Australian “foreign interference” bills seek to protect “US secrets”


Julian Assange named as threat

Australian “foreign interference” bills seek to protect “US secrets”

Mike Head

9 June 2018

In a radio interview yesterday, Andrew Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, pointed to the real driving forces behind a new bipartisan push for the rapid passage of proposed “foreign interference” laws.

Hastie, a member of the Liberal-National Coalition government and former SAS officer, said Australia’s role in the US-led Five Eyes intelligence alliance made the country a “soft underbelly” for authoritarian regimes “seeking to get secrets from the United States.”

The Five Eyes network links Australia’s spy and electronic surveillance agencies to the US National Security Agency and its counterparts in Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

Hastie told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio: “We should consider ourselves a target and it’s really important we build resilience into our political system … It’s really important we have these laws passed, enacted and operational.”

On Thursday, Hastie’s committee handed down a report, with the unanimous support of its opposition Labor Party members, strongly endorsing the Espionage and Foreign Interference (EFI) Bill, a key part of the legislative package. The report suggested 59 amendments, essentially designed to reinforce the bill’s focus on criminalising alleged “Chinese influence” and many forms of political dissent, especially anti-war opposition.

Hastie’s interview was an attempt to back Attorney-General Christian Porter’s demand, issued on Thursday night, for parliament to swiftly rubberstamp that bill and another major provision, the Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme (FITS) Bill. Porter…

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