Australia’s military launched an investigation on Thursday into allegations that its officers spied on the defence minister and leaked details of his ties to a China-born businesswoman.
Defence chiefs ordered the probe after Fairfax newspapers reported the military’s intelligence arm accessed Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s office computer system as part of a covert sweep into his private life.
Defence officials,who Fitzgibbon recently accused of being incompetent,then leaked information about his friendship with Beijing-born businesswoman Helen Liu to suggest the minister may be a security risk,the reports said.
The allegations come after a series of clashes between Fitzgibbon and the military brass,the most recent involving a bungle over pay for soldiers in the elite Special Air Service (SAS).
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,on a visit to Washington,said he had only heard about the reports and he had not spoken to Fitzgibbon.
“I am further advised that the secretary of the defence department is conducting a further investigation into this matter and therefore I will await the outcome of that investigation,” he told reporters.
“My advice is that this has been a family relationship with the Fitzgibbon family going back some 16 years,” Rudd said.