Australian Aid for Ireland


Australian Broadcasting Corporation (previously Commission)


Australian Capital Territory


Australian Council of Trade Unions


Australian Federal Police (formerly CPF)


Australian Labor Party


Australian League of Rights


Australian National University


Armenian Revolutionary Federation


Australian Security Intelligence Organisation


Australian Secret Intelligence Service


Australian dollars


Committee for the Abolition of Political Police


Canadian, American, New Zealand, Australian and British Counterintelligence Liaison


Chinese Intelligence Services


Commonwealth Heads of Government


Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting


Central Intelligence Agency (United States)


Communist Party of Australia


Commonwealth Police Force (later AFP)




Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Defence Signals Directorate


German Democratic Republic (East Germany)


Soviet Foreign Military Intelligence (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye)


Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood (Hrvatsko Revolucionarno Bratstvo)


Inter-Departmental Committee on Soviet Representation


Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security


Irish Republican Army


Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide


Joint Intelligence Organisation (Department of Defence)


Soviet Committee for State Security (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti)


United Kingdom Security Service


United Kingdom Secret Intelligence Service


Member of the Legislative Assembly


Member of Parliament


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


New South Wales


New Zealand Security Intelligence Service


Office of National Assessments


Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine


Palestinian Liberation Organisation


politically motivated violence


People’s Republic of China


Queen’s Counsel


Royal Australian Air Force


Royal Commission on Australia’s Security and Intelligence Agencies


Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security


Russian Intelligence Service


Returned and Services League of Australia


Special Air Service, Australian Army


Special Broadcasting Service


Secretaries Committee on Intelligence and Security


Yugoslav State Security Service (Sluzba Drzavne Bezbednosti)


Southeast Asia Treaty Organization


Yugoslav Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzba za Istrazinvanje)


Special Inter-Departmental Committee on Counter-Terrorism


Special Inter-Departmental Committee on Domestic Violence


Special Inter-Departmental Committee on Protection Against Violence


Socialist Party of Australia


Socialist Republic of Vietnam


Syrian Social Nationalist Party


Socialist Workers League


Socialist Workers Party


Telegraphic Agency of the Soviet Union (Telegrafnoie Agentsvo Sovietskavo Soiuza)


Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, i.e. the Soviet Union


Western Australia


Young Communist Movement


Yugoslav Intelligence Service



The terms are defined according to how they were applied in the period covered by this volume.


A person, not being a member of ASIO, who accepts operational direction from ASIO and is sometimes in receipt of remuneration from ASIO.

agent of influence

A person who is wittingly or unwittingly exploited by a foreign intelligence service to alter the opinion of a government, nation or an influential group within that nation towards the interest of that foreign power.

agent master

An ASIO officer who assumes operational control of agents.

agent in place

An agent recruited in situ without having to be assisted to penetrate the target group.

case officer

An officer who conducts operational activity against a target organisation or personality.


A person who provides information of security interest or assists the operational activities of ASIO.


Measures designed to detect and prevent the espionage activities of foreign intelligence services.


Measures designed to detect and prevent terrorism.


Measures designed to detect, identify and monitor subversion.


False or misleading information or actions designed to disguise the real purpose of the act or identity of the people carrying out that act: e.g. cover story, cover name.


An alien who, having sought political asylum in another country, is accepted by the government of that country because of his or her considerable intelligence or propaganda value and willingness to cooperate with the security and intelligence authorities of that country.

double agent

A person who has been or is being recruited by one intelligence service but is effectively under the control of another.


The covert collection of (generally secret) intelligence.

face-to-face operation

An intelligence operation where an ASIO officer, usually using an assumed identity, makes personal contact with a target personality to assess that person’s vulnerability to recruitment as an ASIO source.


