The Guardian • Issue #2090

EDITORIAL

Spies among us

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2090

Spies are in the news lately. Mike Burgess, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has been all over the media with claims that a former MP has been spying for an un-named foreign power. Burgess won’t say who the politician is. He was coy about the country involved. He calls the spies “the A-Team.”

This sounds exciting and dangerous, like all good spy stories, but when you look at it closely, the ‘spying’ is pretty ordinary stuff. They’re looking for “reports on Australian trade, politics, economics, foreign policy, defence and security.” This seems like information all governments collect quite openly on other governments. Apparently a politician has provided information on “the factional dynamics of his party.” It’s hard to shut Australian politicians up on the topic of factions, so if there’s a foreign power paying someone for even more of it, they are gluttons for punishment. Most of us get more than enough of that stuff just reading the paper.

Burgess talked about Australia being “in a much better place with foreign interference laws,” which really gives the game away. A lot of that the un-named politician did was not illegal – except in the heads of ASIO operatives. Our foreign interference laws are very selectively enforced. Thanks to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, we know that Bill Shorten, Richard Marles, and others have given a lot of information on ‘factional dynamics’ of the ALP to US diplomats. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Burgess’ staff to raid Richard Marles’ office.

The spy story is funny because it’s so melodramatic and overblown, but we do have foreign agents in our midst. They’re working for other countries against our interests, and they corrupt our politicians in plain sight. Those foreign agents work for the USA, supposedly an ‘ally,’ keeping Australia on board with AUKUS, with foreign troops stationed here, and keeping an eye on our politics. They also work for Israel – dozens of MPs have had free trips to Israel. Yuval Rotem, the Israeli ambassador was allegedly in the room when ALP powerbrokers planned to topple Kevin Rudd. Rudd had complained about the Israeli government forging Australian passports. Asked about this, the Israeli Foreign Ministry didn’t deny it, just saying that Rotem “met many Australian politicians.”

What our spies do is a serious topic because ASIO’s powers work as a one-way ratchet. At times of ‘crisis,’ Prime Ministers give them more money and power, and when there’s no crisis, ASIO keeps those powers. ASIO can, and allegedly has, bribed foreign nationals to cooperate, as well as intimidating them with raids. Anyone questioned by ASIO is committing an offence if they even talk about it afterwards. ASIO has powers that would be seen as conclusive proof that a government was totalitarian, if we were talking about China or Russia.

We aren’t talking about those countries. We’re talking about this one. Our spies have too much power over us, and our government and our spies serve a foreign country against our interests. This is something the Communist Party of Australia is working to change.

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