EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Lobbying Laws: Options for Progress
DATE: 10 February, 10:00AM – 11:00AM
SPEAKERS: Bob Seely MP, Edward Lucas, Prof Clive Hamilton, HE George Brandis QC
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Jade McGlynn
Dr Jade McGlynn 00:00
So, thank you to everybody, to all of our distinguished guests for joining us today to discuss the options for foreign lobbying laws in the UK. My name is Jade McGlynn. I head the Russia and Eurasia Study Centre here at HJS and I will be moderating the discussion today. Whilst I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our audience, I’d also like to add a particular welcome to those joining us via the political London influence email. We’re delighted to have you and if you’d like to sign up to hear more from us, there’s a link to our mailing list sign up in the description below the video. Our discussion today will be examining the various options for progressing with foreign lobbying laws, which could assist us in countering the disinformation and aggressive lobbying and influence operations which hostile, adversarial states undertake in London. But before we begin in earnest, I just have a tiny bit of housekeeping. So everybody should be muted. And apart from this, if you would like to ask a question, please type them into the q&a function. And then later, we’ll select some of you to ask questions and invite you to unmute yourself and ask your question. So here are our four speakers whom I will now introduce. We have Bob Seeley MP. He’s the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight and the main author of the report that we’re gathered here today to discuss. We have High Commissioner George Brandis QC, the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He has also served as a Minister in the Australian Government, and as the Attorney General he was responsible for the reforms in Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws. Edward Lucas is a senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis, a columnist for The Times and formerly a senior editor at the Economist. His expertise lies in intelligence and cybersecurity issues with a longstanding focus on Central and Eastern Europe, also with expertise in China. And then we Prof Clive Hamilton, who is the Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. Prof Hamilton has published two books on China and Chinese influence in Australia and beyond. And these books have been so well received by the Communist Party of China that Prof Hamilton has, unfortunately been banned from entering the country. So with the introductions made, I’m going to start the questions with the main author of the report. If I could ask you, could you please explain why the UK might need anti-foreign lobbying laws? What’s wrong with the UK’s current lobbying act?
Bob Seely MP 02:19
I think what’s wrong with the current moment is, I’ll try to sum it up in a minute. The UK is influence-peddlers paradise at the moment. Hostile state activity, since the 1990s has become more subtle, more complex in many ways, and more broader. And a lot of these details have been outlined very eloquently by Edward Lucas and Clive Hamilton in their works on Chinese and Russian influence in Australia and the West more generally. What we’re looking at with PR, with lobbying with financial influence, and leading up to sometimes political corruption are the elements of the old KGB’s subversive warfare model, which nowadays could be seen to sort of fit into a wider sort of hybrid struggle model of state competition. Our own laws, I don’t think are adequate to deal with the current problem, because our lobbying laws are very weak. And let’s say you’ve got this combination of an increasingly complex problem, and very weak laws in our own country that have a very narrow and limited definition of lobbying. And that is a bad position for us to be in.
Dr Jade McGlynn 03:31
Thank you for that. That’s a helpful sort of primer on the issue. And High Commissioner, you were instrumental in reforming the foreign lobbying laws in Australia. So do you think that the Australian model could be adopted here? And if so, what is there anything you would change?
HE George Brandis QC 03:58
Thank you. And can I begin by complimenting Bob Seeley and the Henry Jackson Society on this report. As you say, I was the Attorney General who was tasked by the Australian Prime Minister to develop these laws. And the answer your question is, basically, that the entire legislative package, which comprised basically two important pieces of law reform, what is called in Australia as the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which is the lobbyists register, but also an act called the Espionage and Foreign Interference Act, which creates a new criminal offence, which expands beyond the pre-existing definition of espionage, the kind of malign conduct, which is criminalised, hostile state activity by or on behalf of a foreign principal. Both of those pieces of legislations were designed in consultation with other Five Eyes nations, including, of course, the United Kingdom, though most particularly informed by the American experience of the FARE Act – the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is a rather antique piece of legislation that goes back to the 1930s. It was prepared by me and by my department, on my instructions, quite inadvertently, to be what a world’s best practice model from which other Five Eyes countries and other countries as well could draw the experience. And I hope you’ll ask me some questions about this a little bit later. But the experience in Australia since the legislation came into operation, nearly three years ago now has been very encouraging. The prophylactic effect of this legislation has been very successful in dealing with the problem. So the short answer to your question is the entire Australian legislative package is adaptable by the United Kingdom.
Dr Jade McGlynn 06:10
Okay, wonderful. That’s a really nice clear answer. Thank you. Professor Hamilton, if I could turn to you. Obviously, you yourself have been the victim of some of China’s influence campaigns, have you? What do you think that the UK can learn about sort of Chinese foreign influence operations, sort of managing or countering them from the Australian experiences? So for example, if, in terms of the tactics, do you feel that there’s something specific in the way that perhaps China targets the sort of Australia and Australian society? Or do you think that there isn’t such a cultural adaptability in their in their approach?
