Foreign spies are infiltrating Australia, with ‘unprecedented’ espionage and interference activities

China has a concerning plan to infiltrate and interfere with Australia at the highest levels. And it has national security experts on high alert..

Espionage and political interference by foreign powers is at unprecedented levels in Australia and poses a major risk to security, the nation’s spy agency boss has warned.

Duncan Lewis, the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday that he was concerned about escalating activities.

“Hostile intelligence poses a real and potential existential threat to Australian security and sovereignty,” Mr Lewis said.

“The harm from this threat may not manifest for many years, even decades, after the activities occur. We are concerned about threats from wherever they emanate.”

In an era of high-level hacking attacks, assassinations on foreign soil, astro-turfing fake news campaigns and infiltrating attempts of the political class, one expert believes espionage is a bigger problem now than during the Cold War.

The nature of espionage has changed rapidly, but in recent years China and Russia have ramped things up, said Professor Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University.

“The activities that would be concerning ASIO cover the full spectrum from risks associated with political donations through to old-fashioned espionage.”

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