China has been accused, although it has promptly denied, of trying to influence Australia’s political system and systemic government institutions.
On Tuesday, Australia said it plans on introducing reforms, by the end of this year, to combat covert political influence and foreign interference which could pose a threat to its political system and economy.
Australia’s attorney general George Brandis told the country’s parliament, the decision to improve safeguards follows a review of Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws and will include legislation to ban foreign political donations.
“Espionage and covert foreign interference can cause immense harm to our national sovereignty, to the safety of our people, to our economic prosperity, and to the very integrity of Australian democracy,” said Brandis.
He went on to add, policies modeled, in part, on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires institutions and individuals, who make a donation to declare if they are acting on behalf of a foreign power to influence the political processes.
Although Brandis did not specifically mention countries which the forthcoming legislation targets, there has been growing concerns of China extending its influence in the country.
In June, Fairfax Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had reported, there had been a concerted and widespread attempt by China and its proxies to “infiltrate” the Australian political institutions and its process in order to promote their own vested interests.
China had dismissed the accusation as “totally unfounded and irresponsible”.
This week, one of Australia’s largest independent publishers had stated it would delay the publication of a book, which alleged that the Chinese government had tried to influence Australian institutions, out of legal concerns.