Prof Clive Hamilton 07:10
I think there’s a very large overlap in the situation of the of the two nations. Australia has a couple of differences, a very large Chinese diaspora, for example, and a very strong trade and investment relationship, which makes us more vulnerable to state coercion. But the kinds of foreign interference that the Chinese Communist Party uses in Britain are very much as it does in Australia, that is targeting elites in particular, in order to win them over to the CCP’s point of view, and in some cases, coercing them through various measures. And so the kinds of activities that the CCP engages in, in order to gain influence in other countries, I think, as the High Commissioner said, very much fall outside of existing legislation, the definition within the espionage and so the Foreign Interference Act must be distinguished from the Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme. The Foreign Interference Act defined a new crime with heavy penalties, that is acting covertly, on behalf of a foreign state or a foreign principal, in order to influence government decisions or interfere in a democratic exercise of the democratic right. And this covered a whole lot of activities the Chinese Communist Party was engaged in Australia. And it really was, I think, an exceptionally world-leading piece of legislative drafting. And I think the High Commissioner is probably right, in talking about the prophylactic effect. Certainly, my perception is as an expert in foreign interference, more specifically Chinese and CCP interference in Australia, there does appear to be some change in the modus operandi of China in Australia.
Dr Jade McGlynn 09:12
Okay, that’s really interesting. Thank you. Um, please forgive me for interrupting the discussion. Just a second, I just wanted to say that we’ve had some difficulties with many people joining this webinar, perhaps, perhaps certain friends in certain seats aren’t keen on the discussion. But if you’ve not joined on the seat on zoom, and you’ve been referred to the Facebook Live Stream among our audience, please do submit a question there. And we’ll do our best to ask it for you. And of course, please, for those who are on the zoom webinar, please do feel free to put your questions in the q&a function. And thank you and apologies for that. So far in our discussion and our questions, we’ve seen some of the many benefits of having a foreign lobbying act but if I could now turn to Edward Lucas. Many of Chinese and Russian sort of lobbying and actions occur in that space, what could be described as a grey zone. And I think we’ll talk later on about how we can decide where black begins and where’s the white and what’s within the grey zone. But is there a risk with implementing such laws in fighting the CCP or Putin, that we lose the very open society we’re trying to defend? And how do we guard against this?
Ed Lucas 10:27
Well, thanks very much indeed, Jade, and to Henry Jackson Society, and congratulations to Bob and his co-authors on their excellent report, which is both timely and very insightful. I’m also very glad to see the High Commissioner, again, and I just wish we’d listened to Australia a bit earlier. He’s too polite to say so but, we should have been, and we’re late on this one. I think that there are some risks. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. But we need to be very cautious and deliberate in what we do. And be aware that there will be some minuses as well as some pluses. So I am absolutely in favour of a lobbying act and of toughening our stance. And I’ve been arguing this for 25 years. So what I say now is really just to highlight the possible downsides. And there are really two, one is retaliation. And we just need to be aware. I’ve been a foreign correspondent in Russia, and before that, I was foreign correspondent behind the Iron Curtain. And I knew that every time a Soviet correspondent or Warsaw Pact correspondent was caught spying in London and expelled, I might be on the target of that retaliation. So there are the BBC offices in Moscow and in Beijing which will be vulnerable to what we do, and so will be a range of other people. And we’ve seen the ruthless use of counter-intelligence means by both Russian and Chinese regimes against people like Peter Humphrey, and against people like Michael and other cases in Russia. So we just need to bear that in mind, this isn’t, this doesn’t come cost-free. The other sort of deeper worry is that we don’t defeat Putinism by utilising our own society. And there is a danger which we see more in the countries closer to Russia, where you see everything through a counterintelligence lens. Anyone who disagrees with the government is therefore a traitor, and probably working for the Kremlin, in fact, certainly working for the Kremlin. And therefore you need to file everything. You’ve got them from the criminal justice system, the tax authorities, the broadcast regulators and you throw the whole book at them. And this is bad for several reasons, it discredited itself in the eyes of Russians and people around the world. Generally, it blurs what makes our society special, which is institutions and structures and rules, that are in our society. A policeman really is a policeman. And an oil company executive really is an oil company executive and intelligence officer, an intelligence officer, and academics are academic, think tanks are think tank, journalist is a journalist, and so on. And these are different professions, different institutions, they operate by different rules. And we need to be careful that we don’t move to the Russian model, where all those things are basically combined to something like a Gazprom Executive in the morning, an organised criminal, in the afternoon, an intelligence officer in the evening, and probably may have many more things as the as the day goes on. So we really need to be careful about that. I think we need to assume good faith. And it’s a very important thing that we take people on trust, until they prove otherwise. And finally, we also have to accept that these are subjective criteria. This is not saying, you know, people over six foot, you can’t get into the plane because they’re too tall. It’s going to involve a level of judgement. And we have to be deliberate about those judgments. So for example, I’m very much in favour of saying there is a category called hostile state. And maybe we start off by putting North Korea and a few rogue states, and then we say, if you continue down this road, you will be a hostile state. Or maybe there’s different relations, like we have with terror alert. And once you go into that category, then different rules will apply. But we have to be clear – we’re making basically a subjective judgement. And we’ll be able to, obviously review different things that come to light. But this isn’t physics. It’s about judgement. And we have to be clear about that. I’m really looking forward to the discussion. And I see we have 9488 participants on the Zoom call, which is a fantastic turnout. And thank you to all to all of them for turning out and all the people who’ve joining us on Facebook.
Prof Clive Hamilton 14:40
I would follow up briefly on Ed’s comment there.
Dr Jade McGlynn 14:43
Yes, of course.
