The new office of Australia’s key intelligence agency has opened late, over budget and with Chinese hackers apparently knowing the floor plans.
The office of Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was opened by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday more than 12 months after construction was supposed to be finished and at a cost of $633 million, almost four times the building’s $170 million budget.
Named the Ben Chifley Building in honour of the former Labour MP who founded ASIO in 1949, the glass-fronted building looks much like any other corporate headquarters except that extra emphasis has been placed on security.
Key security features include infrastructure to enable critical functions to operate uninterrupted irrespective of any failure in connectivity to external services and landscaping which creates a secure perimeter.
Modular design was used where possible to enhance flexibility throughout the building’s lifespan while the design and fit-out maximise use of natural light and indoor air quality.
Aside from cost overruns, however, serious concerns about the building were raised following ABC reports earlier this year that Chinese hackers had obtains access to the building’s floor plan and blueprint.
ASIO did not confirm or deny this but director-general David Irvine told a Senate estimates committee in May he was confident in the security of the facility.
Opening the building, Rudd praised the work of ASIO and its staff.
"You succeed by making sure that things don't happen. The better you are at your work, the less we hear of it," he says. "The women and men who work in our national security family don't take this task for fame or fortune, nor for personal glory. They do it very simply to make our country safe."
Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who was also present at the opening, echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiments, saying Australians were only kept safe because of "rough men on our borders" and "smart men and women huddled over computer screens in buildings such as this."
Aside from the functions it serves, the building also includes espionage related memorabilia in glass cases, including spy cameras and an agent's briefcase from 1952 containing a flashlight and flannel pyjamas.