Australia seeks foreign-meddling curbs after China controversy
06 December, 2017, 01:21 | Author: Brenda Erickson
He was also revealed to have advised a Chinese businessman with alleged government connections he may have been surveilled by Australian intelligence services.
"Foreign interference is a global issue. for example, we're all familiar with very credible reports that Russian Federation sought to actively undermine the United States' election. the threat is real", Turnbull said.
In telegraphing the imminent introduction of new legislation, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said on Tuesday the reforms were not directed at any one country, noting foreign interference was a global issue.
"Being registered should not be seen as any kind of taint and certainly not as a crime", Mr Turnbull said. Criminal penalties await those who will fail to do so.
The Prime Minister said the changes, which will be introduced in separate bills, represented the largest overhaul of espionage, counter-intelligence and political donations.
"We have no intention of interfering in Australia's internal affairs or exercising influence in its domestic politics through political donations, " Geng said.
As well, the offence of espionage will capture not only the passing on of information, but possessing and receiving it.
The legislation will also create a new offence of unlawful interference in Australia's political system, including behaviours that would harm the national interest. He cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence".
However, leading opposition Senator Sam Dastyari quit some senior Labor Party positions last week after a tape surfaced of him appearing to endorse China's contentious expansion in disputed areas of the South China Sea, against his party's platform.
The new laws, should they pass parliament, would ban foreign donations to political parties or any political group that has spent more than A$100,000 campaigning in the past four years - a rule that could also likely affect environmental and other campaign groups.
China has declared it does not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries and Beijing has urged the Turnbull government to "discard prejudice" and deepen the bilateral relationship rather than pursue measures aimed at shoring up Australia from the risks of foreign interference. Turnbull said the reforms would "reshape the way our national security agencies investigate and disrupt" foreign interference and espionage and would protect the Australian way of life.
But the particular change won't ban charities from engaging in political activities given that the political expenditure incurred to fund those activities is raised from Australians.
He says not only has Labor being trying to legislate for a ban on foreign donations for a long time, they called on the government six months ago to do something about foreign interference in Australia's political processes.
A register will be set up publishing the names of any person or entity who seeks to influence political processes on behalf of a foreign state or principal, based on the foreign agent registration arrangements in the US.
The decision comes on the first day of the campaign for the Catalan regional elections to be held on December 21. Campaigning began on Tuesday, with polls predicting a close race between the pro and anti-independence camps.
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