Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

China has no intention to interfere in Australia's Internal Affairs - foreign ministry

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
AAP  Lukas Coch  via REUTERS Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Credit AAP Lukas Coch via REUTERS
Melinda Barton | 05 December, 2017, 17:52

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.

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.

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

Australia, concerned about rising Chinese influence, will ban foreign political donations as part of a crackdown aimed at preventing external interference in domestic politics, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday.

The push to curb foreign interference follows growing concerns about meddling by Chinese individuals and entities in Australian politics and universities.

"Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and overseas", Turnbull told reporters in Canberra, Australia's capital.

"But these reforms are not about any one country", he added, pointing to Russian influence in the United States election.

Under the new laws, it will be a crime for a person to engage in conduct on behalf of a foreign principal that will influence a political or governmental process, including opposition party policy, and is either covert or involves deception. The Australian leader appeared confident about what he said was the most significant overhaul of espionage in decades.

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

As well, the offence of espionage will capture not only the passing on of information, but possessing and receiving it.

The senator said banning all foreign donations would ensure no inappropriate foreign interference in Australia's democratic system. Charities will be exempt from receiving and using foreign donations for non-political activities. "Not just for political parties, but also for candidates, Senate groups, and for political campaigning organisations", Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said.

The new laws would apply to organisations like GetUp, the government also confirmed.