Monday, 4 December 2017
Questions without Notice
) ( ): Yes, Senator Macdonald. As I've said before, and I'll say it again: the issue of foreign interference in our politics is an extremely serious problem. So I can tell the Senate that, later this week, the government will introduce a milestone legislative package to reform Australia's espionage and foreign interference legislation. As I have told the chamber during previous question times, in May of this year the Prime Minister commissioned me to conduct a comprehensive review of our espionage, foreign interference and related laws. That work—a very substantial body of work—was undertaken, led by my department, and included contributions from ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and other portfolios as well. That review is now complete and the bills have been drafted and are ready for introduction this week.
This is not the first legislative or policy initiative that the Turnbull government has enacted in relation to foreign interference threats. Earlier this year, we passed the telecommunications sector security reforms and established the Critical Infrastructure Centre, both aimed at protecting Australia's communications and national infrastructure from threats of espionage and sabotage. However, the legislation that will be introduced this week will be the most significant reform ever to the laws relating to espionage and foreign interference. It will be world-leading among our like-minded international partners and, indeed, has been developed in collaboration and discussion with our like-minded international partners, including counterpart agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom. It will completely reshape the way foreign interference and related activities are investigated and disrupted in this country.