Friday, 08 June 2018

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Amendments released by PJCIS

Media release

I welcome the public release of the proposed amendments to the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.

As I said this morning, the amendments effect the following changes to address the major areas of concern from stakeholders:

  1. Limiting the foreign principals (where acting on behalf of the foreign principal would require registration) to foreign governments, foreign government related entities, foreign political organisations and foreign government-related individuals. This ensures that only organisations or individuals ultimately working at the direction of a foreign government or political party are required to register.

    Under these amendments the vast majority of private international companies would not be considered foreign principals unless it can be shown they are closely related to a foreign government or political organisation.
  2. The definition of 'communications activity' would be enhanced, so that broadcasters, carriage service providers and publishers would not be required to register under the scheme where they are undertaking their ordinary business - that is, where they are simply broadcasting, transmitting or publishing content overtly on behalf of the newly defined, narrower set of foreign principals.
  3. The definition of 'activity for the purpose of political or government influence' would also be amended so that a substantial purpose of the activity has to be political influence, rather than just 'a' purpose of it.
  4. In response to suggestions from the university sector and charities we would amend the definition of 'undertaking activity on behalf of a foreign principal' so that a person isn't deemed to be undertaking an activity merely because they are supervised by, receive funding from or collaborate with a foreign principal.
  5. A new power would be created that allows the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department to issue transparency notices stating that a person or organisation is considered a foreign government related entity or individual for the purposes of the scheme. This would allow the Government to investigate and declare where it considers companies or individuals are hiding their connections to foreign governments.

The amendments are attached and will be available on the PJCIS website:  https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Intelligence_and_Security/TransparencySchemeBill

I am looking forward to consulting with key stakeholders on these amendments over the coming week.

Ends