Australian government to push through anti-democratic “foreign interference” bills


Australian government to push through anti-democratic “foreign interference” bills

Mike Head

17 March 2018

Despite numerous submissions to a parliamentary committee that provide chilling examples of how its sweeping “foreign interference” bills will eviscerate freedom of political expression and organisation, the Liberal-National government is trying to ram the legislation through as quickly as possible.

Submissions and government answers to committee questions have revealed that, for instance, political parties could be criminalised for participating in global campaigns within Australia, and protestors could be jailed for up to 20 years for blocking a public road over an international issue, such as uranium mining.

To get the bills through as quickly as possible, Attorney-General Christian Porter last week offered minor amendments to their draconian secrecy clauses. The move was to try to satisfy concerns expressed by the large media corporations, which could be classified as “foreign principals” under the legislation. Porter unveiled vague “public interest” exemptions for professional journalists and media staff.

However, with the overwhelming support of the same corporate media establishment, and in-principle backing from the Labor Party, the government remains adamant about the central provisions and thrust of the legislation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is now due to report next month, potentially clearing the way for a bid to push the bills through during parliament’s May budget session.

While nominally directed at combating “improper influence” by any foreign power, the bills are aimed, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stressed, against China in particular. The legislation has vast implications…

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