Australia names first female intelligence chief

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday appointed a woman to head a major Australian spy agency for the first time.

Rachel Noble will become next director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which intercepts electronic communications from foreign countries.

“Her appointment to this leadership role is a significant step forward for women in the national security sector and we congratulate her,” Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.

Noble, who will begin her new role in February 2020, will lead the ASD at a time when Australia is increasingly concerned about cyber-attacks.

In March, the ASD concluded China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for a cyber-attack on its parliament and three major political parties, Reuters reported.

Australia decided not to go public with its findings for fear of risking its trade ties with China, two sources said.

China denies it was responsible for the hack.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore