Threat of China and Russia will see Australia spend $10billion doubling cyber warfare unit

The threat of China and Russia will see almost $10billion spent during the next decade doubling the size of Australia’s cyber warfare unit.

The Budget announcement will dramatically boost the fire power of the Australian Signals Directorate, a branch of Defence, as national security ties are strengthened with the US and the UK – Australia’s traditional defence allies – and big Asian democracies.

‘In this Budget, the Government is investing $9.9billion in Australia’s intelligence and cyber capabilities, bolstering the Government’s commitment to Australia’s Five Eyes and AUKUS trilateral partners while supporting a secure Indo-Pacific region,’ it said.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton pointed to Russia’s cyber warfare against Ukraine, before the February invasion, as justification for the big spending commitment.

‘It acknowledges the nature of conflict has changed, with cyber attacks now commonly preceding other forms of military intervention – most recently demonstrated by offensive cyber activity against Ukraine,’ he said.

Without mentioning China’s militarisation of the South China Sea or the threat to Taiwan, Mr Dutton said Australia’s investment recognised the ‘deteriorating strategic circumstances in our region, characterised by rapid military expansion, growing coercive behaviour and increased cyber attacks’.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described the 10-year, $9.9billion investment in ‘Australia’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities’ as ‘the biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness’.

The threat of China and Russia will see almost $10billion spent during the next decade doubling the size of Australia’s cyber warfare unit (pictured are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jingping)

‘The lesson of history is that weakness invites aggression,’ he said.

‘It leaves nations vulnerable to coercion. This is the reality we must confront.

‘The world is less stable.’

In the decade to 2030-31, the Australian Signals Directorate will be given the funding to deliver a Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enablers package –known as REDSPICE.

The REDSPICE program will see the Australian Signals Directorate doubled in size, creating 1,900 new jobs during the coming decade.

‘Creating 1,900 jobs, more data analysts, computer programmers, and software engineers to boost our capacity to prevent and respond to cyber threats,’ Mr Frydenberg said.

‘Keeping Australians safe is part of our plan for a stronger future.’

The federal government said REDSPICE would triple the ASD’s ‘offensive cyber capabilities’ and ‘double its ‘cyber hunt and response activities’.

‘The package will help ASD to keep pace with the rapid growth of cyber capabilities of potential adversaries, as well as being able to counter attack and protect our most critical systems,’ the Budget papers said.

‘The unprecedented investment will equip ASD with the capabilities to defend Australia in the changing strategic environment.’

Australia last year entered into an historic security pact with the US and the UK, known as AUKUS.

As part of the arrangement, the US is also sharing nuclear submarine technology with Australia.

This marked the first time since 1958 that the Americans have shared their submarine know-how with another nation beyond the UK.

This saw Australian dump a $90billion diesel submarine deal with France and switch to American-designed nuclear-powered submarines.

The Budget papers hailed the new security pact with the English-speaking powers that have been a fundamental part of Australia’s national security since World War II.

‘The new AUKUS security partnership leverages 75 years of working with the United States and the United Kingdom to promote security and prosperity,’ it said.

‘The partnership’s first priority is to collaborate on nuclear-powered submarines.

‘Cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities are other focus areas.’

The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement with the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand were hailed as ‘more important than ever’.

The new Quad arrangement with fellow democracies India, Japan and the US was hailed as essential to maintain freedom.

‘The group is co-operating on issues from space to critical technology to achieve its objective of a free and open Indo-Pacific,’ it said.

In 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed a foreign state actor had targeted government departments and private businesses without naming China.

But intelligence sources have told the media China was responsible.

The Coalition pointed out defence spending now comprised more than 2 per cent of gross domestic product, compared with just 1.6 per cent in 2012-13 when Julia Gillard was Labor prime minister.

‘The world has entered a period of profound uncertainty and disruption. Australia’s location in the Indo-Pacific places us at the epicentre of global strategic competition,’ the Budget papers said.