Interview with Jayne Azzopardi and Clint Stanaway, Weekend Today

JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: Well, if you're sick of being contacted by scammers pretending to be Australia Post, MyGov, even your mum, well, you're not alone. Almost half of all Australians have been sent fake text messages, an issue which is costing us an estimated $3.1 billion in the last year. Today, the Government is revealing its new plan to tackle the problem.


CLINT STANAWAY, HOST: Yeah, it is a big problem, isn't it? To tell us more, we’re joined now by the Federal Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland. Michelle, thank you for joining us. Huge problem to fix. How do we do it?


MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: It is a massive issue and this requires a whole-of-industry and a whole-of-government approach. What we are announcing today is that our Budget will contain $10 million to establish and launch what we call an SMS Sender ID Registry. This will be is an enabling platform to ensure that trusted brands can't be imitated by text.


To give you a very practical example, like Australia Post. A lot of people might get text from Australia Post and it says it is from ‘AusPost’ and it says, “a delivery is coming, will you be home? A delivery is on its way” What scammers are currently able to do is copy that header using a different originating number and slip it into that legitimate text stream. It is totally insidious, but it looks completely legitimate.


The Registry will actually have a list of numbers that entities like Australia Post says are their legitimate numbers. If a scammer tries to use a different number, the telco will block that from getting onto someone's device. We know that this is a massive problem, exactly as you say. I'll also highlight that in addition to that $3 billion, there's about a third of scams that don't go reported because of stigma issues or people feeling embarrassed about what's happened. We know that it is likely much higher, and we know that these scammers are sophisticated criminals. They are smart, but we are determined as a Government to do everything we can to keep Australians safe.


AZZOPARDI:. So, how long until this technology is in place? And once it is, does that mean no more scam messages?


ROWLAND: Well, there's no silver bullet, I should make it very clear. In fact, we've had, since July last year, a requirement on telcos to have systems in place that detect, trace and block scam texts. There's been some 90 million scam texts blocked and that's in addition to about half a billion scam calls. What we are doing here with this $10 million investment is to say we've made a decision to establish this. We anticipate – based on the Singapore and UK examples, which are the two countries where it's being implemented now – it should take around 12 months to implement, but there will be milestones. And by making a decision now to fund this upfront, that is also going to be a really efficient use of time. Our regulator has been consulting widely with industry and the telco sector, so we are hopeful of getting this in place as soon as possible. In the meantime, I urge all of your viewers to be vigilant, go to to make yourselves aware of the various scams that are out there, and if it looks suspicious, it probably is.


AZZOPARDI: All right, Michelle Rowland, thank you so much for your time this morning.


ROWLAND: Pleasure.