Prof Clive Hamilton 14:45
I think it’s very important to draw a distinction between the implications of the foreign interference legislation such as Australia’s and the counterterrorism laws which have been introduced after 9/11. After 9/11 the argument of governments was, “look, we’re gonna have to sacrifice certain rights, certain freedoms in order to fight this enemy of terrorism”. I think the foreign interference legislation is quite the opposite. What we’re seeing in the power of the Chinese Communist Party is an infiltration and corruption of the democratic processes in countries like Australia and Britain, through suppression of free speech, through coercion of people through infiltration of institutions. And what the foreign interference legislation does is protect those institutions by criminalising certain kinds of coercive and, and corrupt process activities. So I think there’s a very distinct difference between the counterterrorism laws and the foreign interference laws, which is aimed at protecting the democratic rights for example, the right to free speech of Chinese heritage people living in Australia, who are afraid of intimidation and retaliation, should they participate in the political processes in Australia as citizens.
Dr Jade McGlynn 16:16
It’s a good point, I think as well about just maintaining this distinction, which I, if I understand correctly, was, was it Edwards? Sort of the crux of Edwards point as well. But if you’d like to come in, yes, please do.
Bob Seely MP 16:28
Yeah. I mean, there are so many interesting things. So I’ll just be very brief. I mean, I completely agree with what Clive says, you have to protect democracy. And this, for me is part of our foreign policy, because it’s how some countries China and Russia, choose to engage with us. So to see lobbying as entirely separate from other events throughout the world, or how other states interact with us, I think would be wrong. And I think those states, some of them see lobbying as part-and-parcel with espionage, although we rightly see these things as significantly different. So this is what the High Commissioner says, This is absolutely part of a package of law – you have to include espionage, you have to include lobbying, you have to understand this more flexible world which we inhabit. But Edward’s right. There is a danger because you’re overseeing relationships. And clearly, we need to be really mindful of that in a democracy, and specifically, cultural relationships. So Confucius Institutes, and specifically, maybe universities – we’ve seen as a story in The Times recently saying that a lot of universities now may be in trouble, because they’ve been accidentally helping China’s arms programme, which clearly they shouldn’t be doing. So there is a case for overseeing those relationships, whilst at the same time having as lighter touch as possible, but it has to be effective. And although we’ve outlined three alternatives, for me, in many ways, the best system will be one that has a two-tier approach. So this is like the Queensland Tourism Board issue. You know, how do you treat a Russian oligarch or Huawei – the China front company, and an entirely harmless Western entity that wants to do some lobbying in the UK, like the Queensland Tourism Board. So you have to one hand have a very high trust standards and low regulatory standards with 95% of people who will do business or lobby in the broadest sense of terms, the New Zealand Tourism Board, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whoever wants to do a bit of lobbying, but then for non-democratic states, for hostile actors, you have a very high bar. And if we don’t capture Putin’s oligarchs, and Chinese front companies, this lobbying bill would not be doing its purpose. So it’s got to capture those groups, and give us as much information about them, whilst at the same time allowing, you know, the Queensland Tourism Board to do sort of lobbying business in the UK with a very low threshold, or paperwork in a high threshold of trust.
Dr Jade McGlynn 18:55
Okay, thank you. I think this obviously, this is a very common-sense approach. I suppose one concern might be about how to actually implement it, I mean, as has come up already quite a lot. And it’s not always so easy to distinguish which actors, which, in sort of, from the CCP. In Russia, they have this kind of as a sort of like a very evil version of what we would call fusion doctrine, working across the works in these countries. And in particular, I suppose I want to ask, and it’d be particularly interesting to hear from High Commissioner Brandis here on the Australian experience, of what do we, how do we recognise and where do we draw these lines? So for example, in Russia, there are very many NGOs, government organised NGOs. And how do we decide, you know, how, what, what are the lines of deciding whether or not they are well-organised completely, whether or not they are state actors or non-state actors. And we also have, of course, the issue of sort of lobbying by non-state actors funded by nation-states as well, too. Is that something that’s covered by the Australian legislation? And how does that work in practice?
HE George Brandis QC 20:09
But well, yes, it is covered by the Australian legislation. And may I say I agree with everything that was said by Lucas and what Bob Seeley and Clive Hamilton had just said. I mean, one has to be very careful in protecting a liberal society, not to draw these laws too sweeping. It’s also important, and this is a point, I think that arises from what Bob was just saying that the ordinary intelligence, functions of domestic intelligence, functions of the state in this country. I mean that, it’s not as if the existing apparatus of protection against espionage and malign conduct by hostile state actors and their agents will not continue to be pursued, but what the Australian model does is add an overarching legal apparatus to augment, not to replace the existing intelligence function. Now, in relation to the question of how you distinguish different categories of foreign influence, the Act, actually the Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme, gives a definition of acting on behalf of a foreign principal. And it also defines the nature of the activity – it has to be an activity engaged in seeking to influence a political or governmental decision, for example. So at each point, in the process, that you have to identify that there is a foreign principal, you have to characterise the conduct, so that not all conduct is caught, but only conduct of what is broadly a political character or conduct designed to influence a political outcome like an election, or influence a governmental outcome, like, for example, the making of a decision by an agency or a civil service decision making. So all of these, we’ve tried in the Australian model to capture those necessary limitations, while still drawing the legislation sufficiently broadly, that it captures malign conduct.
