Mr Turnbull told Sky News on Wednesday morning he hoped the Morrison government was “actually enforcing” the laws them because there was “not much point in having these laws and not enforcing them”.
“The foreign influence legislation is designed to ensure that people who seek to influence our political system… and are doing so on behalf of a foreign governments or foreign political parties, have to be transparent about it,” Mr Turnbull said.
“I think it’s very important for the government to demonstrate they’re doing it. The government has to demonstrate all the time that it is doing everything it can to keep Australians safe and to preserve the integrity of our democracy.”
“These times, when you’ve got a degree of public anxiety, it’s very important for the government to demonstrate that.”
Mr Turnbull said the foreign interference laws were “groundbreaking” and ensured Australia’s democracy was “preserved for ourselves”.
“We are an open democracy and sunlight, transparency is actually the best way of ensuring that we are able to maintain our democracy and do so in a way that preserves our sovereignty in ourselves as Australians,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said he was not aware of the case of an alleged Chinese espionage ring reported by this publication but he found them “very disturbing” and the risk of foreign interference had “been very well known for some time”.
“There may be specific cases that are new, but the problem, the syndrome, is something we have known about for some time,” he said.
The former prime minister hit out at at his predecessor Kevin Rudd, who on Tuesday said the Abbott government had been too soft on China on human rights issues and the lease of the Darwin port.
“I don’t know why Kevin is so bitter and hyper critical in this way,” Mr Turnbull said.
“There is a disturbing habit, I might say, for some people in Australia that whenever the Australian government does something that displeases people in another country…. to immediately criticise the Australian government.”
“If you want to have a government and a leader and ministers who stand up for Australia then you have to recognise from time to time there will be push back from other countries, but thats the price you have to pay if you want to defend your sovereignty, as I did.”
“The reality is Chinese foreign policy and strategy has changed under Xi Jinping… China is taking a much more assertive role internationally and regionally, and that obviously is met with reaction and responses from other countries including our own.”
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.