Malcolm Turnbull names spy chief Nick Warner to lead new security agency
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Malcolm Turnbull names spy chief Nick Warner to lead new security agency

Australia's spy chief Nick Warner is set to lead the newly established Office of National Intelligence, part of the Coalition's powerful new Home Affairs portfolio.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Mr Warner's appointment as director-general of the Office of National Assessments and director-general designate of national intelligence on Friday, coming amid moves to bring together Australia's security, intelligence and immigration functions under minister Peter Dutton.

Nick Warner, who will leave the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Nick Warner, who will leave the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The existing Office of National Assessments will subsumed by the new super department and the Australian Signals Directorate will become a stand alone agency.

Mr Warner attracted controversy in August when he posed with Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte - with the pair photographed making Mr Duterte's trademark fist-pump hand gesture.

Incoming director-general of National Intelligence, Nick Warner, with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

Incoming director-general of National Intelligence, Nick Warner, with Philippines President Rodrigo DuterteCredit:Albert Alcain

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Human rights groups said the pose was tacit endorsement of the hardline leader's more than 12,000 extra judicial killings and poor human rights record.

Mr Warner previously served as Defence secretary and was senior international adviser to former prime minister John Howard.

The Office of National Intelligence will be established in 2018, tasked with coordinating strategy and capability development across Australia's intelligence agencies.

"I am confident that Mr Warner will ensure that Australia's intelligence agencies remain the most capable, agile and effective in the world," Mr Turnbull said in a statement.

Paul Symon with then-Defence minister Brendan Nelson in southern Iraq in 2006.

Paul Symon with then-Defence minister Brendan Nelson in southern Iraq in 2006. Credit:Rob Nyffenegger

Among other appointments, Paul Symon was named to replace Mr Warner as director-general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

He previously served as deputy chief of the Australian Army and director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

Both men begin their appointments on December 18, with the new Home Affairs Department expected to be established before February.

Former Telstra chief information security officer and deputy director of the Australian Signals Directorate Mike Burgess was named director-general designate of the Australian Signals Directorate.

The current ASD boss Paul Taloni will move to a senior position within the Office of National Assessments

"Mr Burgess will bring to ASD significant experience in intelligence and information and cyber security from both the private and public sectors, particularly as it transitions to a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio," Mr Turnbull said.

Office of National Assessments boss Richard Maude will become deputy secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, having helped prepare the government's Foreign Policy White Paper, released this month.

Former Australian ambassador to Japan and temporary ONA boss Bruce Miller will retire.

The announcements follow an atrocious end to the week for Mr Turnbull, forced to back down in his longstanding opposition to a royal commission into Australia's banking sector and facing renewed leadership speculation after calls for his resignation from NSW deputy premier John Barilaro.

The new Home Affairs department will take in Immigration, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Austrac and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and will be led by hardline Immigration Department boss Michael Pezzullo.

The Australian Border Force will remain an operationally independent body, but with corporate and enabling services provided by Home Affairs.

A taskforce within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is leading organisation of the new portfolio and department.

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.