FIRB President David Irvine dies after battling illness



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He was a key player advising the government to reject proposed Chinese acquisitions of critical infrastructure, such as electricity and gas networks, and sensitive technologies.

Previously, as chief of intelligence under Prime Ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, he advised governments on counter-terrorism, foreign espionage and cyber-attacks.

Mr Irvine was a former Director General of both the Domestic Espionage Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, which manages Australia’s espionage activities abroad.

He was the only person to lead both organizations at different times.

In a statement, Prime Minister Morrison said Mr Irvine was an “exceptional Australian and public servant in every sense of the word”.

“David Irvine, a gifted diplomat, chief of security and chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board, has been a wise counselor to successive administrations,” Morrison said.

“This is a very sad day as David’s curiosity, wisdom and judgment have strengthened our democracy and security over many decades.”

“David had a deep understanding of Australia and the region and the interconnectedness of diplomacy, security and economy.”

“He understood the work in democracies of maximizing freedom and security. As he said in a 2014 speech, “I believe that the threat of terrorism will be with us in the future, but it should not panic us or dominate our lives.”

“In his role as chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board, to which I appointed him as treasurer, he played a pioneering role in bringing new perspectives to the changing geostrategic dynamics in our region.”

During his more than 50-year career, Mr Irvine also served as Australian Ambassador to China from 2000 to 2003 and High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea from 1996 to 1999.

Mr. Irvine, a gifted linguist, spoke Mandarin, Indonesian and Italian.

He wrote two books about Indonesia and was passionate about its culture.

Former top diplomat, intelligence chief and defense chief Dennis Richardson said: The Australian Financial Review on Thursday that Mr Irvine was “an outstanding civil servant who devoted his entire working life to Australia in the diplomatic and intelligence field”.

“He had incredible intellectual depth and one of the great minds,” said Mr. Richardson.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “David has provided outstanding leadership at FIRB amid an increasingly complex foreign investment landscape.

“He was a person of the utmost decency, always professional, very capable and very committed to serving his country.”

Born and educated in Western Australia, Mr Irvine worked as a journalist before moving to Canberra in the 1970s to work in the public service.

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