Joint Media Release

Protecting Australia from Foreign Interference

MC 77/17

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Prime Minister
Federal Member for Wentworth

Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC
Attorney-General
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Queensland 

5 December 2017

The Turnbull Government has finalised historic legislative reforms targeting foreign interference and espionage. This comprehensive package will reshape the way our national security agencies investigate and disrupt these activities.

The foreign influence and interference package will be complemented by another bill on electoral reform to ban foreign political donations.

These reforms will protect the Australian way of life. They will strengthen our democracy and will ensure that decisions are made based on Australia’s national interest, not anyone else’s.

We must ensure that our politics and our parliament are strong enough to withstand attempts by foreign powers to interfere or influence.

The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order and is getting worse.

Foreign intelligence services are engaged in covert influence and interference on an unprecedented scale. This activity is being directed against a range of Australian interests, from our political systems, to our commercial interests, to expatriate communities who have made Australia their home. There are currently no criminal offences targeting this type of interference.

Similarly, our existing espionage offences are narrow and difficult to prosecute. They do not cover the necessary types of harmful conduct, or the full range of information that requires protection. Our existing espionage offences have not been successfully prosecuted in decades.

Following the Attorney-General’s comprehensive review, the Government is completely updating our criminal laws in relation to espionage and covert interference by foreign governments and their agencies.

This means if you are covertly acting on behalf of, or cooperating with, a foreign power, against the national interest, you could soon be guilty of a serious offence. Likewise, if you are acting on behalf of a foreign entity to influence our political processes, you will soon have to declare that fact, or face serious penalties.

This legislation will be world-leading among our like-minded international partners, whose knowledge and experience have informed this comprehensive package.

The Government will introduce the most comprehensive foreign donations ban ever considered by an Australian Government. It will ensure that only Australians and Australian entities can participate in our elections.

[ENDS]

Media Contact(s): 

For Minister Cormann: Karen Wu - 0428 350 139
For the Prime Minister: PMO Press Office - (02) 6277 7744
For the Attorney-General: Scott Bolitho - 0477 722 189