Former Prime Minister Paul Keating might have to register on the Turnbull government’s agents of foreign influence list because he sits on an advisory council for a Chinese government development bank, Fairfax Media understands.
Mr Keating has made strong public remarks that Australia should pursue a foreign policy that is more independent of the United States.
Sources have told Fairfax Media that a reading of the criteria of the government’s new transparency scheme requiring agents of foreign influence to register on a public list suggests someone in Mr Keating’s circumstances would have to seriously consider registering themselves.
The former prime minister sits on an advisory council to the China Development Bank, a state-owned bank that raises money for large infrastructure projects. Mr Keating declined to comment on Wednesday.
And from ASPI head Peter Jennings on why it is necessary:
Measures covered by the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill will create a range of offences dealing with espionage, sabotage and treason. The point here is that there has been no successful prosecution against individuals accused of such offences for decades.
The bill is trying to criminalise certain covert and deceptive activities of foreign actors that may not amount to full-on espionage but are still designed to undermine our democratic system.
This is important and necessary given the judgment of our intelligence agencies that we are at high risk. Clearly some very fine lines must be developed to establish what is legitimate lobbying activity, for example on the part of international companies just wanting to do business in Australia, and illegitimate activities on the part of individuals or foreign companies covertly trying to change government policy.
An example of that would be attempts to get political parties to shift their positions on the South China Sea: to say, for example, that China’s internationally illegal land reclamation does not concern Australia, when such activities run against our direct strategic interests.
Prepare for some serious egg to be thrown here, most of it on Labor. To wit:
EMBATTLED Labor Senator Sam Dastyari hounded senior defence officials with at least 115 questions representing China’s concerns about issues such as the South China Sea and Australia’s friendship with Japan over a three-year period.
Mr Dastyari’s repeated grilling of then Secretary of the Department of Defence Dennis Richardson and former DFAT Secretary Peter Varghese contradict his claims he simply misspoke when supporting a pro-China line on the South China Sea issue in a press conference alongside donor Huang Xiangmo.
Instead, it was a position he had articulated over and over, causing consternation in parliamentary estimates committee hearings.
Labor, has a big problem. Some of it is political. Some of it real. But it is most definitely threatening and blind open borders policies will not be able to solve it.