Fri, Oct 18, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Australia promises more money for top spy agency

AP, CANBERRA

An Australian government minister yesterday promised an unprecedented funding increase for the nation’s main spy agency, which is struggling to meet demands posed by new foreign-interference laws, espionage and terrorism.

Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton promised more money and staff a day after the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) said in an annual report that there was an “increasing gap between demand for our counter-espionage and foreign-interference advice, and our ability to furnish this assistance.”

“It’s getting unprecedented funding and we’ll continue to support,” Dutton told reporters. “We have more demands on our intelligence services and law enforcement agencies than ever before.”

Australia last year outlawed covert foreign interference in world-first legislation that has angered China, its biggest export market.

Since December last year, individuals and businesses seeking to influence Canberra and Australian politics on behalf of a foreign government have had to register, a requirement that was designed to add transparency for the public and government decisionmakers.

The register is a response to a government-commissioned classified report that found the Chinese Communist Party for a decade had tried to influence Australian policy, compromise political parties and gain access to all levels of government.

There have been no public reports of anyone being charged with breaching the legislation by attempting to covertly influence the government.

Dutton said that whether individuals were charged was a matter for the police.

The report said the passage of new laws on foreign interference espionage affected the threats.

Some foreign spy agencies had reassessed the risks of conducting clandestine intelligence operations in Australia, the report said.

“However, we anticipate the most capable foreign intelligence services will adapt their behavior over time to circumvent the new legislation,” it said.

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