|Christian Kerr | March 26, 2009
Article from: The Australian
DEFENCE Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has hinted that his efforts to reform his big-spending bureaucracy may have provoked allegations departmental officials have spied on him.
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Minister speaks out
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon defends his relationship with Chinese-born businesswoman Helen Liu....
Views today: 85Sorry, this video is no longer available.Reports today claim unnamed department officials have used the Defence Signals Directorate spy agency to tap into computers in Mr Fitzgibbon's office to gain information about his relationship with a wealthy Chinese-born Sydney businesswoman, Helen Liu, and whether it constituted a security risk.
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Kevin Rudd told reporters in Washington today Defence Department secretary Nick Warner had ordered an internal investigation into the allegations.
The Prime Minister said he would “await the outcome of that investigation,” adding there was “nothing particularly unusual” about tensions between defence ministers and their departments.
But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has demanded an independent inquiry into the claims by the Inspector-General of Intelligence.
“Mr Rudd seems to be trying to brush this under the carpet,” he said.
“There needs to be a thorough and independent inquiry into these matters. There is an office able to do that appropriate to the task, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
“He should be asked immediately to investigate this matter and to provide a full report on it. These are very serious allegations and they need to be addressed urgently.”
Mr Fitzgibbon told reporters this afternoon his family had been friends with the Liu family for 16 years.
“No one has ever raised any concern between that relationship and if anyone has concerns about that relationship they should have come forward and shared them with me,” he said.
The minister recently rebuked his department publicly over bungling of SAS pay, calling it “incompetent”.
Mr Fitzgibbon suggested his reform agenda may be behind the recent troubled relationship with Defence.
“I am driving the biggest reform project in the history of the defence organisation and I know that's really hard for some elements of that organisation.
“But I'm doing so in close partnership with the chief of the defence force and the secretary of my department,” Mr Fitzgibbon added.
“It is very important in ensuring the defence organisation works as effectively and as efficiently as is possible, that taxpayers are getting value for money and our people on the front line are getting all the protection, training and capability they need to do their jobs effectively and as safely as is possible.”