Against the backdrop of reports about foreign interference in Australia’s universities, the government has proposed taking practical steps.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Tuesday a new legislative initiative that aims to counter the threat of foreign interference in Australian internal affairs and will target “covert, coercive” activities.
“Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and abroad. And that is why I am here with my colleagues, Senator Brandis and Senator Cormann, to announce the most significant reforms to Australia’s foreign interference laws in decades,” Turnbull was quoted as saying by the ABC News broadcaster.
Turnbull explained that the reforms would aim to protect and strengthen democracy in Australia and would ensure that Australians make decisions based on their own wishes.
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According to Turnbull, the amendments to Australian laws, which still need parliamentary approval, will not target any single country.
The government’s crackdown on foreign meddling was provoked by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) report on the activity of foreign governments in Australian universities. The agency refused to specify which countries’ governments had attempted to influence the minds of students in Australia, with the explanation that this might compromise the work of the intelligence service.
However, according to media reports, ASIO might have hinted at the Chinese government, which allegedly influenced groups of Chinese students in Australia and spied on them.