Australia’s AJ defends law on ‘foreign agents’ despite few declarations

Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter on Monday defended a register meant to track the role of “foreign agents” in local politics. Growing fears of political influence from foreign states, particularly China, saw Canberra pass a raft of new laws last year to curb potential meddling, AFP said. The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme register was operational from December, with a grace period ending on Sunday. Nine institutions or individuals have so far declared their foreign links. They include lobbyists such as former defense minister Brendan Nelson declaring his role as a “foreign principal” as French defense giant Thales, and a 9/11 conspiracy theorist declaring interests for a US group. Only one individual – Warwick King, the head of Australian coal seam gas producer APLNG, which is one-quarter owned by China’s Sinopec – has declared his “foreign principal country” as China. Porter expects the list to lengthen as national elections, due by mid-May, draw closer.