Australia to ban, criminalise foreign interference in politics

Australia to ban, criminalise foreign interference in politics

Australia to ban, criminalise foreign interference in politics

"This will be the most significant overhaul of our espionage, counter intelligence, political donation legislative framework in decades", he told reporters in Canberra.

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.

Australia's new laws, modeled in part on the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, would criminalize foreign interference and require the registration of lobbyists working for nation states, Turnbull said.

"Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and overseas", Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

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"We have recently seen disturbing reports about Chinese influence", Turnbull said, adding the reforms were not targeted at any one country.

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

Senator Brandis said the allegations against Labor senator Sam Dastyari would not reach the threshold of existing laws but that was why new laws would address that "gap". Dastyari, who remains in Parliament, had previously said that a Chinese company with links to Beijing had paid a A$1,670 (US$1,275) travel bill for him. It won't only be just sending information but also receiving information.

There will also be a new offence that will criminalise, for the first time, soliciting or procuring a person to engage in espionage, and a new preparation and planning offence.

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Turnbull explained that the reforms would aim to protect and strengthen democracy in Australia and would ensure that Australians make decisions based on their own wishes. "We will not tolerate foreign-influence activities that are in any way covert, coercive or corrupt".

Former US president Obama's administration a year ago called for the Australian system to be reformed to remove the influence of political donations from China - Australia's largest trading partner and its biggest source of foreign political funds.

"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.

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