Australian government unveils sweeping anti-democratic “foreign interference” bills


Australian government unveils sweeping anti-democratic “foreign interference” bills

Part 3: Far-reaching measures against political dissent

Mike Head

2 February 2018

This is the third part in a three-part series examining the wide-ranging implications for basic democratic rights of five bills, tabled in the Australian parliament in December, which outlaw involvement in alleged foreign interference in Australian political and economic affairs.

Despite its title, the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill extends far beyond “espionage and foreign interference.” The anti-China campaign goes hand-in-hand with far-reaching measures to crack down on political dissent.

The bill contains a range of new or expanded offences, involving up to life imprisonment, for activity regarded as a threat to the existing Australian political and economic order, particularly under wartime conditions.

Many old offences, not used since World War II, are being “modernised” for a new period of war and political convulsions. Alongside these redefined offences—such as “treachery,” “advocating mutiny” and “sabotage”—are vague new ones that provide broad scope for jailing anti-war opponents.

According to the bill’s explanatory memorandum, it “comprehensively criminalises activities that could prejudice Australia’s national security” and broadens offences “that have not evolved to deal with the modern threat environment.”

“National security” is defined in wide-ranging terms to include “the country’s political, military or economic relations with another country or other countries.” In other words, it means protecting the profit interests, and predatory activities of the Australian capitalist class…

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