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TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says 5G, vaccines and drones among technologies to face greater national security scrutiny | Australian foreign policy

TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says 5G, vaccines and drones among technologies to face greater national security scrutiny | Australian foreign policy

Vaccines, artificial intelligence and drones are among technologies that are set to face the most scrutiny from the Australian government over national security risks.

More than three years after the Turnbull government blocked Chinese telco Huawei from Australia’s 5G network on security grounds, the Morrison government will release a list of nine types of technologies that it believes may require extra “risk management”.

Wednesday’s shortlist of critical technologies – including advanced communications such as 5G and 6G – outlines areas that are “most likely to impact on the national interest”.

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The prime minister, Scott Morrison, will say in a speech on Wednesday the government wants to “balance the economic opportunities of critical technologies with their national security risks”.

Morrison will also call for Australia to become “a quantum technology leader in the Indo-Pacific”, pledging funding of $70m over 10 years help “take our research to the world”.

He will say the new shortlist “signals to governments, industry and academia the technologies slated as critical for Australia today or those expected to become so within the next decade”.

“Through this signal, we intend to drive consistency in decision making and focused investment – a mission focus,” Morrison is expected to say in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Sydney Dialogue.

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The list – which is expected to be regularly updated – names the “critical technologies that may require increased focus to promote or protect our national interest”, according to the strategy document.

But it does not replace existing regulations – such as the defence and strategic goods list, which controls the export of technologies that could have a military use.

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The nine main groupings include genetic engineering; novel antibiotics and vaccines; autonomous vehicles and advanced robotics; low-emission alternative fuels; artificial intelligence; and quantum technologies.

The move comes amid growing focus on the security risks posed by some international research collaborations.

The head of intelligence agency Asio, Mike Burgess, has previously said universities needed more clarity about which research or technologies the government considered particularly sensitive.

Burgess conceded in March that there was currently “some ambiguity there at this stage, which is unhelpful to researchers, students and research organisations”.

While the strategy document to be released on Wednesday does not specifically name China, it appears to allude to several concerns about Australia’s top trading partner, noting critical technologies are “increasingly the focus of international geopolitical competition”.

“Critical technologies confer a strategic edge, and at a time of intensifying geostrategic competition, this can be used to threaten our values, interests and way of life,” the Blueprint for Critical Technologies says.

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The document cites a range of risks, including highly geographically concentrated supply chains.

“Australia and like-minded partners support and promote diversified supply chains and markets to mitigate potential economic coercion and trade disruption risks,” the document says.

It also cites the risk of the “malicious use of critical technologies to spread dis- or misinformation and undermine trust in Australia’s values and trusted institutions”.

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, has previously accused China and Russia of spreading disinformation – allegations that Beijing described as “completely rubbish”.

Wednesday’s document warns that Australia’s strength in areas of technology research or intellectual property “could be used contrary to our interests and undermine our competitive advantage if subject to espionage or foreign interference”.

The government has set four goals, including ensuring Australia has access to “secure, reliable, and cost-effective” technologies rather than relying on “limited suppliers” that may pose “unacceptable risks to our national security”.

Another goal is to maintain the integrity of Australia’s research, science, ideas, information and capabilities, which should be “protected against intellectual property theft and exploitation, as well as malign technology transfer”.

The other two aims are to promote Australia as a trusted and secure partner for investment in critical technologies, and to “shape an international environment that enables open, diverse and competitive markets”.

Morrison will say on Wednesday that Australia is working with its Quad partners – India, Japan and the United States – to “enhance the resilience of Indo-Pacific supply chains”.

The prime minister says this is important because “as a country of around 25 million people in a world of some 7.8 billion people, most of our technology is – and will continue to be – imported”.

Morrison says quantum technologies – applying quantum physics to explore ways to acquire, transmit and process vast quantities of information – have the potential to “revolutionise a whole range of industries”.

In his speech, Morrison will also describe the Aukus deal with the UK and the US as being “about much more than nuclear submarines” because it will also see the countries work together on advanced technologies and capabilities.

Aukus has triggered a backlash from France over the cancellation of the $90bn French deal for 12 conventional submarines, and concerns among some south-east Asian nations over the new plan to acquire at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines.

According to his speech notes, Morrison will defend Aukus as “a broad and adaptable partnership that will drive our technology and capability cooperation to meet the challenges of the 21st century in our region”.

Officials from Australia, the US and the UK are due to report back to leaders in December with a proposed Aukus “work plan”.

TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says 5G, vaccines and drones among technologies to face greater national security scrutiny | Australian foreign policy

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