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Spy agency reshuffle: Nick Warner the supremo, new heads for ASIS and ASD

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a major reshuffle affecting the intelligence, national security and foreign affairs portfolios, with new bosses for three key agencies.

Nick Warner, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service director-general, will become director-general of national intelligence, leading the transformation of the current Office of National Assessments into the Office of National Intelligence, which will have a wider role than its predecessor.

“In this Secretary-equivalent role, Mr Warner will drive establishment of the Office of National Intelligence and lead Australia’s intelligence community,” Turnbull said in a statement.

He will be replaced as head of the overseas spy agency by Paul Symon.

“Mr Symon has extensive experience in Australia’s national security and intelligence community and has served as Major General in the Australian Army, including as the Deputy Chief of Army and Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation,” the prime minister explained.

“Both Mr Warner and Mr Symon will commence their new appointments on 18 December 2017.”

The Australian Signals Directorate, which is being upgraded to a stand-alone statutory agency, also gets a new director-general in Mike Burgess, who is currently Telstra’s chief information security officer and was formerly a deputy director at ASD.

“Mr Burgess will bring to ASD significant experience in intelligence and information and cyber security from both the private and public sectors, particularly as it transitions to a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio,” Turnbull said.

“The current Director of ASD since 2013, Dr Paul Taloni PSM, will transfer to a senior position within the Office of National Assessments.

“Dr Taloni has been outstanding throughout his public service career and over the last few years has been pivotal in enhancing the depth and breadth of ASD’s operations and its national security responses for the Government. It will ensure that the new ONI will begin its vital leading role with the former heads of both ASIS and ASD.”

Bruce Miller, who has been acting head of the ONA while its director-general Richard Maude led the preparation of the recently published foreign policy white paper, will retire after a long career as a diplomat including a stint as ambassador to Japan. “Mr Miller has previously advised that he was intending to retire in the near term and I wish him all the best,” said the PM.

Maude will now do into a deputy secretary position in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Most departments give dep secs specific titles but DFAT does not in its rather complex organisational chart.

“The new Office of National Intelligence, to be established in 2018, will play a key role in coordinating strategy and capability development across the national intelligence community,” Turnbull said in his statement.

He congratulated all on their new appointments and suggested that having Warner in the central role gave him faith in Australia’s national security services, in an increasingly volatile world.

“I am confident that Mr Warner will ensure that Australia’s intelligence agencies remain the most capable, agile and effective in the world.”

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.