Interference office suggested
Tensions between Canberra and Beijing have led some to suggest Australia should have a dedicated foreign interference commissioner.
Researcher Dirk van der Kley says China often attempts to conduct political interference through the CCP’s United Front Work department, but has been largely unsuccessful.
However, he says Chinese Australians report being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party over their political views, including having their financial assets and relatives in China threatened.
He says it is rarely reported to Australian authorities.
“The most stated reason for this was a belief that the Australian Government could not protect the victim's family in [China],” Dr van der Kley told reporters this week.
“This is a valid concern and there is little that the Australian Government can do about it.”
Dr van der Kley says he has spoken to dozens of people who have experienced intimidation at the hands of Chinese officials, but only three reported it to police.
He has proposed setting up a foreign interference commissioner to improve transparency, and even produce a data-based annual report on the problem.
Dr van der Kley suggests an encrypted portal could be set up for victims to report cases of foreign interference.
Australia’s existing national security hotline is unencrypted, which may deter some victims from using it.
Dr van der Kley says such a position would add detail to what is currently an unknown risk to national security, if not lead to more convictions under the Espionage and Foreign Interference Act.
“We tend to talk on; ‘Have there been any convictions under this legislation?’ but we don't really ask; ‘Has it improved the experience of people in Australia who are victims of these activities?’” Dr van der Kley said.
“Are they facing less intimidation and coercion now than they were before the legislation came in to play?
“We actually don't have a good read on that.”