ASIO boss labels politicisation of security ‘not helpful’

By Jackson Graham

February 17, 2022

Mike Burgess-ASIO signage
Don’t put words into Mike Burgess’ mouth. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess says the politicisation of information he recently shared about foreign interference in an Australian election is “not helpful”. 

Burgess revealed last week that ASIO foiled a foreign interference plot involving a wealthy individual acting as a “puppeteer” for a foreign government and attempting to instal political candidates. 

But Burgess did not name the country behind the interference, the election or the political party used in the plot. 

Public knowledge of the plot has forced federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese to state that ASIO never contacted him with any issues involving his party and to clarify the spy agency had no concern about federal Labor candidates. 

Prime minister Scott Morrison and defence minister Peter Dutton have since made comments about the Chinese government favouring Labor. 

Burgess clarified to ABC’s 7:30 on Wednesday that foreign interference was a threat “against all members of parliament” and did not only seek out one party or another. 

“I don’t think it’s my job to call out a particular country. I will leave that to governments. My job and the job of this organisation is to identify these threats and help deal with them,” Burgess said. 

“ASIO is a-political, my staff are a-political, they put their lives on the line to actually protect Australians and Australia from threats of security. 

“I’ll leave the politics to the politicians. But I’m very clear with everyone I need to be that that’s not helpful for us.” 

He reiterated comments that espionage and foreign interference had now supplanted terrorism as Australia’s principal security concern, but clarified the security agency was confident the outcome of Australian elections could not be interfered with. 

“We don’t believe a foreign government could change the outcome of our election for a whole range of reasons … our election process and our system of democracy is robust,” he said. 

“I’m [also] very confident the vast majority of politicians we deal with are actually thoroughly resistant to that type of interference.”


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