/ 01 March 2024

Eye spy a political storm…

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The Squiz

The pressure is on for Australia’s national security agency to name the former politician accused of being recruited to and sharing secrets with a foreign spy network. ASIO boss Mike Burgess is facing mounting calls to expose the ex-MP after revealing they betrayed Australia by working with a spy unit called the ‘A team’ during his annual threat assessment address on Wednesday night – but he hasn’t gone into detail about who is involved. Despite chaos erupting in Canberra yesterday, Burgess defended that stance, saying ASIO had “severed the links” between the person and the spy unit. “Personally, I don’t think they will be stupid enough to repeat what they have done in the past. So problem neutralised,” he said.

So it’s taken care of?

Not according to some senior political figures… Coalition leader Peter Dutton wants the person “outed and shamed”, saying it’s unfair to besmirch “a lot of former MPs who are patriotic, as 99.9% on both sides are”. Former Treasurer Joe Hockey agreed – he said it’s “inconceivable” that a former politician who engaged with spies would be “allowed to walk off into the sunset without having their name or their reputation revealed”. Deputy PM/Defence Minister Richard Marles said “there’s a whole range of reasons why individuals would not be named” and that ASIO’s decision should be trusted. He said “we’ve got among the best agencies in the world dealing with this” and there’s “good reason” why “specific facts” are not in the public domain.

Sounds like we’re not likely to find out…

Perhaps, but when has that ever stopped people from speculating? Dutton yesterday said he’d “put money” on a former NSW state Labor MP being involved, and the Coalition’s Home Affairs spokesman James Paterson offered up the name of the country he believes the spy ring is linked to… He said “China is the number one source of our espionage, foreign interference, state-backed cyber attacks, and… intellectual property theft”. That’s in line with comments from former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex, who believes he was the PM’s family member who ASIO said was contacted by foreign agents – although that hasn’t been confirmed. As for the ex-MP involved, Burgess says “they should be grateful” Australia’s foreign interference laws – passed in 2018 – weren’t retrospective. Coincidentally, the first person found guilty under those same laws was sentenced over an unrelated case yesterday…

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