The federal police chief says it would be “naive” to dismiss the threat of Russian interference in a future Australian election.
AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin will head to the United States soon for talks with his counterparts on counter-terrorism and cyber security.
American intelligence and security agencies say there was Russian interference – ranging from the spreading of disinformation to data theft – in the 2016 US presidential elections and 2017 French elections.
Mr Colvin said the issue would be on his agenda.
“I think we would be ignorant and naive if we didn’t think this is a real threat,” Mr Colvin told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
The commissioner said he was “saddened and surprised” at the firing of his US counterpart, FBI director James Comey.
“My experience with James Comey is he is a man of incredible integrity and a man who the organisation wanted to follow and was a good leader,” Mr Colvin said.
“As a partner in the challenges that we’ve got in transnational crime and terrorism, you couldn’t have asked a better partner than the FBI or director than James Comey.”
However he said the depth of the US-Australian relationship when it came to national security and policing went “well beyond politics”.
The commissioner voiced concern about the extent of Australians seeking to bribe foreign officials, saying there were 37 cases of foreign bribery under way.
Foreign bribery involves providing or offering a benefit – such as cash, gifts, holidays or a job – to a foreign public official with the intent of getting a business advantage.
Mr Colvin said because of the complexity of such offences the average foreign bribery investigation was taking seven and a half years to complete.
The commissioner defended the agency’s independence in investigating politicians, as the AFP continued to “evaluate” allegations against Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
“We take our job seriously and act completely independently of government,” he said.