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Foreign infiltration into the Australian public service

By Murray Hunter - posted Wednesday, 11 October 2017


The Australian Cyber Security Commission 2016 Threat Report states that it is "aware of (foreign) state based adversaries attempting cyber espionage against Australian systems to satisfy strategic, operational, and commercial intelligence requirements".

Sovereignty lost. Australia doesn't know it.

Besides territory and culture, the heart of Australian sovereignty is the information and decision-making processes inside the institutions which enable the country to operate smoothly with integrity.

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Australia's geopolitical position between China and the United States presents the country with specific issues that other countries in the region don't face. This is compounded by the fact that the composition of the Australian Public Service is most likely to have a percentage of employees who through dual citizenship have a pledge of loyalty to another country other than Australia. This is a characteristic that other civil services in the region don't exhibit and are therefore potentially less vulnerable to foreign infiltration than the APS.

ASIO has historically been extremely poor in shifting through the public service for moles, and employees who have been compromised through cultivation by foreign diplomats and intelligence operatives. Given what Chinese defector Yonglin has said, that Chinese agents reside in the general and student populations and have infiltrated the government, makes the job of exposing those who are cultivated or put under duress to provide sensitive information to outsiders even more difficult for ASIO.

In fact the job of uncovering people who have been cultivated may rely purely on tipoffs, as security organizations resources are now heavily focused on the "war on terror" in line with Australia's loyalty to the US alliance.

Something has to be done to protect the security integrity and sovereignty of the Australian Public Service. This is of paramount importance when Australia has placed so many of its strategic assets and business interests in foreign hands. To ignore the problem will be at Australia's peril.

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This article was first published in the Asia Sentinel.



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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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