Bob Seely MP 22:44
High Commissioner, you make a fascinating point about where the boundaries are, and everyone here has a good idea of where they think it should be. But in the in the City of London, for example, we have a specific problem of oligarchs and certain individuals wanting to make sure that London is safe for large flows of questionable money that Edward Lucas and other folks like him have highlighted have come out of the Russian Federation and former Soviet states. And those same people who may be aligned to the Russian regime are also engaged in the business of lobbying politically as well. So how wide is one trying to capture this? And is one trying to trying to expose a covert and malign influence in economic and financial spheres as well? Or are we narrowly defining in terms of policy and politicians? And this is one of the questions that I’m not quite sure where we’re going to come up with a suitable answer to thank you.
HE George Brandis QC 23:39
Well, Bob, I think in the United Kingdom, because the City of London is such an important centre of global capital and transactions, that you have a more acute problem in that context than we have in Australia. The Australian legislation was designed primarily with political and governmental influence in mind, not to say that other forms of financial malpractice which might be engaged in part of a network of conduct, which also includes lobbying isn’t caught by other laws by other commercial laws. But the foreign influence transparency scheme legislation in Australia, and the foreign interference legislation is first and foremost about seeking to influence political, governmental and electoral outcomes.
Dr Jade McGlynn 24:41
Thank you for that clarification. Actually, we’ve had a question from an audience member, from Luke of the Sydney Morning Herald, and I think I’m going to ask him a little bit earlier because I think it ties in so well with where we are in the discussion. So Luke asks, Australia has paid a price for its stance on foreign interfere into China retaliating. And is there a danger of written warfare economic retaliation as well and therefore to defer any moves to crackdown on foreign interference?
Prof Clive Hamilton 25:12
Well, yes, there is a danger. And Beijing I notice has been ramping up its campaign of threats in public, and I’m sure even more on arm-twisting in private in order to deter the British government from introducing legislation such as Australia has. But this is really a decision, I think, for the British people. And it comes down to how much is our sovereignty worth? How much are we willing to risk in terms of Let’s be concrete, our future economic growth rate, in order to maintain our status as a sovereign nation, and, you know, in there in the recent context, obviously, within certain parts of Britain, there’s a very powerful sense of winning back and maintaining our sovereignty. And of course, politicians such as Bob Seeley here are strongly motivated by a desire not to have Britain unduly influenced, particularly through covert and coercive measures by a powerful authoritarian state. So I think that’s a debate that has to be had, which we had in Australia. And we saw the firstly Prime Minister Turnbull, and then Prime Minister Morrison, particularly in the last 6-12 months, draw a line in the sand and say “Look, these are matters of national sovereignty, these are our democratic institutions, and we want to communicate to you in Beijing in a calm but firm way that we are not going to sacrifice and unless the nation does that it’s lost”.
Dr Jade McGlynn 27:00
Thank you for that clarification. Does any of the members of the panel who would like to, Edward, please.
Ed Lucas 27:06
Yes. There are two things that the Chinese Communist Party and the Kremlin both count on. One is that we will flinch up the thought of taking economic pain. And the other is that if they inflict economic pain, they will be able to inflict it on one country alone. And the truth is, we have answers to “what if we stopped”. We can say, yes, we don’t put our economic welfare ahead of everything else. And if we have to take some lumps, we’ll take them. And by making it quite clear that we’re willing to do that, if it makes it less likely that they try and inflict that pain on us. The second and there are examples of countries in the Baltic states, for example, Poland, and others, who’ve quite happily taken economic hits, Ukraine, another example of they’ve taken economic hits from Russia, for example, in energy supplies, but because they just prized their national sovereignty more. And the lesson is that the tougher you are, and the more resolute the less likely you are to get hit. And the other point is solidarity, that if say, the Chinese Communist Party, tries to punish Australia by punishing by restricting wine import, well, we could have a Five Eyes or have a real global Western response, where we see right we’re all going to drop tariffs on Australian wine and try and pick up the slack. And I actually launched the campaign called Freedom Wine, to encourage people to drink Australian wine, I was pleased to see that during lockdown, consumption of Australian wine in Britain has rocketed. We had Freedom Cheese when the Lithuanian dairy industry was being hit by sanctions from Russia. And we got lots of people to buy it. So we can do stuff, we have agency in this. And if the adversary see that when you pick on country x, lots of other countries pin and try and blunt the pain and contract says we don’t care, we could do what we want, then that double whammy and reverse you throw back at the adversary makes it much less likely that they’re going to try this tactic in the first place.
Dr Jade McGlynn 29:09
Thank you. I don’t drink but I followed your Freedom Wine Twitter campaign. Bob, would you like to come in?
Bob Seely MP 29:18
Very quickly, there is a depressing attitude in this country amongst some including in the government, who create high ethical standards with increased cost. And if anything there is that we know that there is a cost to having low ethical standards as well, which is the damage the reputation to the city to the questionable financial flows, which corrupt the London markets and corrupt individuals. So high ethical standards as long as it’s, you know, intelligent and that common sensical base, actually is part of an overall quality which which pays off in the long term. The Foreign Affairs Committee held evidence yesterday about forced labour, forced and slave labour. And one of the conclusions that we were coming to is that by aligning with other countries like Scandinavia, Australia, United States, European Union, we can drive up ethical standards and and push slave labour and forced labour to the fringes much more than is the case at the moment. And I do think in relation to Australia, I’ve been drinking a lot of Australian red wine, I tried to avoid French and most things Chinese. I do think we need to be much ready to support allies, because you’re starting to be pretty good allies to us over the over the years. And I think they have clearly taken a very impressive stance in relation to China. And I do think that we should be supporting that stance more not in an aggressive picking an argument kind of way, but in the way that Edward has outlined, where you quietly confirm your values, that you’re not willing to trade them for an extra half percentage one to your GDP, because you know, that will come at a greater cost in terms of values, politics and economics at a later date. So international solidarity is important. But also reaffirming our values. One of the things that the Russians are very sure of when they talk about their own value system, they create the West with a sort of decadent morality. And actually, I think it’s really worth pushing back on that. And stressing that our values are actually critical to our success in whatever however you define that as political or economic.
