CANBERRA, Australia -- Prime Minister Bob Hawke Thursday announced a sweeping investigation of spying activities in Australia following charges of links between a Soviet KGB agent and a former high official of his own Labor Party.
Hawke announced the probe by a Royal Commission of Inquiry - Australia's highest independent judicial investigating committee -- in answer to questions in Parliament about his government's handling of the spy scandal.
The prime minister told Parliament Wednesday his government expelled Soviet Embassy First Secretary Valery Ivanov last month because of his association with former Labor Party National Secretary David Combe.
Ivanov's relationship with Combe 'gave rise to serious security concern,' Hawke said, without disclosing details about the alleged relationship.
Hawke told a news conference Thursday the commission would carry out a sweeping investigation of Australia's intelligence services, foreign intelligence operations in the :ountry, and the expulsion of the Soviet diplomat.
He told Parliament that Combe, whose current work as a lobbyist reportedly brought him into close contact with the Russians in Australia, was not suspected of being an agent for Moscow.
Hawke said Combe, the top Labor Party official from 1973 to 1981, was a former friend and colleague but that he had been banned from dealing with any government officials following an Australian Security Intelligence Organization report on his alleged ties to Ivanov.
But he said that Combe was not suspected of being a spy and that his relationship with Ivanov was one of several factors that led the government to oust the Soviet envoy.
'There is certainly, in the government's belief, no foundation for any allegation or imputation that Mr. Combe, is, or ever was, in any sense, a Soviet spy,' Hawke said.
Ivanov was kicked out of Australia April 28 on charges that he 'had threatened Australia's national security' as a 'professional intelligence officer' for the Soviet KGB.
Combe issued a statement saying he was suing a Sydney newspaper for accusing him of being a Soviet spy and saying that he welcomed the Royal Commission as a means of clearing his name.
The newspaper, the Australian reported Combe told friends Ivanov tipped him that his phone was being tapped by Australian intelligence.