The release of the Hope report on ASIO bought back fond memories of my own encounters with Australia’s intelligence services in the late 80s. I called a friend of mine for a bit of a chat, and as soon as she answered the phone we both heard a distinctive pinging noise. “Oh hello, ASIO!” she said cheerfully, and there was the sound of a third handset hanging up.

Not long after that I visited her at home, and in the course of walking from my car to her front door, I became aware that I was observed. I turned to see the figure of a man in a trenchcoat standing on the other side of the street, whereupon he instantly leapt behind a large oleander bush and was lost to view.

Apparently some of her family had left their native country due to a political crisis, and were staying with her parents: ASIO routinely played keystone kops in such circumstances. Of course, that was all long ago.


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