Australia should vet new MPs and fix donation laws: Bishop

The federal government should consider subjecting incoming members of Parliament to security screening and reforming donations laws as measures to harden Australia’s democratic institutions from foreign interference, Julie Bishop says.

The former minister for foreign affairs said Australia needed to recognise that the United States and China were engaged in economic, trade and technological conflict and Australia had to strengthen its democratic institutions.

Julie Bishop speaks at the launch of Peter Hartcher’s piece on China in The Quarterly Essay. Credit:Wolter Peeters

She echoed the recent comments of the former Australian Security Intelligence Organisation chief Duncan Lewis who said foreign interference posed a potentially existential threat to Australia over the long term, and the threat, “could well be in the form of a loss of faith in the integrity of our democratic processes, our voting system, indeed whether our elected representatives are subject to improper influence or control.”

“I always found it extraordinary that I as foreign minister had no need for a security clearance, but my staff had to go through the most rigorous security clearances to ensure that I had top level [clearance] but no politician is ever subjected to that,” Ms Bishop said in launching a Quarterly Essay piece by the international editor of The Age and the Herald Peter Hartcher on Australia’s response to interference by the Chinese Community Party.


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