Dr Jade McGlynn 31:11
Thank you. Yeah, I think, of course, it’s a point as you speak about that touches on many issues, this idea of sort of walking the walk, because we’re not just talking the talk, and being prepared to some financial pain in recompense for our values. I think, at this point, I would like to just return slightly to the report, because I think it links in here. We’ve been discussing some of the possible reasons why the UK government may find it hard or even tempted not to implement foreign lobbying laws. In your report, Bob, you provided several options, sort of an easy and moderate and a hard. What are the risks if the government does just sort of go for the easy option?
Bob Seely MP 31:56
The risks, simply put, is that it won’t work. I mean, we’ve had a slight frustration, for example, with the security investment bill, which has just gone through. And it’s great. There’s lots of really good things in the bill and government has brought it in, it’s been right to bring it in. But on the question about national security, there’s no definition of national security, and the only person who makes a decision about about whether something is in in potential breach of national security is the Secretary of State for Business, so we’re we’re looking at it in terms of very narrow terms of trade. And again, I think we’re slightly missing a trick here that we need to think about things more broadly, because we see the way that potentially adversarial states behave in relation to us. And I think treating things in a very narrow, departmental way, probably isn’t the way ahead. So to answer your question, if we go for the easy option, actually, the bill went to achieve what it needs to achieve in the long run to achieve. I’m sure it’s going to come in for a second. What we need is a system that allows, you know, lobbying from sort of democratic states to carry on in a transparent and overt way, but at the same time capture those people or organisations that may have malign intent, or be working potentially for adversarial states. So any law that doesn’t catch oligarchs and doesn’t catch Chinese front companies will not have succeeded in its aims to put it crudely.
Dr Jade McGlynn 33:22
Edward, would you like to come in?
Ed Lucas 33:23
Yes. I absolutely agree with Bob. And I apologise to anyone who’s hoping to have a vigorous disagreement on this panel, because I think we’re not going to have one. But I do think the weakness here is that we don’t look at these hostile state activity in the round, we tend to think there’s a thing called disinformation. So that’s DCMS. There’s a thing called foreign espionage. So that’s the security service, there’s a thing called dirty money. So that’s FCA or Bank of England. There’s a thing called hostile state foreign investment that’s base. And this is ridiculous. We are having these threats that have lots of different vectors. And that we need something in government that really pulls the threads together. We have a Russia unit, which is great, but that looks outwards at Russian activity broadly outside this country rather than in we have a thing which is sort of part of EMI five called J Stir, which is supposed to be the taskforce on hostile state activity, but it doesn’t really do dirty money or disinformation. So I think we need to have a go back to the old idea we had during many years ago, there was something called Committee for Imperial Defence, which will pull together everything from business and telecommunications and shipping and all these different things right through to military and espionage. And it sat in the heart of Whitehall and had a grip on the whole thing. At the moment, and that I think is the is the biggest weakness we actually have quite a lot of tools. If we want to we can tackle things, visas, for example, if there’s some we don’t need a new a new law. To say we don’t like what you’re up to. Your visa has not been renewed if some of the plenty of screws have means available. But we were really lucky. I think there’s not a bigger toolbox, but the willingness to use the toolbox in a systematic and coherent way.
HE George Brandis QC 35:16
And I add to what it would Lucas has said and with which I agree, it’s important to emphasise that the Australian legislation was not about reinventing the wheel. It wasn’t about criminalising, or regulating in a new form of conduct that was already criminal. What it was about was identifying a species of conduct that had hitherto in Australia and still in the United Kingdom, escapes the rich of the law. And that is why we speak about influence. Now influence particularly, influence directed to influencing political and governmental outcomes is a very amorphous concept. But the fact that it’s amorphous doesn’t mean that it can’t be malign if engaged in by a foreign actor, or on behalf of a foreign principal, for a malign purpose. And that’s why I said in my opening remarks, that we found in Australia, that the this blind assumption that it would all be captured by the old common law of espionage was quite wrong, that there was a whole hinterland which have malign influence on behalf of foreign states and foreign actors directed to our democratic and governmental and electoral processes, but weren’t being caught by any law, which ought to be and that is why this was a two part operation at a two part piece of law reform. Both criminalising malign influence not already caught by the law of espionage or the other areas of the criminal law, and also requiring transparency by registration of influence on behalf of foreign actors. That wasn’t malign But nevertheless, it was in the public interest ought to be disclosed. So the fact that influence was sought to be exercised, not for a malign purpose, necessarily, but on behalf of a foreign actor or principal, would something that the public ought legitimately. To know.
