Australia to legislate against foreign interference in politics
Australia to legislate against foreign interference in politics
Lisa Maree Williams Getty Images
05 December, 2017, 17:18
The push to curb foreign interference follows growing concerns about meddling by Chinese individuals and entities in Australian politics and universities.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday new laws to combat foreign interference and espionage as he encouraged his country not to be naive about foreign powers trying to influence its political process.
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 USA election and China's growing influence on the global political landscape.
The Australian government on Tuesday announced a package of legal reforms against foreign interference in order to counter espionage, counter-intelligence and political donations.
"But these reforms are not about any one country", he added, pointing to Russian influence in the USA election.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had no intention of interfering with Australia's internal affairs or using political funding to influence them.
The laws would criminalize acts such as Labor Party Sen.
The overhaul has been prompted by criticism of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, over his links to a Chinese donor.
Under the new laws, the offence of espionage will cover not only the passing on of information, but possessing and receiving it as well.
Preparing and planning those acts will be criminalised for the first time, as will soliciting anyone to engage in those acts.
"That is why we are introducing, because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference", he said.
Espionage will carry a penalty of up to life in jail.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said it was beyond doubt there had been an increase in foreign espionage in recent years and the government had been slow to react. "They need to concentrate on matters truly in the national interest", he said. Given that foreign donations will be used for activities that do not involve politics, charities will be exempt from receiving and using foreign donations, as confirmed by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
Unlike the USA and many other countries that ban foreign donations, Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas.
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