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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4391

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital TerritoryAssistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) (17:08): Certainly the advice to government is that the threats of foreign interference and espionage are increasing and that, if unchecked, these threats can erode our sovereignty and diminish public confidence in the integrity of our political and government institutions. The judgement has been made by the government that existing laws are inadequate to deter and counter the pervasive foreign interference activities directed against Australia and that the current legislative and policy frameworks have created a permissive operating environment for foreign adversaries.

Espionage and foreign interference by nation states is a reality and can cause enormous harm to our national sovereignty and to the integrity of Australia's democracy. The Director-General of ASIO has advised that foreign intelligence activity against Australia is occurring on an unprecedented scale. Foreign interference can erode our sovereignty by diminishing public confidence in the integrity of our political and government institutions and undermining our societal values. So the advice is that these threats are growing, that the nature of them is obviously ever-changing and that having laws that simply stay still in response to these threats is no longer good enough. That's the very strong advice to government and that's a big reason we have this legislation before the Senate today.