An intelligence operative in a foreign target country directly controlled from his or her home country, and sometimes serviced from a third country, rather than being controlled through the cover of an overt agency in the target country. Soviet bloc ‘illegals’ had no apparent connection with their home country and frequently used a false identity.

illegal apparatus

Facilities established covertly by a communist party during a period when its existence was legally recognised in a particular country, in anticipation of the possibility that it might be declared illegal. The facilities were designed to allow the Communist Party to continue to function as an underground organisation.

illegal residency

A group or network of illegals under the control of one (the Illegal Resident) who is usually a highly trained officer of the service concerned.

key points

Buildings, installations, works, places or things used or held for defence purposes or the production of materials or services vital to the industrial and economic stability of a country. Key points might be controlled by the Government or by private enterprise.

legal residency

The Soviet bloc term for an intelligence organisation operating in a foreign country under the control of a member of the diplomatic staff of that Soviet bloc diplomatic mission in the target country. This controller (known as the Resident) usually has diplomatic status and enjoys its advantages and immunities.

need to know

The need to know principle is the determination by an authorised holder of classified or sensitive information that access to the information is required by another appropriately cleared individual to perform their duties.


An ASIO employee.


The placement of a source within a target organisation.

persona non grata

The term applied to a diplomat who has been expelled by a host country on the grounds that he or she has acted in a manner unacceptable to the host country. In an intelligence context, this would entail engaging in intelligence activities.

politically motivated violence

Defined in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Amendment Act 1986: Acts or threats of violence or unlawful harm that are intended or likely to achieve a political objective, whether in Australia or elsewhere, including acts or threats carried out for the purpose of influencing the policy or acts of a government, whether in Australia or elsewhere.

protective security

Measures taken to protect national security. These include personal, physical and document security.


A false name used to conceal and protect a person’s true identity.


The controller of a legal or illegal residency.

security checking

The process of gathering and assessing information of a security nature about a person, aimed at assessing that person’s suitability on security grounds for:

(a) entry into Australia

(b) access to classified matter, or

(c) entry into security-controlled establishments.


Any individual, service, document, publication or device from which information can be derived.

static sites

Observation posts in a permanent location intended to provide overwatch of a target.


Subversion has been defined as meaning:

(a) activities that involve, will involve or lead to, or are intended or likely ultimately to involve or lead to, the use of force or violence or other unlawful acts for the purpose of overthrowing or destroying the constitutional governments of the Commonwealth, states or territories

(b) activities directed to obstructing, hindering or interfering with the performance by the Defence Force of its functions or the carrying out of other activities by or for the Commonwealth for the purposes of security or the defence of the Commonwealth, or

(c) activities directed to promoting violence or hostility between different groups of people in the Australian community so as to endanger the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth.


Acquired techniques and skills used in the conduct of intelligence operations.


The development of information with a view to assessing a person’s suitability for access to classified matter. Vetting is sometimes used to describe the process of security checking.





25 September

Peter Barbour resigns as Director-General of ASIO

11 November

Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismisses Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister and appoints Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister

19 November

Letter bomb to Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen opened and explodes, injuring two

21 November

Letter bomb addressed to the Governor-General discovered

13 December

Malcolm Fraser and the Liberal–Country Party Coalition defeats Gough Whitlam and the ALP



27 January

Frank Mahony submits report on ASIO’s priorities and targets to the Attorney-General


Justice Edward Woodward’s appointment as Director-General of ASIO confirmed by the Fraser Government Exercise Can Top, first multi-agency counterterrorism exercise, held in Australia

8 March

Frank Mahony concludes his interim term as Director-General

9 March

Justice Edward Woodward commences as Director-General

1 April

Harvey Barnett appointed Deputy Director-General


Exercise Sea Gull, first joint Commonwealth and state counterterrorist exercise held in Australia

24 May

Lisa Walter’s role as an ASIO agent exposed in the National Times


Woodward issues staffing and establishment memorandum


First classified ASIO annual report produced

11–13 July

Al Fatah activist, Hamid Meziani, arrested and deported

23 August

Prime Minister Fraser caught in demonstration at Monash University

24 August

Protective Security Coordination Centre established by Cabinet

13 December

Ombudsman Act 1976 given royal assent


Review of ASIO’s training requirements completed




Andrey Duchkov, Third Secretary at the Soviet Embassy, arrives in Australia


Attorney-General, Robert Ellicott, QC, calls for a review of physical security at Parliament House

