Photo: PM website
By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 2 December: The Federal Government has decided to set up an $87.8 million new taskforce aimed to counter foreign interference and deter anyone attempting to undermine the country’s national interests. The announcement comes after Australian media reports of rising Chinese interference in Australia, though the media release today from the PM’s Press Office in Canberra, does not mention China or any other country.
A report in Guardian Australia says,” The Chinese government has dismissed allegations of espionage in Australia – including plans to install a pro-Beijing plant in parliament – as “nothing but lies”, insisting “China doesn’t interfere in other countries’ internal affairs”.
Dr. Pradeep Taneja, a specialist in Asian Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne says, “Judging by media reports, Australian intelligence agencies believe that foreign interference activity in Australia is at an unprecedented level. In political terms, this has already translated into more funding and new powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
While I have no reason not to believe the claims of intelligence agencies, the evidence presented so far is less than overwhelming. As taxpayers, we have the right to see evidence in the form of prosecutions and convictions under these laws. Perhaps the new Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce will gather that evidence and present it before the Australian public.”
“The Taskforce will work into the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator that we established last year in the Department of Home Affairs and expand the resources the Coordinator has at their fingertips. It will be led by a senior ASIO officer and bring together a new team of Australian Federal Police investigators and representatives from AUSTRAC, the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation. The Office of National Intelligence will also support the Taskforce.
The new dedicated capability of the Taskforce will also increase the collaboration and streamline the decision-making between agencies, and strengthen Australia’s analysis of the sophisticated disinformation activities happening across the world, particularly against democratic processes and elections,” says the media release.
By our correspondent
Melbourne: The recent Report of the Australia India Institute’s “ Perceptions Taskforce Beyond the Lost Decade’ has made recommendations to the Australian Government to take steps to build trust and improve perceptions of each other (Australia & India) in the fields of education, diplomacy, media and security are called for. The independent taskforce was constituted by John McCarthy, AO, Sanjaya Baru, Gopalaswami Parthasarathy, Maxine McKew, Ashok Malik and Christopher Kremmer.
In his introduction to the report Amitabh Mattoo, AII Director says: “This report, Beyond the Lost Decade, discusses the key issues arising from this process and presents them from Indian and Australian viewpoints. It draws conclusions and proposes recommendations for action that the Taskforce members believe will create more robust Australia-India ties. The problems of the past reflected our different histories and social and political realities. But our interests are converging and people-to-people ties and economic and security cooperation will grow. At times provocative, but always insightful, this report is a must-read, not just for policy-makers, but anyone with a stake in closer relations between Australia and its Asian neighbours, especially India.”
The report analysis relations between India and Australia covering all fields and feels that while they are improving but are ‘brittle’.
The rec ommendations include:
• Doubling the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s public diplomacy budget to A$10 million per annum; The overseas television broadcaster Australia Network to retain close links with DFAT but funding and editorial responsibility should rest with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
• A new Indo-Pacific or Australasia Division within India’s Ministry of External Affairs as part of an expedited restructure of the ministry.
• Extending post-study work rights to international students enrolled in courses at TAFE institutes and other reputable vocational training establishments, the sector in which most Indian students have traditionally enrolled.
• Training Australian school teachers in the Hindi language in anticipation of it being added to the Australian Curriculum before the end of this decade.
• As an act of goodwill, extending to December 2013 the visas of Indian students caught up in changes to regulations following the student crisis of 2009; and tasking the Australian Institute of Criminology to undertake more 10research into racism and crime, including the events that affected Indian students in 2009-10.
• An Australian education rating system for States that provide education services to international students which can downgrade states that fail to provide proper security and education standards for international students.
• Invitations to representatives of Indian Army regiments that fought at Gallipoli to participate in Australian commemoration ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the campaign in 2015.
• An Australia-India senior editors’ dialogue, and the Press Trust of India to consider posting a permanent correspondent in Australia.
• Permanent naval attaché positions to be established in both capitals.
• Regular institutionalised Prime Ministerial visits between New Delhi and Canberra and a young political leaders program between India and Australia.
• Visas on arrival for some Australian travellers to India as currently permitted to citizens of New Zealand.
• A one-stop shop online portal serving all aspects of trade, diplomatic, educational, people-to-people and cultural relations between Australia and India.
The full report can be accessed at – http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/wpcontent/uploads/2012/07/Beyond-the-Lost-Decadeweb.pdf