ChinaFebruary 27 2023, 7:47 am

Australian Prime Minister Tells Inquiry Chinese Influence Ops are “Blatant”

For­mer Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has told an inquiry that Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions in Aus­tralia are “bla­tant” despite the coun­try’s lack of list­ings on Aus­trali­a’s for­eign influ­ence trans­paren­cy reg­is­ter. Turn­bull claimed that the secu­ri­ty and intel­li­gence ser­vices have a very good under­stand­ing of what is going on with regard to Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions in Aus­tralia. Turn­bull not­ed that Chi­na and the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Chi­na are the most active state and polit­i­cal par­ties attempt­ing to sway Aus­tralian pub­lic pol­i­cy, but the trans­paren­cy reg­is­ter shows no affil­i­a­tion with the Unit­ed Front Work Depart­ment of the CPC. If this were true, Turn­bull con­tin­ued, there would be ter­ri­ble reper­cus­sions in Bei­jing for those in charge of the Unit­ed Front Work Department.

Peo­ple must reg­is­ter any activ­i­ties they car­ry out in Aus­tralia on behalf of a for­eign prin­ci­pal in order to influ­ence polit­i­cal or gov­ern­men­tal affairs, accord­ing to the for­eign influ­ence trans­paren­cy scheme, which went into effect in 2018. Turn­bull argued that offi­cials should not view the leg­is­la­tion his gov­ern­ment intro­duced as a “robot­ic box-tick­ing exer­cise” and that he was per­plexed that it was not more strict­ly enforced. For­mer senior politi­cians are sub­ject to stricter dis­clo­sure require­ments under the scheme. Turn­bull has recent­ly been required to reg­is­ter two speech­es, while Kevin Rudd has dis­closed dozens of unpaid inter­views with state-affil­i­at­ed media out­lets like the BBC.

The com­mit­tee is review­ing the laws, and the plan impos­es stricter dis­clo­sure require­ments on for­mer senior politi­cians. Turn­bull claimed there was “noth­ing covert about it” even though both engage­ments required reg­is­tra­tion, and he was not com­plain­ing about hav­ing to do so. Acts of influ­ence may be “fly­ing under the radar,” accord­ing to Kather­ine Manst­ed, a senior fel­low at the Aus­tralian Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty’s nation­al secu­ri­ty col­lege, because of the grey area that nations like Chi­na, Rus­sia, and Iran have tak­en advan­tage of. She claimed that the laws do not always record the prop­er information.




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