Australia to introduce public register of foreign agents

The Australian government is introducing a public register of foreign agents’ activities in an effort safeguard the country from potential foreign interference, Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said on Friday.
People acting on behalf of foreign powers will be forced to reveal details about their activities as well as the nature of their arrangements, Porter said in a statement, adding that the information will be publicly made available.
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which comes into effect in December, is designed to counter foreign interference such as that in the last U.S. presidential election, Porter said.
“Russian agents and organisations were funding a campaign of misinformation designed to undermine the American democracy,” Porter said in comments reported by the Australian Associated Press.
“That could quite easily happen in Australia, and until the passage of these laws and the establishment of this system we were unprepared for it.”
Australia is set to hold its next general election by May 2019.
Under to the scheme, foreign agents will be forced to disclose their communications, including emails, text messages and WhatsApp exchanges with the country that employs them.
They will also need to outline their correspondence with Australian government ministers, speeches to small groups, as well as comments and opinion pieces published in Australia media.
“Foreign actors will remain free to promote their interests in Australia, provided this is done in a lawful, open and transparent way,” Porter said.(dpa/NAN)