The Australian government announced on Tuesday that it will earmark AUD 1.35 billion, USD 928 million or EUR 826 million, to reinforce the country’s cybersecurity, amid mounting tensions over suspected intrusions and espionage by foreign powers.
The funds, which will be contributed over a decade, will also serve to reinforce the tasks of the intelligence agencies.
“The federal government’s priority is to protect our nation’s economy, national security and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines them,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
On June 19, Morrison reported that Australia suffered a vast cyberattack supported by a foreign country, not to mention the author, while days later the country’s authorities searched the home and office of a New South Wales state deputy for its alleged link with the Chinese government.
In the past, China has been the target of cyber attack on the Australian Parliament in February 2019, before Australia’s general election, and on other government and university institutions.
Amid this climate of tension between China and Australia over suspected interference and espionage, Beijing’s foreign spokesman, Zhao Lijian, accused Canberra of instigating defections in China, spying on his students, as well as encouraging in the media theories about Chinese espionage.
Lijian said the allegations of espionage and interference by China “are not based on solid evidence”, while stressing that there is “irrefutable evidence that can prove the espionage activities of the Australian operation in China”, but without providing details on the accusation.
The China-Australia relationship has further deteriorated after Canberra launched an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the passage in the oceanic nation of laws against foreign interference and espionage after uncovering cases of Chinese donations to Australian politicians.
In addition, the Australian government blocked the entry of Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in the concessions of their fifth generation (5G) network for security reasons, as well as the acquisition of land considered strategic.