Espionage & Foreign Interference Bill could damage Australian civil society

On today’s commencement of debate in the House of Representatives on both the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017, Amnesty International Australia’s External Affairs Director Claire O’Rourke said:

“Despite the welcome bipartisan announcement yesterday exempting charities from having to register under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, Amnesty International remains concerned about the potential impact on our work from the other Bill in the package.”

“The Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill in its current form could wreak enormous damage to Australian civil society.

“By making it a crime to hold the Australian government to account on human rights, this Bill will help shield government from accountability. These draconian laws proposed will make Australia more like the authoritarian countries this Bill is supposed to protect us from.

“It’s outrageous that Parliament is rushing through this Bill, without properly considering the ramifications for Australian freedoms.

“This Bill must be amended to include robust exemptions for charities, so they can continue to contribute to Australian civil society without fear of criminal charges.”