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Overview of ASIO

ASIO’s purpose is to protect Australia, its people and its interests from threats to security. [1] Our functions are set out in section 17 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (the ASIO Act), which states:

  1. The functions of the Organisation are:
    1. to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security;
    2. for purposes relevant to security, to communicate any such intelligence to such persons, and in such manner, as are appropriate to those purposes;
    3. to advise Ministers and authorities of the Commonwealth in respect of matters relating to security, in so far as those matters are relevant to their functions and responsibilities;
      1. to furnish security assessments to a State or an authority of a State in accordance with paragraph 40(1) b);
    4. to advise Ministers, authorities of the Commonwealth and such other persons as the Minister, by notice in writing given to the Director-General, determines on matters relating to protective security; and
    5. to obtain within Australia foreign intelligence pursuant to section 27A or 27B of this Act or section 11A, 11B or 11C of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and to communicate any such intelligence in accordance with this Act or the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979; and
    6. to co-operate with and assist bodies referred to in section 19A [of the ASIO Act] in accordance with that section.

In 2018–19 we pursued our purpose through four key activities:

  • countering terrorism;
  • countering espionage, foreign interference, sabotage and malicious insiders;
  • countering serious threats to Australia’s border integrity; and
  • providing protective security advice to government and industry.

The annual performance statements in Part 4 of this annual report summarise our performance in relation to these key activities during 2018–19.

Commitment to legality and propriety

In working to meet our purpose, ASIO must operate lawfully, in proportion to threats we are investigating, and in line with the standards and expectations of the Australian community. A comprehensive oversight and accountability framework—comprising legislation and ministerial, parliamentary and independent oversight—provides assurance that we will continue to meet our commitment.

ASIO’s accountable authority

Mr Duncan Lewis AO DSC CSC, Director-General of Security was ASIO’s accountable authority during the 2018‒19 reporting period. Mr Lewis commenced as Director-General of Security in September 2014. Mr Lewis concluded his term as Director-General on 14 September 2019. Mr Michael Burgess commenced as Director-General of Security on 15 September 2019.

Organisational structure

An overview of ASIO’s organisational structure during 2018‒19 is provided in Figure 1.


[1] This purpose statement reflects our outcome in the ASIO Portfolio Budget Statement 2018–19: ‘To protect Australia, its people and its interests from threats to security through intelligence collection, assessment and advice to Government’. This outcome is supported by Program 1.1: security intelligence. ASIO’s Corporate Plan 2019–20 adopts a revised purpose statement for the Organisation: ‘As the nation’s security service, ASIO protects Australia from violent, clandestine and deceptive efforts to harm its people and undermine its sovereignty’. This annual report addresses the purpose statement contained in ASIO’s Corporate Plan 2018–19. Return to text

Top Left to Bottom Right: Potts Point, Sydney (1949-51), Queens Rd, South Melbourne (1951-68), 469 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne (1968-86), Russell Offices (1986-2014)