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Power in numbers: Enhancing Australia’s cyber security

By Simon Walsh
Executive Manager, Customer and Corporate Services


I was delighted to attend the Prime Minister’s Cyber Security Industry Roundtable in Canberra last week, and discuss with senior business leaders the challenges and opportunities new technology creates.  The Prime Minister convened the meeting to build on the work the Government has done over the last 12 months since launching Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy.

Discussions focussed on how cyber security is an issue to every Australian business, regardless of industry sector, as all of us embrace the “Internet of Things”, and the increasing prevalence of cloud-based data and software. 

One of the real positives from the meeting was the focus on how cyber security can be a real opportunity for Australia to develop new capabilities and lead the world.  Because of our size, we have the ability to make decisions within our industry sectors quickly when it comes to standards, and this has made Australia a world leader in the past (for instance, Australia was one of the first countries to introduce security technology into credit cards called “Chip & Pin”, which we could do because compared to other countries it’s relatively easy to get our senior banking business leaders into a single room). 

The other thing we discussed that particularly resonated with me was the cultural differences between big business in Australia and overseas when dealing with start-ups. There seemed to be consensus that overseas big business is more willing to engage with a local innovative start-up than we are in Australia. 

We tend to want to deal with an established player who has already made sales and built a track record, which can act to shut out our own home grown high-tech businesses. This drives our start-up businesses to focus offshore, and can encourage them to even set up (or expand) in countries other than Australia.

Simon, second from left, attended the roundtable on behalf of Western Power 

The meeting asked all of us as business leaders to not only think about our level of cyber security preparedness, but also what could we do to better collaborate (big business with small business, business with universities, and business with Government) so that tangible results are achieved and perhaps we could ensure Australia is at the forefront of cyber security. 

The Prime Minister pointed out that when it comes to cyber security, the weakest link exposes everybody, so it’s important as a country that all business (the big end and the small end of town) has the resources, knowledge and contacts to effectively address cyber security. 

Along the way it’s hoped we can create new high-technology jobs and enhance Australia’s credentials as a provider of quality cyber security solutions.  Great aspirations.

I’ve pledged to Prime Minster Turnbull our support for the working group on these issues for critical infrastructure and networks.  

The meeting will act as a further catalyst for Western Power to ask what role we can play in developing local capability in this State and in helping form a hub for WA-based organisations to encourage those linkages between large business, local start-ups, Government and our university sector in this important emerging area.

You can find out more about the Cyber Security Strategy and recent roundtable at the following links:

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Kalgoorlie storm response

Update 19 November 2017 - 6.30pm

We have restored electricity to about 3,000 customers in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area since the wild storms that struck the Goldfields yesterday.

We have eight extra specialist crews in the region working into the night to restore power as safely and as quickly possible to our other 14,000 customers currently without electricity.

Further restorations are expected this evening, but people - especially those with an individual connection wire from their house to the network that has been brought down by debris - should be preparing for a night without power.

In some limited cases those individual customers may be without power for several days more until connections can be repaired and tested and declared safe by authorised specialists.

Four 500kVA Western Power Emergency Generators will be used to assist in restoration and other critical infrastructure when it is safe to do so. Two nursing homes have had power restored with the use of generators.

We are continuing to focus efforts on lines that can restore power and services to critical infrastructure and large numbers of customers in an attempt to return power as quickly and as safely to as many people as possible.

The priority areas for our crews at the moment are in Coolgardie, Kambalda, Boulder, Lionel West , Somerville and Picadilly South, the central business district and Hannan and Porter Streets in Kalgoorlie.

Over 173 hazards were registered with Western Power which has been reduced substantially but there are still a number of hazards left to attend, and our crews are discovering more hazards as they move through the network frustrating our progress.

If you see a fallen powerline or damaged pole call make the safe call to Western Power on 13 13 51 or if it is a life-threatening emergency, please call 000.

Power outage map for restoration times.