Published: Tue, December 05, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Australia, citing concerns over China, cracks down on foreign political influence

Australia, citing concerns over China, cracks down on foreign political influence

The threat of foreign interference in Australian politics has dominated a fiery Question Time.

People or organizations acting in the interests of foreign powers would be required to register and disclose their ties, Turnbull said, adding that foreign political donations would also be banned.

He pointed to "disturbing reports" about influence from China.

"We have no intention of interfering in Australia's internal affairs or exercising influence in its domestic politics through political donations, " Geng said.

Australians were familiar with the "very credible reports" that Russian Federation sought to actively undermine and influence the USA election, Turnbull said.

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 laws would criminalize acts such as Labor Party Sen. 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 past year 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 offence of "espionage" will be updated from just passing on information to possessing or receiving information.

Espionage will carry a penalty of up to life in prison.

Unlike the USA and many other countries that ban foreign donations, Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas. "We will not tolerate foreign-influence activities that are in any way covert, coercive or corrupt". 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.

Senator Sam Dastyari resigned from a senior position with the opposition Labour Party last week after he acknowledged warning a Chinese businessman linked to the Community Party that his phones were being tapped by Australian intelligence agencies.

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