emfizz.com December 14, 2017

Foreign political donations to be banned under sweeping new anti-espionage laws

06 December 2017, 01:17 | Terri Saunders

Turnbull unveils anti-espionage laws: What it means for Australian politics, businesses, organisations

Foreign donations banned amid fears over growing Chinese influence

Carr responded sharply. In a statement, he said the operational costs for his China thinktank were "fully funded by the university" and he said the organisation had produced academic work of a high standard, with 70% commissioned from academics at other Australian universities.

"Being registered should not be seen as any kind of taint and certainly not as a crime", Mr Turnbull said.

The Prime Minister said the changes, which will be introduced in separate bills, represented the largest overhaul of espionage, counter-intelligence and political donations. Failing to disclose those ties will impose criminal penalties.

The definitions of treason and espionage would also be broadened under the new laws to include possessing or receiving sensitive information, rather than just transmitting it.

The move - long overdue in the eye of most political scientists - is a direct response to revelations that a senior Labor senator has had untoward dealings with a Chinese businessman who has donated to Australian political parties. Attorney-General George Brandis clarified the terms, saying anyone who acts covertly on behalf of a foreign actor in a manner that harms Australia's national security or to influence a government decision or a political process will be criminalised, SBS reports.

'That is why we are introducing, because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference, ' he said. He cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence". Charities will be exempt from receiving and using foreign donations for non-political activities.

A GetUp! spokeswoman told the ABC that 0.5 per cent of its donations have come from overseas since its establishment.

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Acts of political interference such as Labor senator Sam Dastyari's soliciting of a donation from a Chinese businessman would be outlawed under an update to Australia's treason and espionage laws. 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.

A new offence of intentional foreign interference will make it 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.

"Similarly, it does not prevent charities from engaging in political activities in Australia, as long as the political expenditure incurred to fund that political activity is raised from Australians".

Announcing the laws in Canberra, Mr Turnbull said he was concerned about alleged attempts by China to interfere in Australian politics as well as the "credible reports" about Russia's efforts to assist Donald Trump during last year's United States election campaign.

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.

Four days later, the director of the Australian company - who is also the chairman of the Chinese parent company - had an intimate dinner with the Prime Minister.

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