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Proposed amendments to foreign influence introduced

Proposed amendments to foreign influence introduced

Glasses and paper

The federal government has introduced into Parliament amendments to the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, with the intention of ensuring the scheme is “fully operational” in time for next year’s federal election.

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) is set to commence on 10 December of this year, Attorney-General Christian Porter MP said in a statement.

“The scheme will, for the first time shine a light on the activities of people in Australia who are representing the interests of foreign principals,” the A-G said.

“It will enhance transparency right across the Australian Government and safeguard the nation's democracy by providing visibility of the forms and sources of foreign influence in Australia’s governmental and political processes.”

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The Amendment Bill being introduced by the government will put into effect two key changes, Mr Porter said, including a shortening of the grace period currently granted to persons in existing registrable arrangements.

“The grace period – currently 6 months from when the FITS Act commences – will reduce to the sooner of 3 months or the issuing of election writs, ensuring the scheme includes both existing and new arrangements before the next election,” he said.

Secondly, the amendments will allow historical information about previous registrations under the scheme to remain published on the Attorney-General’s Department website after the registrations cease, he noted.

“This ensures the community has access to information about past – not just present – instances of foreign influence,” he said.

From 10 December 2018, any person who undertakes certain activities on behalf of a foreign principal for the purpose of influencing a political or government process will be required to register under the scheme, Mr Porter concluded.

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