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Australia’s National Govt Seeks More Control over International Deals

August 27, 2020, 07.19 PM

CANBERRA, - The Australian government has drafted new laws that would cancel international deals that are not in Australia’s national interest.

The new laws mostly involve deals struck by lower tiers of governments with foreign states.

The government’s latest move is likely to increase tensions with China given that Victoria State signed a memorandum of understanding with Beijing under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The MOU was signed in 2018 as a means of attracting more Chinese investment infrastructure.

Read also: Reliance on Chinese Capital Can Hurt Indonesian Economy, Says Minister

Now, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the deal is among those to be reviewed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison would not comment on the likelihood of the Victorian deal with China being scrapped, saying he did not want to “prejudice the outcome” of a review.

The legislation to be introduced to Parliament next week did not target China, he said.

“My biggest concern is Australia’s national sovereign interest,” Morrison told reporters.

“Protecting and promoting Australia’s national interest is the primary job of the federal government,” he added.

Read also: Indonesia and Australia Move Ahead with Beef and Livestock Trade

Australia in 2018 bypassed sweeping national security laws that ban covert foreign interference in domestic politics.

China protested the laws, arguing their intention was prejudiced against China and had poisoned the atmosphere of China-Australia relations.

Attorney-General Christian Porter told Parliament on Thursday that the first investigations were being conducted in New South Wales state under the foreign interference laws, which carry penalties including up to 20 years in prison.

Two entities have been formally asked why they had not applied for registration as agents of influence working for a foreign principal, Porter said.


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