Australia set to introduce new espionage laws

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Canberra, June 5 (IANS) The Australian government will soon introduce new espionage laws that will punish spies and curb foreign interference in the country’s politics, authorities said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government has reached a broad agreement with the Labour opposition to legislate the new laws, reports Xinhua news agency.

But there are parts of the package, specifically the Foreign Influence and Transparency Scheme, which are yet to be agreed because of widespread concerns about the creation of a government register for all those who act in Australia for an overseas principal.

Labour and the Coalition had negotiated more than a dozen amendments in recent days, ahead of the finalisation of a bipartisan report from the parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

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It could take until Thursday for the joint committee, chaired by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie with Labor MP Anthony Byrne as deputy chair, to release its report once there is agreement on the text.

The penalties include up to 20 years in jail, provoking warnings from the Law Council of Australia, media companies and others that the offences are too broad and should be qualified by the addition of a public interest defence.

–IANS

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