Amid warnings of ‘spy hives’, why isn’t Australia using its tough counter-espionage laws more?

22 Feb 2023

Sarah Kendall writes for The Conversation | Follow Sarah on Twitter

Australia is facing an unprecedented threat of espionage and foreign interference. According to ASIO chief Mike Burgess in his annual threat assessment this week,

More Australians are being targeted for espionage and foreign interference than at any time in Australia’s history.

To drive home just how serious the threat is, Burgess also said ASIO had identified a “hive of spies” seeking to steal sensitive information in the past year. This major spy network was disrupted and the spies involved were removed from the country.

But why weren’t the spies prosecuted? Australia has some of the most robust counter-espionage laws in the world, so why aren’t they being used more often to target actual incidents when they happen?