Response to Foreign Influence in Australian Politics

December 05, 2017

The government has finally heeded Australian Conservatives’ concerns about foreign influence, particularly Chinese influence, in our politics.  A listless Coalition government are at last on a topic of national interest and significance to our body politic.

Australian Conservatives have been calling out the foreign influence within our political system since we sought a better way for Australia in February of this year:

  1. We have been calling for a Royal Commission into Chinese influence in our politics.
  2. We have been calling for a ban on foreign donations
  3. We have been pursuing Sam Dastyari for some time and I have called for his resignation from the senate. 
  4. We led the way on stopping the Chinese extradition treaty – not Labor, as Bill Shorten claimed today, nor some elements of the Coalition, as The Australian newspaper claimed today.  The disallowance that started the Chinese extradition treaty debate was initiated and led by Australian Conservatives. 

At last the government have supported our push to ban foreign donations in Australian politics.

However, it is disappointing that the government claims it has given party leaders briefings about the national security risks of foreign donations and foreign agents, but they have not given Australian Conservatives leader and senator Cory Bernardi a briefing – even though we asked the Attorney-General for one, months ago. 

From that failure we imply two admissions by government:

  1. that it has no concerns that foreign agents are active within Australian Conservatives, and
  2. that foreign agents are actively soliciting the major parties. 

You have to ask, how did we get in a situation where we need strong criminal laws to stop foreign interference? It was by the major parties accepting significant financial donations from foreign donors, either directly or through foreign sympathisers in Australia.

Australian Conservatives fully support closer regulation of organisations like Getup!  We agree with the Special Minister of State, Getup! are clearly a political campaigning organisation.  Getup! are not independent, because they exclusively target right-of-centre politicians.  They are proxy supporters for the Labor Party and the Greens and need to be held to account. 

Australian elections must reflect the will of the Australian people, not the manipulated outcome by large foreign agents, such as China, or huge unaccountable bodies like GetUp!.

On the specifics regarding the new criminal offence of unlawful foreign interference and a foreign influence transparency scheme, we will consider specific proposals when they are tabled and respond in good time.

Today’s initiative by the government is belated but very welcome, and builds on the efforts of Australian Conservatives to end the foreign manipulation of our political system. Much more needs to be done, but this is an important start.

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