Australia to ban foreign political donations, citing concerns over China

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People or organizations acting in the interests of foreign powers would be required to register and disclose their ties, Turnbull said, adding that foreign political donations would also be banned.

Australia, concerned about rising Chinese influence, will ban foreign political donations as part of a crackdown aimed at preventing external interference in domestic politics, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday.

The announcement comes as a United States investigation into alleged election meddling by Russian Federation continues, and follows Obama administration concerns about Chinese money and influence in Australian politics. Turnbull said that foreign powers were making "unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process" in Australia and throughout the world, and cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence".

Proposed laws have been unveiled, which would ban political parties, trade unions and activist groups from accepting overseas funding.

"Now, to ensure that there is no inappropriate foreign interference in our democratic system, we are banning all foreign donations, as I've said".

The laws would criminalize acts such as Labor Party Sen.

Dastyari has been dubbed "Shanghai Sam" for his dealings with Chinese Communist Party-linked businessman Huang Xiangmo. Dastyari, who remains in Parliament, had previously said that a Chinese company with links to Beijing had paid a A$1,670 (US$1,275) travel bill for him.

"That is why we are introducing, because of the gap in those laws, a new offense of unlawful foreign interference", Brandis told reporters.

Under the legislation, which wasn't expected to be voted on until next year, the definition of espionage and treason would be updated to make failing to report the receipt of information - not just passing it on - an offence.

Preparing and planning those acts will be criminalised for the first time, as will soliciting anyone to engage in those acts.

Espionage will carry a penalty of up to life in prison. The Australian leader appeared confident about what he said was the most significant overhaul of espionage in decades. Charities will be exempt from receiving and using foreign donations for non-political activities.

Unlike the U.S. and many other countries that ban foreign donations, Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas. It means only Australian organisations and business can influence elections in Australia through donations.

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