5 May

Fraser speech in Parliament on Australia’s security and intelligence organisations


Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security reports published

16 June

Janet Langridge reveals her work for ASIO in Australian Spartacist

15 September

Colonel Iqbal Singh, the Indian Military Attaché to Australia, stabbed and abducted in Canberra

21 September

Cabinet establishes the Security Appeals Tribunal

30 September

Special Inter-Departmental Committee on Protection Against Violence (SIDC-PAV) created


Advertisements for applicants to join ASIO appear in newspapers

26–27 November

Violent protests in front of Yugoslav Consulate-General, Sydney

3 December

Explosion at Yugoslav Airlines (JAT) office, Melbourne

5 December

Woodward’s reorganisation of branches implemented

19 December

Attorney-General Peter Durack approves telephone interception of the Ananda Marga



13 February

Hilton Hotel bomb explosion

15 February

Three Ananda Marga members arrested in Bangkok, Thailand

23 February

Prime Minister Fraser announces establishment of the Protective Security Review under Justice Hope

31 May

Cabinet provides initial approval for planning to proceed for the relocation of Headquarters ASIO to Canberra

16 June

The ‘Yagoona Three’ arrested in Sydney and charged with conspiracy to murder


Woodward convenes conference to discuss implementation of ASIO Act 1979


Iraqi Consulate-General established in Sydney

16 & 23 August

Ananda Marga protests at Parliament House, Canberra

15 November

Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock reports listening devices found in walls of the Australian Embassy, Moscow




Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China opens in Sydney


Libyan Embassy opens in Canberra


First National Anti-Terrorist plan issued by SIDC-PAV

25 October

Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 given royal assent

Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 given royal assent


Cabinet nominates ASIO as sole agency responsible for producing national threat assessments on terrorism and politically motivated violence

4 November

US Embassy staff seized in Tehran

15 November

Unclassified version of Protective Security Review report released publicly


Soviet invasion of Afghanistan



7 July

Woodward agrees to form the Staff Association to represent ASIO employees


Investigations begin into a possible ASIO recruitment by KGB officer Gerontiy Lazovik in the 1970s


Technical Support Unit established for support to counterterrorism activities

17 December

Turkish Consul-General in Sydney, Sarik Ariyak, and his bodyguard assassinated



17 February

‘Croatian Six’ imprisoned on false evidence from probable YIS operative Vico Virkez


Internal Auditor appointed within ASIO


Valeriy Ivanov arrives in Australia on posting with his family

8 September

Woodward, on ending his term as Director-General, delivers address on ASIO at the National Press Club, Canberra Harvey Barnett becomes Director-General


Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Melbourne



9 March

Freedom of Information Act 1982 comes into force

2 April

Argentina invades the Falkland Islands/Malvinas

6 June

Israel invades southern Lebanon

8 July

Listening devices installed in the home of Valeriy Ivanov

15 August

Listening devices installed in SPA headquarters, Sydney

24 September

ASIO prompts police raids on Ananda Marga homes in Melbourne and Sydney

30 September

Commencement of Commonwealth Games, Brisbane


$2.4 million approved for a computer system for ASIO

23 December

Bombs explode at Westfield Towers and the Hakoah Club in Sydney



4 March

David Combe meeting with Valeriy Ivanov

5 March

Bob Hawke and the ALP win the Federal election, defeating Malcolm Fraser

8 March

Tapes of 4 March Ivanov–Combe discussions reach Headquarters ASIO

3 April

Ivanov recorded by ASIO telling Combe to be discreet, suggesting KGB cultivation

5 April

Barnett requests meeting with Prime Minister Hawke

19 April

Barnett seeks a meeting with Attorney-General Gareth Evans after seeing Hawke

20 April

Barnett meets with Hawke

21 April

National Intelligence and Security Committee convenes

22 April

Ivanov declared persona non grata


Ananda Marga telephone interception warrant lapses until September

2 May

Prime Minister’s adviser, Bob Hogg, invited to a breakfast on 3 May with pollster Rod Cameron and David Combe but does not go

11 May

Combe interviewed

1 June

Royal Commission on Australia’s Security and Intelligence Agencies begins

1 June

Security Appeals Tribunal rules on the Rix case that membership of the CPA is not to be considered subversive


Agreement for ASIO to cease security checks for citizenship

3 November

Archives Act 1983 given royal assent

24 November

Ananda Marga telephone interception ceases



4 July

Joint Commonwealth–State Bomb Task Force formed to investigate the murders and bombings connected with the Family Court in March and July 1984




Valentin Matyushevskiy arrives in Sydney

8 January

Final classified report from the Royal Commission on Australia’s Security and Intelligence Agencies distributed


Blocking of arms shipment intended for anti-independence movement in New Caledonia

1 April

Cabinet approves the move of Headquarters ASIO to Canberra

31 July

Harvey Barnett retires as Director-General

1 August

Alan Wrigley appointed Director-General


Cabinet endorses appointment of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security




KGB officer Valeriy Zemskov arrives in Canberra

10 September

Alan Wrigley addresses the National Press Club, Canberra

23 November

Explosion at Turkish Consulate-General, Melbourne

26 November

Raids on Armenian groups in Sydney and Melbourne

8 December

ASIO Central Office in the Russell precinct, Canberra, commences operations




The Libyan diplomatic mission in Australia, known as the Libyan People’s Bureau, closes and its staff depart

12 May

Valentin Matyushevskiy expelled from Australia



7 October

Alan Wrigley completes his term as Director-General

8 October

John Moten appointed Director-General


Reader’s Digest identifies Zemskov as a KGB special reservist




Zemskov is recalled to the Soviet Union


Moten implements his review of ASIO’s management structure

ASIO and the AFP host an international counterterrorism conference in Sydney

9 November

Fall of the Berlin Wall

2–3 December

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George H.W. Bush meet in Malta and declare the Cold War has ended



This is the third in a three-volume series covering the history of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from its inception in 1949 until the end of 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall effectively marked the end of the Cold War. This third volume covers the history of ASIO for the last years in that period, from 1975 to 1989, taking up where Volume II concluded. It begins with the aftermath of the dismissal of the Whitlam Government and the election of Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister of Australia at the end of 1975.

Much of what transpired during the Cold War has been widely written about and discussed. Indeed, the first two volumes of this history cover plenty of familiar territory. But the last fifteen years of the Cold War, from 1975 onwards, witnessed a surprising intensification of tensions between the superpowers. Few are aware of the number and range of challenges arising from clandestine and secretive operations conducted by intelligence operatives from communist countries, nor of the worrying actions of various other extremist groups in Australia. With a mandate to act effectively as the ‘fourth arm of defence’, concerned with domestic security, ASIO was caught up in much of it. This book sheds fresh light on many of the little-known secrets of Australia’s part in the Cold War, particularly in the final years of the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War.

For much of the early decades of the Cold War, many, including those within ASIO, saw the world divided into camps: the First World, known generally as the West, which was prosperous and, by and large (although with noticeable exceptions), liberal and democratic; the Second World, essentially the communist countries, seen by many in the West as oppressed; and the Third World, a contested space where the great powers fought over resources and occasionally co-opted local disputes to fight proxy wars. By the end of 1975, however, that period seemed to be coming to a close. The Vietnam War was over, and for three decades no nuclear bomb had been detonated in war. This augured well. In addition, the global period of protest that had affected so many Western countries at the height of the Vietnam War had ebbed. Officials had a tendency to view such protests as exploited by the Soviet-dominated World Peace Council and associated groups for their own strategic ends, but there seemed little point dwelling on that after the fact.

A new period emerged, with US President Richard Nixon opening relations with Communist China shortly after Australia’s then Opposition Leader, Gough Whitlam, visited China and subsequently, as Prime Minister, opened diplomatic relations. Both sides of the Cold War divide, it seemed, were now intent on pursuing peaceful coexistence, or détente.

In reality, though, in 1975 the Cold War still had a decade and a half yet to run and, hidden from plain sight, in some respects was intensifying even further. Indeed, this period witnessed some particularly intense events that are little known or understood to this day. This was a time when thousands of nuclear weapons remained in the hands of both sides, with many of them poised against each other on short-notice readiness to be launched. So despite the peaceful public rhetoric, the lack of trust in the motives of the other side remained palpable. To many in ASIO this danger was self-evident. To them it was clear that ASIO’s Cold War responsibilities had not magically disappeared. If anything, while the level of secrecy remained as great as ever, the intensity reached new heights.

Indeed, the simmering Cold War tensions would bubble up again and almost pass the tipping point into open war. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, boosted defence funding and called for an expansion of the Australian Defence Force to be better placed should the conflict escalate.

While the moment of crisis passed in 1979, it would return to an even greater level in November 1983, when the Soviet Union misinterpreted the motives of a NATO exercise (Operation Able Archer) and commenced activation of its nuclear strike plans. While these exercises did not involve Australian forces or the Australian Government directly, the consequences for Australia, along with everybody else, would have been dire had it escalated into a major nuclear conflagration. In fact, that activation saw the world come closer to a nuclear exchange than at any time since the Second World War. The crisis was averted when, with the guidance of Western intelligence provided through a high-level asset, the Soviets realised that their assessment was incorrect and stood down their strategic nuclear forces.1 That close shave with disaster led to a realisation by both sides that a rethink of their approaches to deterrence was called for.

For many Australians, while they were perhaps peripherally aware of such concerns, the danger seemed remote. Australia had passed the long period of economic and population growth of the 1950s and 1960s, but even with inflation and unemployment at relatively high levels in 1975, few could dispute that Australia remained in essence a lucky country, attracting millions of migrants to its prosperous shores in search of a better life. Caught between seeing the world in Manichean terms and living in a country with few signs of the Cold War confrontation evident in places like divided Germany, ASIO faced a real challenge in reconciling conflicting views. Those views manifested themselves, to a certain extent, in the contrasting political platforms of the major parties in Federal Parliament.

The protest years of the 1960s and early 1970s generated considerable momentum for reform, not just in politics and society but also in the sequestered world of intelligence and security affairs. The political drama of those years had culminated in the election of the Whitlam Government in December 1972. A key reform measure initiated by Whitlam and his Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, was the appointment in 1974 of Justice Robert Marsden Hope to conduct a Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. But through an extraordinary set of circumstances discussed in Volume II of this history, the Whitlam Government came to a surprising end in November 1975. Some feared that would also mean the demise of reforms to ASIO that Whitlam and Murphy had mapped out and Hope was in the process of articulating.

The year 1975 witnessed a polarisation in Australian domestic politics that seemed to echo the international polarisation of the Cold War. Not only did the dismissal of the Whitlam Government and rumours of CIA interference generate shrill reactions from both ends of the political spectrum, but the fall of South Vietnam to the communist North Vietnamese in April 1975 seemed to heighten the political tension.

Those who had long been critical of ASIO saw the coming to power of Malcolm Fraser and his Liberal–National Country Party Coalition Government as the death knell to reform. But the royal commission Whitlam had mandated was still underway, and it was not at all certain that Fraser would seek to curtail the momentum for reform that Hope’s work was generating. In fact, while the reform process had been initiated under Whitlam, it would be carried through with surprising vigour by his successors, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. This volume looks at ASIO during those reforming years.

Earlier events in ASIO’s history, discussed in the previous volumes of this history, had made big impressions nationally, notably the defection in 1954 of KGB spy Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia; the expulsion of another Soviet spy, Ivan Skripov in 1963; and the raid on Headquarters ASIO by the then Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, in 1973. To be sure, there was also lingering controversy over the role of intelligence in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. But little is known about exactly what was happening in the world of espionage and counterespionage in the years from 1975 to 1989. This secret history of the last years of the Cold War is a major part of the story recounted here.

