The Federal Government has announced that new laws are being introduced into Federal Parliament to ban foreign political donations, as well as those entities attempting to influence Australian politics on behalf of other nations, and will be forced to declare who they are working for.
The following Bills were introduced into the House of Representatives on 7 December 2017 and are expected to from part of the wide-ranging overhaul of the current legislation:
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently announced the introduction of the new legislation, reporting growing concerns within the intelligence community about the influence of overseas agents and political donations with the proposed legislation requiring lobbyists and former MPs to declare whether they are acting for a foreign country.
The Prime Minister said the changes represented the largest overhaul of espionage, counter-intelligence and political donations. 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.
Speaking to the ABC, Mr Turnbull was quoted as saying:
Mr Turnbull said the proposed legislation is to create a transparency scheme based on the USA’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires people to declare whether they are working for or acting on behalf of a foreign power.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the legal definition of espionage would be broadened to make it a crime to possess sensitive information, rather than merely communicating it and that the legislation will also create a new offence of unlawful interference in Australia's political system, including behaviours that would harm the national interest.
Senator Brandis told the ABC:
The ABC also indicates that the proposed legislation will also create a new offence of unlawful interference in Australia's political system, including behaviours that would harm the national interest.
The West Australian reports that organisations which have spent more than $100,000 on political purposes over the past four years, or $50,000 or more where it is at least half their annual budget, will be captured under the proposed new laws and defined as “political campaigners”. Australia is one of few countries to allow foreign political donations, which are barred in the US, Britain, France and Canada.
Speaking at a Joint Press Conference on 5 December 2017, Senator Brandis referred to the proposed package of Bills and their purpose:
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also indicated that the Australian Government would soon be introducing legislation into the Senate to ban foreign donations, adding that only Australian businesses and organisations should be able to influence Australian elections through political donations.
Speaking to the ABC, Minister Cormann announced:
The proposed ban on foreign donations is not expected to prevent charities from receiving and using foreign donations for non-political activities in Australia or preventing charities from engaging in political activities in Australia as long as the political expenditure incurred to fund that political activity is raised from Australians.
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Malcolm Turnbull announces biggest overhaul of espionage, intelligence laws in decades -
Federal Government to ban foreign political donations -
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