came out earlier and said, we don't reckon that we need a monarch on the note anymore. Sounds a bit Republican, doesn't it?

ANIKA WELLS: Oh, I think Jim said it should be uncontroversial for us to consider what we do with it. I laugh because clearly it is controversial because now we're talking about it on breakfast television. But my favourite suggestion, I think it's a long way till we're going to decide. We don't decide until after the coronation. We don't have a date for that yet.

But in the meantime, let freedom ring. My favourite suggestion so far has been that we put an image of the $10 note on the $5 note so that you feel wealthier.

SARAH ABO: That's going to get confusing. No, that'll make me feel richer than I am.

All right. Well, thank you Anna and Anika both for your time. Really appreciate it.


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