Prof Clive Hamilton 37:31
Right, just add to that, I mean, I think the point George makes is exceptionally important. This is a new kind of activity that we’ve been confronted with. And we’ve had to understand what’s happening in the first instance, and most countries haven’t begun to understand what’s happening. Fortunately, the UK is now having that discussion. But there is a there’s a more difficult form of influence that operates in Australia and elsewhere, and that is that you will, this legislation cannot get hurt. And that is the way in which Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party and its various agencies, mobilise proxies within Australia, Australians to really act on its behalf. The wine industry was mentioned, when bans were put on the Australian wine exports. The executives of the wine industry began jumping up and down and saying the government you must fix the relationship. In other words, they were transferring responsibility for the problem onto Australia. It’s all our fault we miss managing the relationship somehow. And so fix it, and then we’ll be able to get back to normal. And it’s very important to understand that mobilising domestic actors to serve as megaphones for Beijing’s message is exactly a CCP strategy. It uses this strategy constantly around the world. And so I mean, in this country, some of the most powerful de facto or effective spokespersons for the interests of the party in Australia are mining magnates and vice chancellors. And in this case, legislation can’t pay you that you’re spending the democratic process. They’re protecting their financial interest in industry, and then they’re entitled to do that. And so what is needed in in for this is a civil society response. It needs to be called out, it needs to be pointed out that what they’re doing is actually Beijing’s dirty work, when they’re blaming Australia for it and saying we should sacrifice our principles by for example, watering down the foreign interference legislation or allowing Huawei into our 5G network. And so I need to be called out for attempting to persuade Australia, the Australian Government and the Australian people and let’s face it, I mean, these wine companies have been making shitloads of money over the last 10 or 15 years, and they want to keep it. So then it’d be called out for effectively, what is unpatriotic activity.
Dr Jade McGlynn 40:13
Thank you. So if I got it correctly, this isn’t just about legislating, it isn’t about legislating sense of criminalising, but it’s also about creating more transparency, and perhaps also a social stigma around some of the sort of domestic actors, and so on.
Prof Clive Hamilton 40:31
That’s fundamental – the public debate and the media. This battle cannot be won without the media, without light being shed on the activities of the CCP, and Putin’s Russia, so that the public understands when your legislation was introduced, and correct me if you think I’m wrong on this, George, Australia publishes at the end of 2017. I don’t think the Australian public had any idea what was going on why it was necessary, what it would do. And it was up to civil society actors in the media to explain what was happening, what the CCP was up to, in Australia, in very concrete ways. No good talking about abstractions. You have to talk about what they’re doing, where who’s doing it and what the effect is. And that’s when the public starts to understand and back these new kinds of measures.
HE George Brandis QC 41:27
Well, that’s true, I should say that the legislation is, of course, country agnostic. But that having been said, I think Australians were very well-schooled about certain ill-intentioned, significant adversaries by discussion that had been a very lively discussion in the media. A lot of that discussion, frankly, was led by you that your book Silent Invasion. I think the publication of that book was a real turning point in the public, both the public awareness and public attitudes to this issue. And that sort of led by that that made my task of advocacy, I might say, a lot easier than it might otherwise be.
Dr Jade McGlynn 42:19
Thank you. I think on this note, I’m very pleasant. No, we should go to some of the audience questions. So the first three questions I’m going to ask are from Euan Grant, from Gila rose, and then from Noel Hadjimichael. So if we could start with Euan please. Euan Grant.
Euan Grant 42:47
Yes, indeed. My question is, the High Commissioner mentioned the fact that the legislation was designed in consultation with and could be adapted and used by Five Eyes countries, and indeed, beyond which countries are showing interest in that, because they certainly should be, and which not, particularly in the case of the European countries where I think there are some real grounds for concern. And speaking from personal experience, and how ready is the West generally, for a problem that Australia and Canada have had noticeably interestingly, not yet in the United States, about hostage taking, particularly by China, maybe by Russia. Thank you.
Dr Jade McGlynn 43:44
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Grant. So if we just take the second question, then we’ll come back and the panel can answer afterwards. So if we take the same question from Gila Rose, I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly.
Gila Rose 43:56
Yes. Good morning. What I want to know is if there is a concerted character assassination by a foreign power, how can we legislate for something like that?
Dr Jade McGlynn 44:14
Thank you. And then the third question we’ll take from Noel Hadjimichael.
Noel Hadjimichael 44:26
My question as a London-based Australian is, is the presence of a large and well integrated diaspora in countries like Australia, Canada and the UK. citizens, often third or fourth generation form targets of intimidation and coercion?
Dr Jade McGlynn 44:49
Thank you. Thank you for your question. Okay. So if we start with you and Grant’s question, is there anybody on the panel who would like to tackle that one? Edward, please.
Ed Lucas 45:00
Yes, I’d like to answer Euan’s and also Gila’s together because I think there are countries in Europe that are really good at this, but they keep their light a bit under the bushel. Finland has an idea of comprehensive defence, which integrates everything from the energy system through to the media, infrastructure – the whole thing. And they have regular exercises, they have training courses, where managers in all sorts of different bits of the economy, go on three or four week intensive training courses about security threats and how to deal with them. And it works really well and other countries in the region and are scrambling to rebuild the similar systems that they had during the Cold War. So Sweden particularly. And with regard to character assassination, one of the spurs to Finland to really fine tune their system was the attack on a Finnish journalist Jessica Otto, who was the first Western journalist to investigate the internet research agency in St. Petersburg, the troll factory, and she got the most extraordinary amount of abuse, online and offline as well. And this really sort of shamed the Finnish system when they realised that a Finnish could be intimidated this way and actually had to leave Finland to go abroad. And so they’ve now set up a thing called Soft Target Protection, which means that journalists, academics, think-tankers, campaigners, anyone who’s in this sort of space where they can be attacked by hostile foreign power, which in these cases, almost only Russia, gets a tremendous amount of protection ranging from psychological and legal support through a hot button so they don’t have just go down to the local police station, say someone’s out to get me – they get a proper case officer. And it works very well. And since they’ve done that, I think Finland is probably the last country in the Nordic Baltic region that will be attacked. Although it’s not in NATO and lots more than smaller than Sweden, because they’ve got their defences lined up. We can also learn from the Czech Republic, I think, which has a centre for countering hybrid threats, which does pretty good job. So there’s lots out there what we need to get off our high horse in Britain and be a bit more willing to learn from countries that have been dealing with this for longer and more deeply than we have.
HE George Brandis QC 47:20
To go at Noel HadjiMichael’s question about how legislation like this can effectively operate in a country like Australia with large, a large, integrated diaspora in Australia. Of course, it is a very proudly multicultural nation, very successful, multicultural nation. And there are lots of, for example, Chinese citizens who are very, who are hugely valued Australians and the Chinese community are great contributors to Australia’s sense of what being a mod multicultural nation is. The point of the Australian legislation is that it operates on the principle of agency, agency on behalf of a foreign principal, there is in fact the definition of what constitutes acting on behalf of a foreign principal. So if a person, an Australian citizen or otherwise, undertakes a defined activity, under an arrangement with the foreign principal, in the service of the foreign principal, on the order or at the request of the foreign principal, or under the direction of the foreign principal, then they attract the operation of the Act, and then the Act says that the activity has to be of a defined kind. But it’s important to remember that what the key link here that the legislation attacks, is agency on behalf of a foreign principal, by someone whether a citizen or a non-citizen within Australia.
Dr Jade McGlynn 49:01
Thank you for that important clarification. Bob, Professor Hamilton, if you’d like to answer questions, that’s fine. But please, can I ask you to keep it short and sweet. We have time for another couple of questions.
Bob Seely MP 49:11
Yes, sir. Just want to go first.
Prof Clive Hamilton 49:14
Yes, I’ll try and be short and sweet. Two things – my work on CCP influence in Australia would have been impossible without assistance from members of the Chinese diaspora and so. But on the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party targets the Chinese diaspora and mobilises them to carry out influence and other kinds of operations in Australia, through the United Front work department and its vast network of agencies. So it’s a very complex situation because of course, like all the aspirants, you know, the tremendous amount of political, social, ethnic, linguistic, cultural diversity within the Chinese diaspora in Australia. Just one point on a character assassination. Many of us are very concerned about the case of Professor Anne Marie Brady in New Zealand, who has been carrying out a programme of exposing CCP influence in New Zealand, virtually alone. I mean, I’m blessed with all kinds of supporters and other people who do similar work. Anne Marie Brady is virtually alone in New Zealand, and talk about massive personal pressure from burglaries of her office and her home and intimidation. For now, her University, the University of Canterbury, is under pressure from people perhaps with links to the CCP into carrying out an inquiry into her activities with a view to firing her from the university. So you can’t legislate against that or believe the university, I’m sure, sticks to the law. But she deserves enormous support from all people who value free speech and democratic institutions.
Dr Jade McGlynn 51:04
Thank you. And, Bob, if you want to very quickly make your points.
Bob Seely MP 51:08
I mean that the problem with what’s happening, I’m curious, is a good example of why we need to get these laws in place a because there are some new laws for espionage and lobbying for the benign aspects of it, but also because there’s both the High Commissioner and Edward says. You have an understanding and an explaining process that goes with that, which provides an inoculating effect and people understand so society begins to understand these brushes when it comes to diasporas. They’re a source of strength. I mean, yes, there are risks because the Chinese can target, the Russians can target but actually it is one of the best things And I think there will be a unique additional wonderful addition to our country. Edward is completely right. A lot of other countries are better at this and we need to learn from them. Sweden, good Finland, the Czechs. Also the Baltic republics do a lot of things very well, as well, as the High Commissioner says agency is key. But it’s about identifying illegal proxies, but not always. I’ll give you a very brief example, the relationship between Huawei and BT because effectively BT, a decent company high values became a an agent almost accidentally, for the Communist Party’s agenda for the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda in this country, because of Huawei influence over BT. And I think that was a an accidental, if you like, an accidentally corrupting relationship for BT. And the question is, how do you stop people getting into this relationship where they’re effectively becoming proxies for other people and for other people’s politics?
Dr Jade McGlynn 52:38
Thank you. Thank you both. Thank you all for your answers. And for your concision. I’m just going to take two final questions. So I would like these to be from Gilmore and Anton Moysey. And quote. Okay, then I’ll read Alec scheme was question, one second. So following on High Commissioner Brown, this is the comments. What additional provisions would prospective UK legislation need to make to effectively target British nationals who are agents of foreign actors rather than the foreign actor only? Provisions do you think might be necessary?
HE George Brandis QC 53:18
Well, do you want me to answer that now?
Dr Jade McGlynn 53:23
Yes, I think in this case, because I’ve just had to read out.
