Monday, 11 December, 2017

Chinese influence on Australia is 'fabricated' by media, China claims

PM calls for expansion to treason laws Turnbull Announces Overhaul of Australian Intelligence After Chinese Influence Scandal
Howard Terry | 07 December, 2017, 01:49

Senator Cormann said the government would introduce the foreign donation ban in the Senate later this week, adding that only Australian businesses and organisations should be able to influence Australian elections through political donations.

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

Mr Turnbull said the government could not afford to be naive about the threat of foreign interference and stressed the laws were not focused on the loyalties of multicultural Australians.

The prime minister cited allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election as one justification for reform. But such donations have usually come from ideological allies of the major parties - overseas businessmen with links to the UK Conservative party for example, or trade unions in the United States collaborating with the Australian Labor Party.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly said that the country's new laws would ban foreign political donations to avoid external interference in domestic politics, citing "disturbing reports about Chinese influence". 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 a year ago while walking and talking outside.

Taken together, the statements indicate China sees new laws proposed by the Coalition to crack down on foreign interference and create a register of foreign agents as directed at it.

Under the legislation, which wasn't expected to be voted on until next year, the definition of espionage and treason would be updated to make failing to report the receipt of information - not just passing it on - an offence.

There will also be a new offense that will criminalize soliciting or procuring a person to engage in espionage, and a new "preparation and planning" offense.

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

The foreign interference offences would target covert, deceptive or threatening actions by foreign actors, the government said.

"They will strengthen our democracy and will ensure that decisions are made based on Australia's national interest, not anyone else's", he said in a statement.

Why didn't the Australian government support legislation the opposition Labor Party put forward a year ago to curb foreign donations?

Unlike the US and many other countries that ban foreign donations, Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas.

The Guardian reports the Chinese foreign minister spokesman was unimpressed with the developing situation in Australia's federal parliament.

The chief of Australia's primary intelligence agency, the ASIO, warned in October that foreign powers are "clandestinely seeking to shape" public opinion by manipulating the media and institutions of higher education, a warning widely interpreted as referring to Chinese Communist cells.

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