Australia to ban, criminalise foreign interference in politics

Kevin Rudd was prime minister of Australia twice between 2007 and 2010 and for several months in the lead up to the 2013 federal election

Kevin Rudd was prime minister of Australia twice between 2007 and 2010 and for several months in the lead up to the 2013 federal 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.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, flanked by the Attorney General and Leader of the ruling Liberal Party in the Senate, announced December 5 a raft of new measures to ban political funding from overseas, as well as the introduction of new criminal offenses related to working with 'foreign entities'.

Brandis said the government's proposal to require former politicians, lobbyists and executives working for foreign interests to register if they sought to influence politics in Australia would likely include people such as the former New South Wales premier and federal foreign affairs minister Bob Carr, who is now a director of the Australia-China Relations Institute. The announcement comes as a U.S. investigation into alleged election meddling by Russian Federation continues, and follows Obama administration concerns about Chinese money and influence in Australian politics.

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 government is banning foreign political donations, except when they're intended for charities.

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".

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.

For the first time, soliciting a person to engage in those acts will be criminalised, as will preparing and planning those acts.

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

The attorney general, George Brandis, said on Tuesday the crackdown was in response to advice from Australian intelligence agencies. The Australian leader appeared confident about what he said was the most significant overhaul of espionage in decades.

Australia expressed deep concern last month over a crackdown on pro-democracy groups in Cambodia.

"Now, to ensure that there is no inappropriate foreign interference in our democratic system, we are banning all foreign donations, as I've said". Nearly every week threw up news of yet another way in which China is influencing Australian politics and public life.

The then-US ambassador John Berry said the United States was surprised by the amount of Chinese money and influence in Australian politics and wanted Australia to resolve its foreign donation issue.

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