World News

Australia sounds alarm over Chinese political influence

Australia sounds alarm over Chinese political influence

The Prime Minister said he was concerned by reports of Chinese foreign influence, but stressed the laws were not focused on one country alone, citing reports of Russian attempts to meddle with the United States election.

CHINA has insisted it does not interfere in Australia's domestic affairs and has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to move to improve bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has used powerful rhetoric to announce the laws, describing them as being created to protect Australia's "way of life".

'Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and overseas, ' Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Since the controversial sale of the port of Darwin to a Chinese company in 2015, the government has been at pains to demonstrate limits to its ties to China, its biggest export partner, blocking sales of Australia's biggest cattle station and biggest power grid to Chinese interests.

Under the new laws, it will be a crime for a person to engage in conduct on behalf of a foreign principal that will influence a political or governmental process, including opposition party policy, and is either covert or involves deception.

That came after Turnbull ordered an inquiry in June in the wake of media revelations that the nation's spy agency had warned the country's political elite two years ago about taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party. Another reform bans foreign donations to political campaigns, something that was permitted in Australia until now.

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The Senator was forced to stand down from his frontbench portfolio, but shortly after doing so he was promoted back into the senior parliamentary ranks within the Labor opposition, this time as deputy whip in the Senate.

The government's crackdown on foreign meddling was provoked by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's (ASIO) report on the activity of foreign governments in Australian universities.

The optics are awful for the Labor Party, and Dastyari has been demoted again. His comments were based on assumption, nothing more.

"The relevant reports not only made unjustifiable accusations against the Chinese Government, but also unscrupulously vilified the Chinese students as well as the Chinese community in Australia with racial prejudice, which in turn has tarnished Australia's reputation as a multicultural society".

Under new legislation, Australia will require lobbyists working for foreign governments to register with the authorities.

These donations have culturally been viewed as little more than an extension of the open political exchanges that occur between similarly minded western democracies. China's rising soft-power influence and militarization of the South China Sea have become an increasing concern in the Asia-Pacific region.

The new laws announced Tuesday are being touted as "world leading", but it remains to be seen how effective they will be in practice. It won't only be just sending information but also receiving information.