Amend the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 to protect Speech & Association.
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I ask the Attorney- General, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to allow further public submissions to inform the Parliament on what amendments need to be made to correct the flaws in the Bill to achieve its stated objectives and protect freedom of speech and association.
This Bill is a terrible attack individual rights and the fundamental basis of our democratic system.
Despite submissions from a wide variety of organisations about the dangers to freedom of speech and association, the proposed amendments have failed to protect these freedoms:
a) The ‘public interest’ defence to publish is weak and hard to achieve in practise.
b) The ‘public interest’ defence as it currently stands does not extend to Australian citizens not employed by media organisations.
c) The Bill is vague in its definitions, allowing abuse to occur, for example in the area of what is influence and what is interference.
d) The penalties imposed for non-compliance are severe and excessive.
e) The administration of the Bill is handle by politically influenced officers and not by independent judicial bodies.
f) The definition of foreign association is too broad and as a consequence may classify too many Australians as ‘agents of foreign influence’. Any member of a professional body or union that is part of an international governing body comes under this act.
g) The Bill goes against treaty obligations in a number of Free trade agreements we have signed and ratified, including those with New Zealand, The United States. It also has the potential to stop a Free trade Agreement with the European Union, due to many of its clauses are in violation of the European Charter of Rights.
The Bill as it currently stands will lead to unjust and absurd outcomes. It will damage the citizens' right to review government action and damage the ability to dissent.
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