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Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act

Issue

How can Chris cease his registration under the FITS act?

Legislation

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, 2018

Application

The purpose of this scheme is to make the foreign principals endeavour of influencing the government and political lobbying transparent. The scheme does not impose penalties on the lawful activities but its main agenda is to make the acts of foreign principles blatant to the public at large. This agenda is achievable when the certain registration requirements and obligations are levied on the individuals and companies who work on behalf of the foreign principals. As for 2019, thirty-three companies or individuals have registered themselves under this scheme.

As per Division 2 of the scheme, foreign government means a government of the foreign country or a part of the foreign; an authority of foreign country; authority of the government of part of the foreign country and any foreign local body or regional governmental body. The same division gives the definition of foreign principal which means a foreign government meaning all levels of the government; a foreign government-related entity which includes foreign govt or foreign political organization or where the directors of the company are under obligation to follow the instructions of the foreign govt or foreign political organization; a foreign political organisation meaning which is there to follow government objectives or any related individual of the foreign government who is there to take instructions and directions from the foreign principal and they are usually not Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.2 Lobby means to communicate with a person/s in a way to influence any process, decision or outcome or to represent interests of a person.

Section 12 of Division 2 states any person who does any activity for political and governmental influence shall be deemed to be undertaking an activity of political and governmental influence. This includes concerning a federal election; concerning federal government relations; a house of parliament; registered political party etc. A person does this activity also for influencing the public or a section of it as per clause (2).

Making an inference out of the above-mentioned definitions and sections, so Chris is deemed to be a political lobbyist since he had a huge influence is making economic friendly cheese-making policies. He had relations with the Australian and New Zealand cheese-making organizations which fall under the category of foreign governments.

Part 2 Division 4, section 24-30 of the scheme states that any prospective registrant is not obligated to make a registration if he falls under the exemption category. These are humanitarian aid or assistance; legal advice or representation meaning any legal advice or legal representation in judicial, civil or criminal activities, investigations or proceedings or legal representation in relation with the government administrative process; for members of parliament and statutory office holders meaning if a person belongs to a member of the parliament or is a member of parliament of state or legislative assembly of Australia or holds any office under commonwealth law shall be exempted.

Chris Cheeseworthy being a self-employed as a lobbyist of the cheese industry and was working on behalf of Australian and New Zealand cheese marketing organization. He decided to terminate his business with his foreign principals. This scheme makes it compulsory for the individuals who work on behalf of the foreign principals to register, and since Chris does not fall under the exemption category, therefore he is bound to register under this scheme.

Part 2 Division 5 section 31-32 states the procedure for the end of the registration. It says that a person who has registered under the scheme working on behalf of the foreign principal make give notice to the Secretary if he has stopped all the activities he took under the foreign principals and that there is no registrable agreement between the person and the foreign principal. The notice to be given to the Secretary should be in writing, in an appropriate form (if any), to be given in approved manner (if any), and accompanied by any documents that the Secretary needs. The notice must specify the day when the relationship between the individual and the foreign principal ceased. The day mentioned should not be before the day notice was given and must not be later than the last day when the renewal of the registration is due.

However, those who do not comply with the aforesaid procedure shall be accustomed to penalties. Part 5 distinguish certain acts that are considered as offences like undertaking registrable activities while not registered meaning doing such activities as if working on behalf of the foreign principal though not being registered or a person falsely portrays himself to be not working for the foreign principal and therefore exempts himself to registration. The penalty of such an offence ranges from six months to five years imprisonment depending upon case to case.

Second, if a person fails to comply with the responsibilities meaning if a person fails to give notice on a material change of circumstances or disbursement activity or review of registration when the voting period begins or if a person does not respond to the notice of the Attorney-General department, etc. Such acts ensure the penalty of a fine of sixty units to six months imprisonment depending upon case to case. Third, if a person provides false or misleading information or documents while registration giving imprisonment of three years as a penalty. Lastly, if a person destroys any records, documents concerning registration then that too constitutes an offence. This imposes a penalty of two years imprisonment.

Therefore concluding the above-mentioned provisions, the person who works on behalf of the foreign principal owes to follow certain responsibilities. Since Chris has decided to not work for as political lobbyist for Australian and New Zealand companies, therefore under section 31 he has to send a notice to the Secretary as per the required timeline. Failing to do so he shall be becoming a defaulter under Part 5 of the scheme. Section 59, specifically gives this detailed version of a person who has failed to give the required notice, shall suffer a penalty of imprisonment for six months. Exemptions given in this section says that if a person has taken all reasonable measures to give the information or by any reason exceeded the timeline of dissemination of the notice, which shall be decided by the Secretary, then only can he be exempted from the penalty under this section.

Owing to Part 3 Division 1 section 33-40 states the obligations and responsibilities of the registrants under this scheme. Section 33 simply lays that a registrant has to report about any material changes that could be affecting registration or any disbursement activity undertaken by him on foreign principal's behalf; during the voting period of the federal election review the information and report about the activities taken during that period; make disclosures under communication activity; renew registration as and when required; keep proper records of his work. Division 2 section 34 gives detailed responsibilities of that a person owes to the Secretary. If the information given to the secretary is false or inadequate and the person having information about that, then the person is liable to give notice to the secretary about the inadequacies. It should be given within 14 days of the day when the person becomes aware of that.

Apart from that, a person must also notify the secretary when the person working under a foreign principal starts indulging into other works for him; or some another kind of activity is added to his activities; a person ceases his activities under Part 2 Division 4 or if there is a significant change in the amount of consideration payable to the person. Section 35 says that where there is nay disbursement activity in Australia concerning the political or governmental influence, the person is bound to report that to the secretary, except the voting period. The notice should be given within fourteen days from the day when the person gets to know about it.

Therefore, for the obligations that Chris has over the Secretary, he should follow all the given guidelines. He must notify the secretary about any inadequacies in the notice given by him. The facts of the problem tell the reason behind of cessation of him being a political lobbyist so that he should notify the secretary about it.

References

Australian government attorney general department, (2019). Foreign influence transparency scheme. Retrieved from https://www.ag.gov.au/Integrity/foreign-influence-transparency-scheme/Documents/fact-sheets/penalties-for-non-compliance-enforcement.pdf

Clarke, R. and Lim, J. (2019). Australia: What you need to know about the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 (Cth). Retrieved from https://www.mondaq.com/australia/Government-Public-Sector/808448/What-you-need-to-know-about-the-Foreign-Influence-Transparency-Scheme-Act-2018-Cth

Mack, D. (2018). An era of foreign political interference: Impulsive, overcompensation of Australia, and a comparison of legislative schemes with the United States. Emory International Law Review, 34(1), 367-397.

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, 2018

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