Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said the ASIO director-general was entitled to call out MPs for their language on Islam in the public arena.
ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis reportedly warned some Coalition MPs to tone down their language on the religion, as it risked endangering national security.
He suggested they should adopt more soothing language, similar to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, The Australian reported.
Speaking to the media as she launched the 2016 G’Day USA program, Ms Bishop was not concerned about the ASIO head’s actions.
“If the director-general of ASIO has formed a view that the public debate might have the potential to put at risk the work that his organisation is undertaking in counter-terrorism, then of course he should speak out,” she told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the ASIO head’s time was “better spent catching terrorists and preventing crime”.
It was suggested the Prime Minister’s office arranged the phone calls, and that some Liberal MPs were furious at what they saw as an improper intervention.
Liberal MP Andrew Laming said if Mr Lewis was calling MPs it would “appear” to be a case of playing politics.
Briefings to the whole party room, organised through the executive, would be more effective and helpful, the backbencher told Sky News.
“Any of those direct conversations risk being misconstrued, if indeed they have occurred,” he said.
– with AAP