Five eyes speak as one on foreign interference

August 31, 2018

The world's foremost Western democracies - including Australia - through their 'five eyes' intelligence-sharing powers have agreed to respond jointly to “severe” foreign interference.

The move to call out interfering nations follows the strong stance the Conservative Party have taken in calling out Chinese influence in Australia.

Five-eyes ministers met on the Gold Coast and released a joint statement saying foreign governments, ­actors and their proxies were involved in “coercive, deceptive and clandestine activities” to “sow discord, manipulate public discourse, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets”.

Australia has been one of the most aggressive countries in putting the issue of foreign interference on the agenda, with new laws passed this year.

The five-eyes countries said they would hit back at foreign interference and one way they would do this was by jointly accusing the country responsible of the act. “We committed to establish a mechanism for the five countries to share developments in our respective approaches to confronting the foreign interference challenge,” the statement said. “We undertook to share information on foreign interference activities with a view to advancing our collective knowledge of how to counter such threats. In the event of a severe foreign interference incident within our sovereign nations, we agreed the five countries would co-ordinate on appropriate responses and attribution.”

Australia is in the process of introducing laws to force technology companies, apps and services to provide authorities with a way to access user data to combat terrorism and child pornography.

The joint statement made it clear this approach was part of a wider global effort among Western nations, saying there was an “urgent need” for law enforcement to get “targeted access” to data on apps as long as there were legal safeguards. The ministers said they wanted companies to voluntarily “establish lawful ­access solutions to their products and services”, but if they did not, then authorities might introduce laws or use technology so law ­enforcement could get the data.

In May this year, Senator Bernardi told radio station Triple M people should be very concerned about Chinese influence in Australia after WA Liberal MP and former SAS officer Andrew Hastie, used parliamentary privilege to expose alleged Chinese bribery of a senior United Nations official.

To read Primrose Riordan's full article, click here.

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