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Australia’s spy chief is worried democracy is bending toward tyranny. It’s a struggle that will define the 21st century

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It isn’t every day one is name checked by the head of our international spy agency. But that’s what happened this week when Paul Symon, the director-general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, spoke at the Lowy Institute.

He was outlining his vision for the future of foreign espionage when he stopped mid-sentence and asked whether Stan Grant was in the room.

Now, I was meant to be there but got caught up in work at the ABC. Lucky. I may well have ducked my head and crept for the exit, pleading “It wasn’t me, I wasn’t there!”

Symon wanted to comment on something I had written, that democracy bends toward tyranny. He said he found the idea troubling, yet he could see how it was playing out in our world.

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