Sep 11, 2019

Statement on Indulgence – Major General Duncan Lewis, AO, DSC, CSC – Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:15): I rise to also recognise the quite extraordinary contribution Duncan Lewis has made to our national security over five decades of public service. Few senior officials can point to the range of experience that Duncan has brought to his roles. Most recently, he has been Director-General of ASIO for the last five years.

In the past, threats to our security have been physical. These days, of course, there is cyberterrorism and a range of threats to our national security which have required a very complex, sophisticated and determined response. Duncan Lewis has brought diligence, professionalism, intelligence and integrity to everything that he has done in public service. His ability to straddle the differences between the worlds of military service, public policy, diplomacy and intelligence ensured that he brought a nuanced and sophisticated understanding to what are always very complex policy issues. In addition to the jobs that the minister has indicated Mr Lewis has done, he also served in the United Nations at the time of the complex war that was going on in Lebanon. He has an extraordinary capacity. At the time when I served on the National Security Committee—the professionalism we were served by, which other Australians don’t see, by the very nature of the work they undertake, is something we should all be proud of.

The Labor Party strongly endorsed Duncan Lewis’s commitment to building greater engagement with the Australian public by the national security and intelligence communities. It was not that long ago that you wouldn’t have known who the head of ASIO was. Duncan Lewis took a decision, because of the changing nature of the threat to our national security, that there was a need to reach out and function differently. He has transformed the way that the national intelligence and security agencies have engaged with the Australian public. The Australian public understand, for example, the number of threats—and they’re real—that were disrupted as a result of the direct action of the intelligence agencies. They also understand that, in order to keep us secure, from time to time our civil liberties can’t be unhindered and we all have to make that balance between civil liberties and our national security. Duncan Lewis, perhaps more than anyone else, if you look at the capacity he has had over such a long period of time, has been the key person during the transformation that has occurred in the nature of the relationship between the Australian public and national security and intelligence.

Duncan Lewis is also a great bloke. He is very upfront. He briefed me as the incoming Leader of the Opposition. You can ask him for advice and he’ll give it frankly and fearlessly. He has always had just one interest. He managed to work in a Labor prime minister’s office as a national security adviser, but he just as loyally serves the government of the day. He has had one thing in mind for five decades: the national interest. I pay tribute to him, I pay tribute to his wife and family and I thank him for his extraordinary contribution to our nation.