Australian spy agency disrupts foreign election interference
An Australian spy agency claims to have disrupted a foreign government’s attempt to illegally fund the election of candidates who are politically sympathetic or vulnerable to incitement.
Mike Burgess, chief executive of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, did not identify the country when delivering its annual security threat assessment on Wednesday.
He also did not specify whether the targeted election was federal or state. Australians will vote for their national government by May.
That case involved a wealthy individual who had direct and deep ties to a foreign government and its intelligence agencies, Burgess said.
The wealthy puppeteer provided an agent with hundreds of thousands of dollars to find candidates who were sympathetic or vulnerable to incentives and culture, Burgess said.
The incentives included promises of favorable stories on foreign-language news platforms, consultants and advertising, he said.
Burgess did not say if any charges were filed.
Ties between Australia and China have soured in recent years. Beijing has been angered by laws Australia introduced in 2019 that banned foreign donations to political parties and covert foreign interference in Australian politics.
The government explained that the laws were a response to foreign interference in the US and French presidential elections as well as the Brexit referendum in the UK.
In 2020, Di Sanh Duong, a Melbourne-based Chinese community organization leader and former political candidate, became the first person to be charged with foreign interference.
Last year, Sydney-based political adviser John Shi Sheng Zhangon lost his challenge in Australia’s highest court against search warrants used in a police investigation into unlawful foreign interference on behalf of China.