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  • Writer's picture2022 Global Voices Fellow

Refreshing the protection of Australia’s critical undersea infrastructure

By Rachel Toms, The Department of Defence, GLOBSEC, 2023

Rachel Toms works at the Department of Defence and her policy paper is on Refreshing the protection of Australia’s critical undersea infrastructure.

Executive Summary

In a world that is becoming increasingly more reliant on data for essential services, submarine cables are an essential part of the infrastructure which allows society to function. As technology is evolving and the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more contested, it is crucial to ensure the submarine cables connecting Australia to the rest of the world are adequately protected.

This paper will explore two options for revising Australia’s critical undersea infrastructure

protection regime. The first option will discuss revising the Telecommunications Act to provide

the necessary legislative framework to protect submarine cables against emerging technologies and the second will investigate the establishment of an Indo-Pacific Submarine Cable Protection Cell, to uplift the security of critical undersea infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific region.

To do so, Australia should take the opportunity to update existing legislative protections and build upon existing initiatives, such as the QUAD Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience to capitalise on existing opportunities. Doing so would minimise the cost and resource burden on the Australian Government. Although both recommendations may take time and require establishing a strong foundation of trust, the importance of submarine cables to Australia makes it a worthwhile endeavour.

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