As Canberran’s watch, jaws agape, the Gestapo HQ go up, up, up in the shadow of Mount Pleasant the SMH brings word that the to date unbridled growth of intelligence services might be coming to an end:
Intelligence has been flush with cash over the past decade. For example, the size of ASIO – the domestic spy agency – has more than trebled, so there is every reason to take stock, decide what is working, and make sure the money is being well spent. In a democracy, the public needs regular assurance, too, given that the agencies mostly operate in the shadows and deal in secrets.
The review will be jointly led. Robert Cornall brings the typical background to such reviews – former public service mandarin from the Attorney-General’s Department, who after a long career is steeped in the ways of Canberra’s bureaucracy.
But working alongside Cornall is someone from outside the intelligence business, Rufus Black – a management consultant, academic and ordained minister of the Uniting Church. Having a specialist in ethics and theology working with the dark souls from Australia’s spy agencies will doubtless make for some fascinating exchanges and should help inform the public’s understanding of intelligence work.
No one in Canberra’s intelligence and security community is expecting more funding to result from this examination. In fact, cuts might be in the offing should areas of redundancy or overlap be identified.
Kicked off quietly just before Christmas we can only watch and wait for outcomes from this review.