David Irvine AO, one of the nation’s most accomplished and revered public servants, has died aged 75.
He had been serving as chair of the Foreign Investment Review Board since 2017, but was best known as one of Australia’s top diplomats and spies, having led ASIO as director-general between 2009 and 2014, and director-general of ASIS from 2003 to 2009.
A former journalist, he began his public service career in 1970 in the then department of external affairs, served as high commissioner to Papua New Guinea from 1996 to 1999, and as Australia’s ambassador to China between 2000 and 2003.
Irvine was highly respected by all sides of politics and was known for his wit and good humour, as well as his high intellect, strong work ethic and attention to detail.
He died Wednesday night in his Canberra home.
Prime minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to him on Thursday, saying it was with great sadness he learned of Irvine’s passing.
“David Irvine was an exceptional Australian and public servant in every sense of the word,” Morrison said.
“A gifted diplomat, security chief, and chair of the Foreign Investment Review Board, David Irvine was a wise counsel to successive governments.
“This is a very sad day because David’s curiosity, wisdom and judgement strengthened our democracy and security over many decades.
“He served Australia for over 50 years and held senior diplomatic and leadership roles for the past quarter of a century.”
Morrison noted that Irvine had devoted himself in recent years to training the next generation of public service professionals – most notably defence, security and intelligence professionals.
“David had a deep understanding of Australia and the region and the interconnection of diplomacy, security and economics. He also had a deep love of Indonesian culture, expressed through the publication of two books…,” Morrison said.
“David Irvine AO will be missed.”