Australia's secret service needs master locksmith

By Kathy Marks

Australia's overseas intelligence service is looking for a master locksmith - but James Bond fans with a gift for safe-cracking should apply only if they have a squeaky-clean background.

On its website, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) - which operates abroad and undertakes counter-intelligence as well as intelligence-gathering operations - is advertising for a "corporate locksmith" to provide "services and advice across the organisation".

The job, it says, is "a unique role for a highly motivated and dedicated locksmith" who will be required to travel, interstate and overseas, "often at short notice". ASIS is offering a salary of up to A$93,581 ($121,448), but candidates need a qualification from the Government's Security Construction and Equipment Committee, which evaluates security personnel.

They will also have to undergo an Australian Federal Police check, which would presumably rule out some budding lock-pickers with dodgy backgrounds.

As for the work itself, local media speculate it could include cracking the safes of foreign embassies in Canberra as well as looking after ASIS's secrets.

According to the job advertisement, the successful candidate would be responsible for managing the purchasing of all locks, safes and secure containers for ASIS.

ASIS was established in 1952, but its existence remained hidden, even from Australian politicians, for two decades. It was not mentioned in the press until 1972 and its existence was not formally acknowledged for another five years, when Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser told Parliament that "ASIS's capacity to serve Australia's national interest will depend on its activities continuing to be fully protected by secrecy".

The service's director-general, Nick Warner, is the only employee who can be identified publicly. Last month, Warner caused a stir when he made a public speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney - the first time this had happened in ASIS's 60-year history.

In the speech, he said that while ASIS officers had always operated in "carefully cultivated shadows", they never used violence or blackmail or threats, and used weapons only in self-defence. He also referred to some colourful episodes in the service's history, such as a bungled training exercise at the Sheraton Hotel in Melbourne in 1983, which led to the resignation of one of his predecessors, John Ryan.

Warner also said that ASIS's work had "gained a new urgency and importance" over the past decade because of the global terrorism threat.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the service's budget has risen from A$54 million in 2002 to A$246 million this year.

- NZ Herald

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