August 10th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

EDITORIAL When will Morrison stamp his authority on his mandate?

CANBERRA OBSERVED A quick peek into the security shadows

ENVIRONMENT When apex predators hit the turbines, think of the clean energy

HUMAN RIGHTS Unalienable rights can be recognised, not made up

SECURITY Australian Signals Directorate comes out of the shadows

RURAL AFFAIRS Distress, economic and societal, pervades Australia

GENDER POLITICS I was America's first non-binary person: It was all a sham

FICTION Mick and the Little Man

HUMOUR Japan G20: Donny meets Jenny

MUSIC Dire tonics: Departure from harmony has proved a flop

CINEMA The Lion King: Remake takes a deeper look

BOOK REVIEW Public enemy No. 1 and his twin, No. 2

BOOK REVIEW In the market with the Angelic Doctor



NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

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A quick peek into the security shadows

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, August 10, 2019

Windows into the inner workings of Australia’s security organisations are a few and far between, but the recent retirement announcement of ASIO chief Duncan Lewis provided a platform for revelations that the nation’s security agencies are facing an “unprecedented” wave of espionage.

Only the head of the country’s lead security organisation, uniquely placed to have visibility of all ASIO’s myriad operations, has the additional luxury of choosing when to discuss what he believes to be matters that are in the public’s interests.

But Mr Lewis decided that his retirement event, which will officially take place in September, could be an opportunity to showcase the organisation’s important work and the real challenges it faces.

While terrorism had “plateaued”, according to Mr Lewis, foreign interference, including cyber attacks and traditional espionage, was widespread.

The threat of terrorist attacks remained a constant, although activity on that front had decreased in recent years, while other threats from overseas were increasing.

“It is an unprecedented level of acti­vity … it’s not visible to most people,” he told The Australian newspaper in an interview.

“It’s not peculiar to Australia, I might add. This is a direct result of globalisation, where you have mass movement of people, goods and ideas. And in the case of ideas, they move instantaneously around the globe.

“This means you can interfere with other people’s business in a way that couldn’t be done before. The conduit, the vehicle, is there to do it.”

Mr Lewis did not name any particular countries and, while emphasising that a lot of espionage was in the “criminal field”, he said state-based threats were being dealt with by ASIO on a daily basis.

“Technological developments are happening every five minutes. While that technology is overwhelmingly good for the community, there is a downside to it,” he said.

“It is true now that a person who would wish us ill is far more empowered as a result of the technology at their disposal than once upon a time.

“In this sort of environment … you need friends and one of the great features of ASIO is our very strong relationships in the Five Eyes community and beyond, where we have like-minded fellow travellers in the world who need to increasingly work together to maintain security.”

Mr Lewis’ warnings come at a time when Australia is grappling with growing tensions between the United States and the emerging superpower of China, whose state-owned enterprises are aggres­sively expanding their reach around the world.

One such enterprise is communications giant Huawei, whose massive penet­ration and expansion plans have been thwarted by some members of the Five Eyes – the intelligence alliance between the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The concern from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. is that there is a danger that countries will become reliant on a Chinese company that is closely connected to the Chinese Government.

The United States banned companies from selling components and technology to Huawei and 68 related companies earlier this year, citing national security concerns.

It later issued a temporary licence that enabled some companies to continue supporting existing Huawei networks and devices.

Britain is still to make up its mind the extent to which Huawei should be a part of the rollout of its 5G network.

The decision was interrupted by the departure of Theresa May from the prime ministership.

For its part, Huawei goes to great lengths to distance itself from the Chinese Government, claiming that it is only interested in providing first-class communications technology around the world.

It also denies strenuously that it poses any risk of espionage or sabotage.

These assertions of being a pure communications business are almost certainly true, but they may not always be true – especially in a situation where there are international tensions.

In modern society the quickest and simplest way to bring a country to its knees would be to cripple it technologically. But China has continued to pressure countries to accept Huawei’s investments and its envoys have warned that any attempts to thwart the company’s commercial efforts could have diplomatic consequences.

Australia finds itself once again in a difficult position. It has become increasingly dependent on China for its resources exports, its students and its tourists.

But Australia has also to look to its long-term interests, be vigilant against attempts to undermine our sovereignty, and to ensure the commercial advantages of Australian businesses are being protected.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm