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Why Australia’s Chief Spy Rebuked Its Prime Minister Over China

A successful strategy to counter Beijing’s influence is falling prey to politics.




It’s not every day that the nation’s No. 1 spy publicly rebukes his prime minister for jeopardizing national security. In a TV interview, Mike Burgess—Australia’s director-general of security—labeled Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s attacks on the opposition Labor Party for its supposed weakness on China as “unhelpful.” Burgess rightly pointed out that an assertive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a national problem, not a partisan one.


That Burgess felt compelled to speak publicly is a telling inditement of the dangerous shift in Australia’s national security debate. This change risks undermining Australia’s world-leading approach to countering authoritarian interference while giving autocrats a leg up in the information wars. It also proves that the greatest challenges to democracies are from the inside as the system eats itself from within.


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