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16 December 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick will push for greater transparency concerning the presence and activities of foreign political organisations operating in Australia, especially the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Recent revelations about the presence of Chinese Communist Party members employed by major companies headquartered in or with a presence in Australia, including companies operating in the sensitive banking and finance, information technology, communications and aerospace sectors, underlines the weakness and narrow scope of the Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme," Senator Patrick said.

“Members of the CCP and Chinese state controlled United Front organisations should be required to publicly register with the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme. This is a very necessary transparency and national security measure in Australia’s current international circumstances.”

“While Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 (the FITS Act) was intended to provide much needed transparency in relation to foreign political influence and interference in Australia, the scheme’s many exemptions have meant that its effectiveness has fallen well short of its declared objectives.”

”It’s a striking fact that none of China’s various United Front organisations or bodies such as the Confucius Institutes have yet been required to register with the scheme two years after its commencement in December 2018.”

“As a first step towards remedying the deficiencies of Australia’s foreign influence transparency arrangements, when the Federal Parliament resumes sitting in February, I will introduce legislation to amend the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 to make membership of a foreign political organisation, and/or undertaking any activity on behalf of or in association with or a foreign political organisation, to be registrable activity in relation to a foreign principal.”

“Section 10 of the FITS Act defines a foreign political organisation as a foreign political party; and/or a foreign organisation that exists primarily to pursue political objectives.”

“The requirement for registration should apply to membership of a foreign political organisation at any time since the commencement of the FITS Act on 10 December 2018.”

“Such an amendment to the FITS Act would achieve much needed greater transparency in relation to the presence and activities of foreign political organisations in Australia.”

“A simple registration requirement would apply in a non-discriminatory way to members of all foreign political organisations,” Senator Patrick said.

“This would not be a major imposition, and should be of no consequence for members of foreign democratic political parties.”

“However such a transparency requirement would be of considerable significance in relation to members of totalitarian political organisations that are hostile to Australia’s national interests. Members of organisations such as the CCP must accept a full measure of transparency in a democratic country such as Australia.”