Turnbull maintains strong stance against Chinese interference

These remarks add to a worsening of political relations between Australia and China after evidence of Chinese political interference have come to light this year.

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Australia Canberra China
The Federal Government in Canberra's new laws regarding foreign donations have caused China to feel it has been unfairly targeted. Photo: Patty Jansen, Pixabay

In the recently developing saga surrounding a crackdown on foreign influence in Australian politics, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has again fired strong remarks towards China. Choosing to invoke a Chinse saying in Mandarin, Turnbull stated that Australia would “stand up” to Chinese attempts to meddle in domestic affairs.

This news follows harsh retaliatory words from the Chinese government on Friday which asserted that Turnbull was poisoning the bilateral relationship between the two nations. Beijing’s remarks implied that the Turnbull government was undermining trust between Australia and China.

Turnbull, undeterred by these remarks, reminded listeners of the Sam Dastyari controversy in which the MP had taken on pro-Chinese stances after donations from a Chinese investor. The Prime Minister stated that this was a “classic” example of Chinese interference in Australian politics.

During his speech, Turnbull switched between using Mandarin and English. He quoted a Chinese slogan that asserted sovereignty and pride in the nation. Turnbull claimed that Australians were going to “stand up” to foreign interference.

The Chinese government has put forward a “serious complaint” to Australia following the recent accusations of interference.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said that China was shocked and “astounded” by Prime Minister Turnbull’s assertions. He went on to say that the remarks by the PM were catering to the “irresponsible” reporting by Australian media that was baseless and demonstrated “bias against China”.

The spokesperson made clear China’s dissatisfaction with Australia’s foreign interference laws which it sees as an anti-Chinese move somewhat motivated by xenophobia.

Turnbull’s introduction of the foreign interference laws would work to ban overseas donations and requires anyone who works for foreign interests to place themselves on a register. This includes former politicians, lobbyists and executives who intend to influence Australian domestic politics on behalf of foreign principles.

The legislation would make it a criminal offence for someone to attempt to influence Australian domestic politics in a deceptive or covert way on behalf of a foreign interest.

The news of the new laws saw a candid response from former federal minister Andrew Robb who now works for a Chinese firm. Mr Robb saw the new laws as a way of targeting and labelling him as treasonous.

Australian law has not previously attempted to seperate donations from overseas and domestically. With China being Australia’s primary trading partner, the flow of money back and forth from the two nations has not been this heavily scrutinised before.

China’s heavy rhetoric in pushing back against allegations of foreign interference has made some suggest that China is reflecting aggressiveness against anyone who questions the actions of its government.