'The Australian people stand up': PM defiant over Chinese political interference

Malcolm Turnbull says Australia will 'stand up' after China complained about his comments regarding foreign influence in domestic politics.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia will stand up to Chinese interference.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia will stand up to Chinese interference. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has doubled down on his criticism of Beijing interfering in domestic politics, while insisting the communist leadership will respect his tough talk.

Mr Turnbull on Saturday said he wasn't intimidated by Beijing expressing "strong dissatisfaction" over his remarks earlier this week about foreign interference.

He spoke Mandarin when noting China was founded in 1949 with the words "the Chinese people have stood up".

"It was an assertion of sovereignty, it was an assertion of pride," the prime minister told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

"And so we say 'the Australian people stand up'."

Mr Turnbull this week in parliament cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence", but he was blunter on Saturday.

"There has been foreign interference in Australian politics, plainly," he said.

"(Labor senator) Sam Dastyari is a very clear case of somebody who has literally taken money from people closely associated with the Chinese government and, in return for that, has delivered essentially Chinese policy statements."

The prime minister claimed Beijing would hold Labor in "complete contempt" over the senator's behaviour because Chinese people stood up for their sovereignty and expected Australians to do the same.

"That is why we respect each other," Mr Turnbull said.

"That is why they respect me and my government."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Friday said he was "shocked" by what Mr Turnbull had said in parliament.

"We express strong dissatisfaction at this and have already lodged solemn representations with the Australian side," Mr Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

But the PM wasn't taking a backward step on Saturday.

"Foreign governments are entitled to make their point of view known," he said.

"But covert lobbying, particularly of the kind we've seen recently, that is not acceptable and we're updating our laws to deal with it."

The prime minister on Thursday presented to parliament a suite of bills to address the threat of foreign states trying to influence the country's political landscape.

A new offence of intentional foreign interference will make it a crime for a person to engage in conduct on behalf of a foreign principal that will influence a political or governmental process, and is either covert or involves deception.

Senator Dastyari was demoted in late November following reports he'd warned a prominent Chinese businessman his phone was being tapped by intelligence agencies.

In 2016 he resigned from the frontbench after admitting some of his travel and legal costs had been paid for by Chinese companies.

3 min read
Published 9 December 2017 at 4:32pm