Andrew Robb, a former federal minister has criticised his old coalition colleagues for implying him, and people like him, were treasonous. This follows the announcement of new espionage laws requiring former MP’s to declare their ties with foreign interests.
Mr Robb began employment at the Chinese run firm Landbridge Group after his parliamentary service. This means under the new laws he may have to officially declare this connection to the government.
While clearly not trying to hide his employment by a Chinese business, Mr Robb has taken the new laws as means to imply he is a traitor to Australian interests. He has stated that this was an attempt to “trash” his reputation with “ill-informed and cheap politics”.
Mr Robb went on to publicly tweet his disapproval of the new laws. He said that while Landbridge has investments in Australia he has not been personally involved in any of them and that this new area of law did not apply to him.
Landbridge has recently, and somewhat controversially, made financial bid to effectively take control of the port of Darwin. The shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pointed this out to the government in Canberra, asking whether or not Mr Robb’s role as a lobbyist for Landbridge would be caught in the new laws on foreign interference.
Current Attorney-General George Brandis was quick to try and calm Mr Robb in the wake of his reaction to the new laws. Brandis said that he thought Mr Robb was an incredibly “patriotic” and “great” Australian.
Brandis disclaimed the new laws as being a “transparency measure” and that being registered under them was not an accusation of treason. He said that Mr Robb has clearly misunderstood the effect of the legislation on him and people like him.
Brandis went on to say that the register was not meant to imply that there is anything wrong with being a lobbyist or that there is anything wrong with what lobbyists do. He said that the new laws would affect any and all ministers who left government to then take on a role with a foreign principal.
Organisations such as those lead by former NSW premier Bob Carr would also likely be obliged to register under the new laws. As the head of the Australia-China Relations Institute, Mr Carr recently said that there would not be any Chinese investment in the Adani coal mine in Queensland.
The Australian Greens party has stated that it believes the changes to the foreign donation laws are primarily directed at China and are somewhat motivated by xenophobia.