Monday, 10 December 2018

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme commences today

Media release

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) commences today, Monday 10 December 2018.

Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said this means that any person who undertakes certain activities on behalf of a foreign principal for the purpose of influencing the national political or government processes will be required to register under the scheme. 

"FITS will shine a light of transparency on the activities in Australia of foreign principals and their activities in Australia," the Attorney-General said.

"Individuals or entities undertaking activities on behalf of a foreign principal may need to register, depending on who the foreign principal is, the nature and purpose of the activities undertaken, and in some cases, whether the person has held a senior public position in Australia.

"Activities covered by the scheme include parliamentary lobbying, general political lobbying, communications activity and disbursement activity, done on behalf of a foreign principal for the purpose of political or governmental influence."

The Attorney-General said FITS, along with the Espionage and Foreign Interference Act, which passed Parliament with bipartisan support in June of this year, provide key protections to our national security and democratic institutions and processes and support our sovereignty, values and national interests.

"These new national security Acts were requested by our national security agencies and reflect the fact that, as we have heard time and time again from our most senior national security leaders, we live in a time of unprecedented foreign intelligence activity against Australia with more foreign agents, from more foreign powers, using more tradecraft to engage in espionage and foreign interference than at any time since the Cold War."

Under FITS, it is the responsibility of the person undertaking the activity to determine whether they are required to register and it is an offence not to register if required to do so.

Registration must be completed within 14 days of either entering into a relationship with a foreign principal or undertaking a registrable activity on behalf of a foreign principal.

Under amendments to the Scheme passed by the Australian Parliament this week, a three-month grace period applies to existing relationships or arrangements.  Should writs for a general election be issued before 10 March 2019, the grace period is reduced to 14 days, ensuring the Scheme will be in operation before the next election.

Detailed guidance material and to register, visit: www.ag.gov.au/transparency