(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s domestic spy chief has revealed a foreign regime recruited a former lawmaker as part of a plan to access classified information via high profile figures, including a member of a prime minister’s family.

Mike Burgess, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, warned that the threat of foreign interference was at its highest levels yet, according to his annual threat assessment delivered in Canberra.

To underline the risks, Burgess revealed a previously classified incident in which an unnamed country successfully turned a former Australian politician, who helped foreign spies create a fake overseas conference to lure leading Australian academics and government figures.

Once the attendees arrived, the unidentified country attempted to recruit the high-profile visitors, as well as grilling them for classified information.

“This politician sold out their country, party and former colleagues to advance the interests of the foreign regime,” Burgess said, without naming the lawmaker. “At one point, the former politician even proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member into the spies’ orbit.”

Former Australian Treasurer and Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey called on Burgess to reveal the name of the former lawmaker.

“It is absolutely inconceivable that you would have a former politician, representing their community, representing their country, who then goes and engages with a foreign adversary and somehow they’re allowed to walk off into the sunset,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday. “That is absurd.”

Hockey, who is based in Washington, said the allegations had already “raised questions” in the US.

Every year, Burgess uses his threat assessment to highlight major security vulnerabilities that are threatening Australia, from domestic terrorism to cyber warfare. 

Burgess said the threat of foreign interference in Australia is at the highest level in years. “The threat is real. The threat is now. And the threat is deeper and broader than you might think,” he said.

Among other examples given by Burgess was an intelligence team in a foreign country that was tasked with specifically targeting Australia, and a nation that was mapping Australia’s critical infrastructure for potential weaknesses.

On the threat of terrorism, Burgess said that ASIO is concerned about community tensions as a result of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, he said there had not been examples so far of Australians going to the Middle East to join terrorist groups as a result of the conflict.

“ASIO remains concerned about lone actors, though,” he said. “The potential for an individual or small group under the radar of authorities to use readily available weapons to carry out an act of terrorism. And this is a concern across the spectrum of motivations – religious and ideological.”

(Updates with comments from former US ambassador.)

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