The volume is divided into two parts, corresponding to the political eras of successive Federal governments. Part 1 covers the period when Liberal Party leader Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister of Australia, from December 1975 to March 1983. Fraser, initially appointed interim Prime Minister by Governor-General Sir John Kerr under extraordinary circumstances on 11 November 1975, went on to a convincing win in a Federal election in December that year and led the country as Prime Minister for the next seven and a half years.

Seen at the time as an arch conservative and a political hawk, Fraser surprised many of his critics and supporters when he actively welcomed tens of thousands of refugees from Vietnam, engaged strongly with the British Commonwealth as an institution to support independence movements in Africa and elsewhere, and took a hardline position against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan following the insertion of Soviet troops there in 1979. Each of these decisions by Fraser would have consequences for ASIO. The wave of migrants from Vietnam and elsewhere, including the Middle East, for instance, would generate considerable additional work for ASIO in monitoring the potential for politically motivated violence. One of the most dramatic incidents in this category occurred outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney in February 1978 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting—a gathering held in pursuit of Fraser’s pro-Commonwealth and pro-independence ideals for the remnants of Britain’s former empire. Similarly, Fraser’s strong reaction to the Soviet Union’s entry into Afghanistan in 1979 had consequences for how ASIO pursued its counterespionage responsibilities, principally against Soviet and Soviet bloc targets.

Part 1 of this volume examines ASIO as it grapples not only with Fraser’s approach and policy priorities but importantly also with the fallout and implementation of reforms arising from the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. ASIO was under considerable strain during the royal commission, which investigated the national intelligence and security apparatus, and scrutinised the organisation and practices of the intelligence agencies and ASIO in particular. Yet over the following years, the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security would have a cathartic effect on ASIO, initiating significant reforms that would generate considerable renewal within ASIO. In combination with constructive, respectful and inclusive leadership by successive directors-general, the implementation of the royal commission recommendations would result in an organisation significantly repositioned as an organ of state, its responsibilities recognised and endorsed on a bipartisan basis and underpinned by more thorough legislation that fostered greater accountability.

As reform initiatives gained momentum, domestic security challenges prompted further adjustments. What ASIO had seen as possible subversion, for instance, it came to better understand as politically motivated violence and terrorism. Countering these challenges required different approaches than those that had been used in the past, and ASIO sought to adjust accordingly.

The Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security also triggered the implementation of reforms to foster increased cooperation between government agencies. ASIO’s adjustment to these reforms was pushed along by a series of events, ranging from the Hilton Hotel bombing in February 1978 to international sporting events such as the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982.

Part 2 of this volume corresponds to the period when Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, from March 1983 to late 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down—an inflection point widely seen as marking the end of the Cold War. Eager to avoid the crisis atmosphere of the last days of the Whitlam Government, Hawke approached his responsibilities in a markedly different manner from Whitlam that was in many ways consistent with the approach taken by Fraser. For ASIO, therefore, there would be greater continuity under Hawke than Whitlam.

The story of ASIO told in Part 2 illustrates the fact that despite the breadth and depth of reforms initiated and implemented during the Fraser years, further reform was still necessary. During the period that followed, while Hawke was Prime Minister, ASIO struggled to redeem its public image and to many remained mired in controversy.

Very early in Hawke’s prime ministership, ASIO was in the public eye as a result of the Combe–Ivanov affair explored in detail in Chapter 11. The events surrounding the Combe–Ivanov affair, particularly those aspects concerning ASIO, David Combe and Soviet diplomat-cum-KGB-spy Valeriy Ivanov, traumatised the Organisation. They also helped trigger a Royal Commission on Australia’s Security and Intelligence Agencies, once again headed by Justice Hope. While painful for ASIO, the incident helped burnish Hawke’s credentials domestically and internationally as a trusted hand in the management of his security and intelligence responsibilities. The net effect for ASIO was that international ties were maintained and strengthened.

