Foreign spies are infiltrating Australia, with ‘unprecedented’ espionage and interference activities

October 25, 2018

The Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) says espionage and political interference by foreign powers is at unprecedented levels in Australia and poses a major risk to security.

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has been calling on the Morrison government to launch a royal commission into Chinese influence in Australia. But that call has been flatly rejected.

News Corp reports, The nation’s spy agency boss, Duncan Lewis, has warned in a Senate estimates hearing this week that he is concerned about escalating activities.

“Hostile intelligence poses a real and potential existential threat to Australian security and sovereignty,” Mr Lewis said.

“The harm from this threat may not manifest for many years, even decades, after the activities occur. We are concerned about threats from wherever they emanate.”

In an era of high-level hacking attacks, assassinations on foreign soil, astro-turfing fake news campaigns and infiltrating attempts of the political class, one expert believes espionage is a bigger problem now than during the Cold War.

The nature of espionage has changed rapidly, but in recent years China and Russia have ramped things up, said Professor Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University.

“The activities that would be concerning ASIO cover the full spectrum from risks associated with political donations through to old-fashioned espionage,” and he said it was a “fair assumption” to make that a number of countries currently housed intelligence officers in their embassies and consulates in Australia. And it would be reasonable to assume that China is the most active player.

Professor Medcalf said, “In some ways, the espionage problem is probably worse than it was during the Cold War.”

Senator Bernardi has told Kel Richards on Sydney radio station 2CH, it's a problem which should not be ignored.

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