Hot on the heels of Sam Dastyiari’s recent scandals with Chinese donors, the Turnbull Government has decided to overhaul Australia’s counter-espionage and intelligence policies.
Two pieces of legislation will be debated in Australian parliament in the next two months that will aim to prevent ‘foreign political interference’. The Dastyari scandal may have coincided with the announcement of these new laws or have acted as the political lynchpin for Prime Minister Turnbull – that is up to experts to agree on.
What does that mean for any of us not involved in the turbulence of politics or the mystery of intelligence? Maybe not a whole lot, but these issues can provide us with examples of how to behave safely and appropriately with stakeholders at all times.
The proposed legislation will require companies and high profile figures to be more transparent about whom they may be representing. The laws will require a system similar to the US Foreign Agents Registry, where you would need to declare to the government as to whether you are acting on behalf of a foreign government or agency. This is especially important to any companies that work as consultants to organisations overseas.
We get affected by the news we consume, which in turn might inform our business decisions. Researching global news events can affect trade or who you provide services to. Most large law firms engage in thorough conflict of interest checks that comply with anti-terrorism and international criminal laws.
Likewise, it is important to know where you are getting your news from. Reliance on what can be considered ‘fake news’ might lead to a misguided business decision, or cause you to make unreliable or discriminatory security policies. Your company may even choose to (or not to) trade or invest in certain countries depending on the biases that are built from consuming the wrong kind of information.
Some companies make political donations. These are not illegal and are perfectly acceptable if you wish to show favour towards political figures that may represent your interests. By ensuring your company complies with the proposed new laws, companies should perform due diligence checks to confirm that the money being donated serves only your company’s interests and not anyone else’s. Furthermore, if your company receives donations from other countries, the new incoming laws will require you to disclose where that money came from.
Thorough conflicts checking is important, if only to make sure that your company will comply with the new laws in the future. It is unlikely that the incoming legislation will affect businesses as it is aimed largely at the intelligence and diplomatic community. However, like any socially responsible company, it is always important that your business considers these laws and consider complying where relevant.
For assistance in compliance actitivies such as the one examined in this article please do not hesitate to contact Agilient.
The Agilient Team