Australian parties back ban on foreign political donations

Major Australian political parties backed a ban on foreign donations on Friday, which will bring the country in line with western nations such as the United States, Britain and Canada, which ban or restrict such payments, if it becomes law.

The issue has gained traction with a prominent Australian politician resigned after failing to declare a Chinese company had paid for travel and legal bills.

A parliamentary committee comprised of members of all major parties recommended the ban in a report, although they have not yet agreed on whether the donations block would also apply to groups such as trade unions.

Committee chairwoman Senator Linda Reynolds, from the ruling center-right Liberal Party, said in the report that only Australians should have the power to influence national politics and elections.

“It should be of great concern to all Australians that, in the absence of bans on foreign donations, so many voters share the belief that the views and decisions of our political parties could be influenced by donations from foreign sources,” Reynolds said.

There is growing wariness of foreign influence in Australia where protectionist sentiment has surged, particularly since the election last July of populist politicians critical of foreign involvement.

The 2015 sale of the Port of Darwin to Chinese government-affiliated interests sparked a backlash over the security implications and even a rebuke from U.S. government officials. (Courtesy Reuters)