Australia warns of cold war-style espionage as it passes law banning covert foreign interference in politics
The conservative government says the legislation is the major cause of a rift in diplomatic relations with China
Australia’s Parliament passed sweeping national security legislation on Thursday that bans covert foreign interference in domestic politics, makes industrial espionage for a foreign power a crime and offends the nation’s most important trading partner, China.
The two bills covering foreign interference, espionage and influence transparency have been criticised as criminalising dissent. The Senate made them law with the support of the centre-left Labor Party opposition on the last day of Parliament before mid-August.
The conservative government says the legislation, first proposed in December, is the major cause of a rift in diplomatic relations with China. But the government maintains it is not aimed at any particular country.
Foreign interference in the latest US and French presidential elections plus the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom have been cited as justifications for the reforms.
Individuals lobbying for foreign governments will have to be listed on a public register in a step toward making foreign influence on Australian politics more transparent.