Australian Prime Minister Unveils New Laws to Counter Foreign Interference

Australian Prime Minister Unveils New Laws to Counter Foreign Interference

Australian Prime Minister Unveils New Laws to Counter Foreign Interference

Australia will ban foreign interference in its politics — either through espionage or financial donations — in a move motivated largely by Russia's alleged involvement in last year's US election and China's growing influence on the global political landscape.

"But our democracy is facing similar concerns with foreign interference and our FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) is helpful in finding ways to deal with the problem", Mr Carouso added.

"China has no intention to interfere in Australia's internal affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations".

The prime minister cited allegations of Russian meddling in the United States election as one justification for reform.

A statement from the Chinese embassy in Australia said allegations first aired in the media of China attempting to increase political influence through donations were "made up out of thin air and filled with a cold war mentality and ideological bias". Australia is the latest western country to review its laws amid rising concern that foreign governments are seeking to influence domestic politics.

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Dastyari was revealed previous year to have accepted money from a Chinese businessman.

The optics are bad for the Labor Party, and Dastyari has been demoted again. Sam Dastyari's soliciting of a donation from a Chinese businessman, which got Dastyari demoted to the opposition backbench last week. This included asking for a Huang-owned company to pay a $1,250 travel bill and giving Huang counter-surveillance advice — saying he and Huang should leave their cellphones inside Huang's house during a meeting a year ago while walking and talking outside.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the conduct alleged against Senator Dastyari, who has been banished to the opposition backbenches over his dealings with a Chinese businessman, did not reach the threshold of current treason and espionage laws.

The proposed laws will be introduced to parliament through separate bills this week.

Under the new laws, the offense of espionage will cover not only the passing on of information, but possessing and receiving it as well.

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"Foreign intelligence services are engaged in covert influence and interference on an unprecedented scale", Turnbull said.

The reforms follow a recommendation from an Australian parliamentary committee last March for a ban on political donations from foreign companies and individuals.

The Chinese embassy accused "some Australian politicians and government officials" of making "irresponsible remarks to the detriment of political mutual trust between China and Australia".

"If GetUp! were to change focus, if they were to stop involvement in political campaigning in the future and become a charity [and] only be involved in non-political activities, then they would be absolutely free to receive and use foreign donations", Senator Cormann said.

However, according to media reports, ASIO might have hinted at the Chinese government, which allegedly influenced groups of Chinese students in Australia and spied on them.

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