HE George Brandis QC 53:26
Well, the answer is to adopt the Australian model. I mean, that’s what we do. I mean, the Australian model is directed to criminalising inappropriate conduct within Australia, whether by Australian citizens or by non-citizens within Australia, but also the offences committed when a person is engaged in certain conduct, for certain purposes, covertly on behalf of a foreign principal. So the model is there to to address that issue in the Australian legislation. That’s the whole basis on which it works.
Dr Jade McGlynn 54:04
Thank you. Thank you very much for that answer.
Bob Seely MP 54:07
Just, just on that point, very briefly, if we were wise, the High Commissioner is exactly right. We will take the Australian model, and then work out how we make it a little bit more specific to the UK, especially when it comes to looking at university relationships and internet intellectual property, which is clearly a big issue at the moment, but also financial flows and financial relationships as well, because these influences can be covert, malign, and potentially corrupting, and potentially legal as well.
Dr Jade McGlynn 54:33
Thank you. I’m just going to take until my co-anchor’s question and then if anybody else also wants to refer to the school, what’s the question in their offices, they can. So Anton, are you there?
Anton Moiseienko 54:47
Yes, I am. Thank you. I feel that my question has been largely addressed in the discussion. It was about the institutional reform that would be necessary to effectively enforce any laws that are adopted. So maybe I will just use that as such. wants to give the panelists another opportunity to provide any last thoughts or comments on the institutional aspects of things and sort of what has to be done on that front. Thank you.
Dr Jade McGlynn 55:09
Prof Clive Hamilton 55:11
I’d like to comment on that, if I might, because it’s a very, very important point that I think not too many people foresaw. Although it’s quite possible that the High Commissioner did and that is that is one thing to introduce legislation specifying a new crime, foreign interference in this case, it is quite another to get the intelligence and law enforcement agencies understanding what their new tasks are, particularly the law enforcement agency, because no one in the state or the Australian Federal Police really took responsibility for investigating potential crimes under the new Act and prosecuting people. And it was only when the government about 16-18 months ago, allocated $89 million in order to basically resource the Australian Federal Police and the other agencies, to have people whose job is to investigate foreign interference, that we began to see some results, that is, some prosecutions from some raids. And so it’s no good having the legislation unless the intelligence and law enforcement bodies are at the same time primed to understand what their new duties will be.
HE George Brandis QC 56:40
Look, Clive, you’re right. I agree with that. But I mean, the Australia has now done that. And December 2019, Scott Morrison announced the creation of the Foreign Interference Task Force, which might be what you have in mind, led by ACIO, which is the Australian equivalent, of course of MI5, working with the Australian Federal Police and other agencies as well. And I am told that I know that it has had significant success. So you know, you need the legislative underpinnings or foundations. But then you also need the institutional resourcing to operationalize the laws.
Prof Clive Hamilton 57:22
It won’t just happen. The government needs operators, as you say, operationalize that otherwise, it will just drift.
Dr Jade McGlynn 57:30
Yeah, this is important. And I wonder if we could have Edward and then the final work and go to Bob as the author of the report, please?
Ed Lucas 57:39
Yes, I think it’s very important. There’s a tension here between the natural desire for secrecy, when one comes to statecraft and the need to make a public impact. And I think that we need to be a bit better at thinking about the public side of it. So although it shows our hand a bit, if we break up an influence network, maybe someone from the Chinese Embassy is sent back home, maybe someone else has a visa denied and so on. I think we’ve we’ve gone too far in on the side of trying to keep this secret. I think it’s better to make the public feel that something’s going on. And Estonia has been really good on this with regard to Russian espionage. Whenever they catch a Russian spy, they always prosecute, even if it’s super embarrassing, and they always PNG – persona non grata anyone from the embassy, who’s been involved, and I think that’s better than what most do wish to say – let’s not make a fuss the Russians know, the Russians know what we’ve done. So let’s just keep it quiet. Because in the end, if the other side knows what you’ve done, then there’s no point in keeping that really a secret or keeping some secrets from your own population. So I would urge all this whether it’s anti money laundering, criminal prosecutions, visas, whatever lever of power we’re using against this, let’s make, make it robustly public, both as deterrent and as a spine stiffener for it for our own public and our own decision makers.
Dr Jade McGlynn 59:13
And then Bob, last word to you.
Bob Seely MP 59:15
Thanks, Jade. I think transparency is critical, as Edward says, and Estonia, their secret Agency reports. Its great annual reading, and I thoroughly recommend the reports that they put out. Thank you to all the panellists. It’s clear, we need additional laws, but actually we also need a sense of understanding and we need to work out how to take a holistic approach to these problems, because they are as foreign affairs. They’re important domestically as they are in terms of Foreign Affairs. I think the Counter Foreign Intelligence Interference Task Force was yet another really good idea. The United States had the active measures Task Force back in the 80s and 90s. We should be looking at something very similar here. We are not there yet and are joined up government approach to authoritarian states and the covert or malign lobbying they do and the photo document that we put Today’s is a contribution to that debate. So thank you to all the panellists and to everyone who’s been listening, much appreciated. Thanks.
Dr Jade McGlynn 1:00:08
Thank you, Bob. Thank you to all of our wonderful speakers for a really fascinating and enlightening discussion. And thank you to our audience as well. I’m sorry for taking two minutes past the hour and I hope I haven’t inconvenienced anybody too much. But thank you once again, and goodbye.
HE George Brandis QC 1:00:24