Australia’s US$60 million anti-espionage task force ‘shows it won’t bend the knee’ to China

  • Initiative is designed to coordinate and empower agencies in response to foreign interference, following explosive claims of Chinese meddling
  • Beijing has branded the allegations ‘lies’ and warned that Australian politicians and media have been ‘cooking up so-called China spy cases’

South China Morning Post
Date: 2 Dec, 2019
By: John Power  

Australia on Monday launched a high-level intelligence task force to combat what officials say is rampant foreign interference in the country amid claims of bold Chinese spying operations..

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the A$88 million (US$59.6 million) task force would involve all the country’s top intelligence agencies “to disrupt and deter anyone attempting to undermine our national interests”.

The body would also enable intelligence agencies, normally tasked with overseas threats, to coordinate with federal police to identify and prosecute or expel foreign agents.

Australia probes spy plot amid claims of Beijing’s political meddling

“We will be developing new specialist capabilities both from an investigatory capacity as well as being able to pursue investigations and bring them to either disrupt activity or, indeed, follow through and prosecute,” Morrison said during a press conference in Canberra. “This task force to counter foreign interference is about identifying it, disrupting and prosecuting.”

John Blaxland, a professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at Australian National University, said increased coordination between agencies could lead to greater effectiveness and reflected a years-long trend in national security circles.

“The issue is that the capabilities of each individual agency are insufficient to comprehensively respond to the nature of the challenge posed by foreign interference and that’s because it’s a combination of engaging the people and use of technology onshore and offshore,” Blaxland said.