ICAC are advertising for a female operative to carry out surveillance on women. Digital art: Dan Muphy
ICAC are advertising for a female operative to carry out surveillance on women. Digital art: Dan Muphy

I spy, as long as you are female

WANTED: A female spy. A job ad for a female undercover "surveillance operative" has been given exemption from strict anti-discrimination laws.

The state government temporarily­ suspended the law to enable the Independent Commission Against Corruption to advertise for the role - which experts said is probably less Red Sparrow or Mata Hari and more about being able to covertly move among groups of women.

In NSW it is illegal to advertise jobs for men or women only, unless it is an "essential requirement" of the position.


The anti-corruption watchdog sought special exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW to advertise for the $127,627 job which requires women to be sent into the field in "covert" spying operations.

"The exemption is required to ensure operational effectiveness and flexibility," an ICAC spokeswoman said.

However, the agency would not reveal why a man could not carry out the same work.

Anti-corruption expert Professor­ Adam Graycar yesterday­ said "there may well be occasions in female-only or female-dominated activities where some activity of interest to ICAC is taking place ... this could be in a school, a performing arts activity or a sporting activity, for example."

Security expert and Homeland Security Asia/Pacific chief executive Roger Henning said there were more male undercover investigators than women across law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

"It makes sense to waive the rules requiring positions to be open to all. It saves human resources time and the expense of having to turn down hundreds of unsuitable male applicants for a role requiring a female," he said.

"In my experience, women are better than men at undertaking covert surveillance of women. A bloke in drag tends to stand out.

"Women are very dedicated, observant, ultra-fast first responders who are not easily distracted from a high-level protection task."

In its job advertisement, ICAC calls for a woman skilled at covert surveillance and ready to "investigate, expose and minimise corruption".