Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Statements on Indulgence
Lewis, Major General Duncan, AO, DSC, CSC
Mr Duncan Lewis AO DSC CSC will conclude his term as Director-General of Security this Sunday 15 September. This concludes a very distinguished period of service to our nation, spanning some 47 years, both in uniform and in senior civilian roles. Fifteen of those years have been spent around the table of the National Security Committee, where Mr Lewis has diligently served governments of all persuasions in a number of vital roles.
Graduating from Duntroon in 1975, Mr Lewis commanded at all levels, including command of the Special Air Service Regiment. His military career saw him serve in many conflict zones, spanning the Middle East to closer to home in East Timor. In his final military appointment as major general, Mr Lewis oversaw the Australian special forces engaged in operations across Iraq and Afghanistan. Not just content with his military service alone, he chose to do further to serve his nation in the Public Service, working in the National Security Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and serving as the inaugural National Security Adviser before his appointment as the Secretary of the Department of Defence in 2011. Mr Lewis served Australia's interests abroad once more in his capacity as the Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO between 2012 and 2014.
The role of Director-General of Security is one of great responsibility. As the 13th person to have held that position in our history, he has led ASIO for the last five years, in a time when Australia has been facing an unprecedented level of complex threats at home and abroad. Throughout his tenure, the national terrorism threat level has remained at 'probable', reflecting the heightened level of operational tempo within ASIO and across the national security apparatus of government. We have successfully disrupted 16 terrorist attacks since 2014, and Mr Lewis has played an important—in fact, an integral role—in leading ASIO's investigative and operational efforts, which have helped to protect Australians and our national interest.
Mr Lewis has been at the forefront, albeit discretely, of Australian national security throughout his almost five decades of public service. I commend him most highly and thank him for that service and the way in which he's been able to engage with me personally during my time in this office.
Throughout his professional life Mr Lewis has had the absolute support of his family. He's married to the wonderful Jenny, and together they have provided a significant contribution to our country. Jenny Lewis has provided support and a contribution in her own way. We wish them both every success in their future endeavours.
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.