Last December, while introducing legislation to outlaw foreign interference in Australian politics, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Australian Parliament that the scale of the threat to Australian democracy and sovereignty from foreign influence campaigns was “unprecedented,” notes Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and the author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia. Turnbull did not name any country in particular, but the proposed laws were clearly aimed primarily at Chinese covert interference [an aspect of what a National Endowment for Democracy report describes as sharp power]. This June, the Australian Parliament passed the legislation.
In addition, the new transparency scheme will, for the first time, ensure the Australian public has greater insight into the activities of those attempting to influence domestic policy and debate on behalf of a foreign power, he writes for Foreign Affairs:
Other countries are taking note. Australia is at the forefront of China’s global interference strategy, but Beijing’s target list is a long one. Foreign governments are scrutinizing Australia’s moves with a view to mimicking them if they prove effective. In the United States, a few close observers recognize (at least in private) that, alarming as Russia’s interference in U.S. politics seems, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s gambit may prove a distraction from the more enduring subversion being carried out by the United States’ real rival.