Hope’s recommendations arising from both the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security (1974–77) and the Royal Commission on Australia’s Security and Intelligence Agencies (1983–84), as well as the Protective Security Review he undertook in 1978–79, laid the groundwork for the emergence of the Australian Intelligence Community, as it came to be known, by the end of the Cold War. The more robust oversight mechanisms associated with these reforms set the context for the improvements within ASIO itself. These oversight mechanisms included the establishment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) (later renamed the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security); the establishment of the Security Appeals Tribunal as part of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; the establishment of the Office of National Assessments, with the responsibility of overseeing the Australian Intelligence Community; and the establishment of the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), with enduring powers of a royal commissioner. These reforms, as they affected ASIO, are discussed in some detail in Chapter 14. Together, they dramatically changed ASIO’s accountability and expected responsiveness to an unprecedented degree. Many of the reforms undertaken during this period by successive directors-general—Frank Mahony (1975–76), Edward Woodward (1976–81), Harvey Barnett (1981–85), Alan Wrigley (1985–88) and John Moten (1988–92)—were informed by the work of Justice Hope.2 In undertaking their duties, these men were responsible to a succession of attorneys-general: two under Prime Minister Fraser—Robert Ellicott (1975–77) and Peter Durack (1977–83); and two under Prime Minister Hawke—Gareth Evans (1983–84) and Lionel Bowen (1984–90).

In pursuing its responsibilities, ASIO faced a proliferation of domestic security challenges associated with the expanded presence of Soviet and Soviet bloc diplomatic and trade missions heavily staffed by intelligence operatives. The age-old art of espionage had not faded away, despite the world entering the apparently softer, gentler phase of the Cold War associated with the détente between the superpowers. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that this détente was instrumental in facilitating more effective and expansive Soviet bloc espionage endeavours. According to this view, détente allowed a lowered state of alertness in countries such as Australia that was helpful for more intrusive and extensive Soviet bloc espionage operations. ASIO was as hard-pressed as ever during this period to stay abreast of its counterespionage responsibilities. In fact, ASIO faced an unrelenting challenge in countering espionage linked with the ever-increasing size and number of diplomatic and trade posts established in Australia by communist countries.

The expanding range of security challenges faced by ASIO was also linked to the increasing number of migrant groups settling in Australia. While the Organisation recognised that the overwhelming majority of these recent migrants were settling peacefully, a sufficient number of groups of concern kept it more than fully occupied in keeping abreast of the growing threat of politically motivated violence. Violent extremism associated with groups from the Middle East, Croatians (and their Yugoslav intelligence antagonists), Armenians, and followers of the Indian sect the Ananda Marga, among others, presented ASIO with a range of challenges discussed in this volume. ASIO’s response to these challenges involved extensive consultation and cooperation not only with partner agencies in Australia, notably Federal and state police, but also international partners with experience in handling similar extremist elements.

While the range of groups ASIO was tasked with monitoring kept expanding, some of the traditional target groups changed status. The Security Appeals Tribunal ruled in April 1983 that membership of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was no longer sufficient grounds upon which to withhold provision of a security clearance. This was a significant inflection point for ASIO, when the CPA, which had been so significant a factor in the founding of ASIO in 1949 and a focus for much of ASIO’s counter-subversion work for decades, was deemed to be no longer of concern. This led to a significant reorientation and re-prioritisation for ASIO in handling what had been termed counter-subversion but was increasingly viewed, in relation to new and emerging groups of concern, as politically motivated violence.

The period also saw Headquarters ASIO finally relocate from Melbourne to Canberra and the Organisation become a more standard arm of the Australian Public Service. Protective security, politically motivated violence, counterterrorism and counterespionage challenges continued. But few, even in 1983, when Hawke became Prime Minister, could imagine the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the changes that would eventuate thereafter.

Throughout the history of ASIO, concerns about Soviet bloc espionage and penetration within the ranks of ASIO and the government bureaucracy were ongoing. Indeed, while numerous reports emerged of compromise in ASIO’s partner security agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States, it seemed reasonable to assume that at least some of the suspected Soviet bloc attempts at penetration of ASIO had been successful. There were fleeting indications of penetration and betrayal but, frustratingly, ASIO always found it very difficult to confirm and gather evidence to enable successful prosecution of such cases.

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