Australia to ban foreign interference in politics

Australia will ban foreign interference in its politics — either through espionage or financial donations — in a move motivated largely by Russia’s alleged involvement in last year’s U.S. election and China’s growing influence on the global political landscape.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday that foreign interference in politics would be outlawed under updated treason and espionage laws. The announcement comes as a U.S. investigation into alleged election meddling by Russia continues, and follows Obama administration concerns about Chinese money and influence in Australian politics.

“Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and abroad,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra, Australia’s capital.

Under the new laws, it will be a crime for a person to engage in conduct on behalf of a foreign principal that will influence a political or governmental process, including opposition party policy, and is either covert or involves deception.

The foreign influence and interference package will be complemented by another bill on electoral reform that will ban foreign political donations, Turnbull said.

“We must ensure that our politics and our Parliament are strong enough to withstand attempts by foreign powers to interfere or influence,” he added in a statement.

The laws would criminalize acts such as Labor Party Sen. Sam Dastyari’s soliciting of a donation from a Chinese businessman, which…

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