Wed, Dec 06, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Australia seeking to limit foreign political influence

CHINESE MONEY:Malcolm Turnbull said the proposed laws were ‘not about any one country,’ but he then spoke about ‘disturbing reports about Chinese influence’

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra yesterday.

Photo: AP

Australia, concerned about rising Chinese influence, will ban foreign political donations as part of a crackdown aimed at preventing external interference in domestic politics, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday.

Turnbull told reporters in Canberra that foreign powers were making “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process” in Australia and the world.

He cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence.”

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.

The announcement came as concern grows that Beijing might be extending its influence and as relationships between Australian politicians and Chinese government interests have become increasingly contentious.

Fairfax Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported in June on a concerted campaign by China to “infiltrate” Australian politics to promote Chinese interests.

China denies the claims.

In Beijing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said China had no intention of interfering with Australia’s internal affairs or using political funding to influence them.

Leading opposition Senator Sam Dastyari quit some senior Labor Party positions last week after a tape surfaced of him appearing to endorse China’s contentious expansion in disputed areas of the South China Sea, against his party’s platform.

The tape, which showed him standing next to property developer Huang Xiangmo (黃向墨), a major Chinese political donor, was leaked to the media.

“I take those reports, as do my colleagues, very seriously,” Turnbull said.

However, the new laws “are not about any one country,” he said.

“Foreign interference is a global issue ... for example, we’re all familiar with very credible reports that Russia sought to actively undermine the United States’ election ... the threat is real,” Turnbull said.

The new laws, should they pass parliament, would ban foreign donations to political parties or any political group that has spent more than A$100,000 (US$76,350) campaigning in the past four years.

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