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A CASE STUDY - AUSTRALIA

“Over decades, the [Chinese Communist] Party has built a complex network of agencies tasked with exerting influence abroad. The agencies deploy sophisticated techniques to influence, persuade, and coerce others to act in ways approved by Beijing. The techniques have been refined over decades and are far more extensive, intrusive, and secretive than those used by other nations.”

 (Clive Hamilton, author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra) 

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fairfax Media conducted a joint investigation in 2017, the findings of which became a powerful and shocking report aired on the Four Corners program in Australia. The report reviewed the breadth and depth of CCP’s interference in Australian politics and society, and the co-option of senior politicians. Outcry from Australians eventually led to the introduction of a two-way strategy: a series of legislative measures and a scheme of administrative efforts to counter CCP interference. 

 

By comparison, Canada has practised engagement with China decades earlier than Australia, and has an even larger ethnic Chinese community by proportion. Both countries are popular destinations of Chinese students, and have been actively seeking to enhance trade relationship with the PRC. Canada is also seen as the backyard of the US by Beijing. We are the prime target for CCP’s infiltration and interference. 

 

Australia’s push-back strategy against the CCP’s interference campaign, the first among the western allies, is not perfect and some components could be controversial, but it provides a very useful template for Canada and others to consider. To protect our democracy, core values, sovereignty, and national interests, we need to learn from Australia and take action now.

 

The legislative measures of the Australia’s push-back strategy include:

  • National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017

  • The Critical Infrastructure Centre

  • Rewriting the rules of Foreign Investment Review Board

  • Revamping the Defence Trade Controls Act

  • Telecommunications Sector Security Reform Act

  • Banning foreign political donations

References:

  1. China’s Influence Activities: What Canada can learn from Australia, Clive Hamilton, October 16, 2018: https://macdonaldlaurier.ca/files/pdf/201801026_Commentary_Hamilton_FWeb.pdf

  2. Shining a Brighter Light on Foreign Influence in Canada, David Mulroney, Oct 2019 http://macdonaldlaurier.ca/files/pdf/20190926_Foreign%20Agents_Mulroney_COMMENTARY_Fweb.pdf

  3. National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1718a/18bd134

  4. Critical Infrastructure Centre https://cicentre.gov.au/

  5. Critical infrastructure resilience
    https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us/our-portfolios/national-security/security-coordination/critical-infrastructure-resilience

  6. Foreign Investment Review Board flags more China takeover crackdowns
    https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/foreign-investment-review-board-flags-more-china-takeover-crackdowns-20190219-h1bfzr

  7. Defence Trade Controls Act 
    https://www.deakin.edu.au/students/research/research-support-and-scholarships/integrity-secure/defence-trade-controls-act

  8. Defence Export Controls https://www.defence.gov.au/ExportControls/AboutUs.asp

  9. Telecommunications sector security reforms
    www.homeaffairs.gov.au/nat-security/Pages/telecommunications-sector-security-reforms.aspx

  10. Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2018
    https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1117

 

The administrative measures in Australia’s push-back strategy include:

 

  • Immigration Departmental scrutiny of applications to work in Australian universities from scientists from China more closely

  • Creation of the Department of Home Affairs

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) meeting with universities and large businesses to warn about the risk of being co-opted by the PRC when engaging China

  • Establishment of a University Foreign Interference Task Force

 

References:

  1. Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme https://www.ag.gov.au/Integrity/foreign-influence-transparency-scheme/Pages/default.aspx

  2. Department of Home Affairs https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/

  3. Australian universities to work with security agencies to combat foreign interference https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/aug/28/australian-universities-to-work-with-security-agencies-to-combat-foreign-interference

  4. Establishment of a University Foreign Interference Taskforce. https://www.education.gov.au/news/establishment-university-foreign-interference-taskforce

  5. Taskforce to protect universities from foreign interference  https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/minister_tehan_taskforce_to_protect_universities_from_foreign_interference.pdf