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Australian PM To Unveil New Powers To Block Secret Deals With Foreign Powers

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 27 August 2020

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Scott Morrison will move to block secret deals between state and foreign governments. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Source: News Corp Australia

Deals such as the state of Victoria's Belt and Road Deal with China will be in the firing line.

Security, Political // BLUF: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will reveal new powers that enable the Federal Government to block secret deals between foreign powers and state governments and universities.

The new powers come amid rising concerns over espionage, particularly from China. Victoria's Belt and Road Initiative deal with China, under embattled Premier Dan Andrews, has been heavily scrutinised and is prone to being blocked under the new powers.

The University of Queensland has also been scrutinised for its position on China, following its handling of pro-Hong Kong protests in 2019 at one of its campuses that turned violent as pro-Beijing counter-protesters confronted the demonstrators; with pro-Hong Kong protesters criticised by the university and student Drew Pavlou suspended.

(See Point 4 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 27 August 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. UNITED STATES, CHINA - Security, Political: U.S. targets Chinese individuals, companies amid South China Sea dispute

FYSA: The United States on Wednesday blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted individuals it said were part of construction and military actions in the South China Sea, its first such sanctions move against Beijing over the disputed strategic waterway. The U.S. Commerce Department said the two dozen companies played a “role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea.” Separately, the State Department said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals “responsible for, or complicit in,” such action and those linked to China’s “use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.” The companies blacklisted included Guangzhou Haige Communications Group, several firms that appear to be related to the China Communications Construction Co, as well as Beijing Huanjia Telecommunication, Changzhou Guoguang Data Communications, China Electronics Technology Group Corp and China Shipbuilding Group. It was the latest U.S. move to crack down on firms whose goods may support Chinese military activities and comes in the run up to the Nov. 3 U.S. election, in which both President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden have been sharply critical of China. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. BRAZIL - Security, Political: Pressure mounts to disband Brazil's crack anti-corruption squad

FYSA: Political pressure is growing in Brazil to disband a high-profile team of anti-corruption prosecutors that has put dozens of former executives and politicians behind bars, despite its strong popular support and hundreds of cases still pending. Prosecutor General Augusto Aras will decide on Sept. 10 whether to renew for another year the mandate of the team, which has repeatedly made headlines over the last six years with its sprawling ‘Car Wash’ corruption probe. Aras, who has not spoken about his intentions, declined to comment for this story. But the country’s top public prosecutor is facing pressure from influential politicians for the task force to be disbanded, as skepticism grows about President Jair Bolsonaro’s commitment to a campaign promise to tackle corruption. The 65-year-old former army captain took office at the start of last year amid popular anger at corruption under the former governments of the leftist Workers Party, but has since railed at investigations of alleged graft involving members of his own family. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

3. BELARUS - Security, Political: Belarusian Nobel winner questioned over opposition council

FYSA: Authorities in Belarus have questioned the Nobel prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich as part of an investigation into an opposition council created to facilitate a political transition in the country. Alexander Lukashenko, who has been president for 26 years and is under pressure from protesters to step down after a rigged election win this month, has described the council as an attempt to seize power, and prosecutors have opened a criminal case. (The Guardian. See link in heading for further reading)

4. AUSTRALIA - Political, Security: Scott Morrison’s unveils new power to block deals between China and states

FYSA: Scott Morrison will unveil new powers to block secret deals between foreign powers including China with state governments and universities amid rising concern over espionage. Just hours after one of China’s top diplomats insisted secretive deals with academics in Australia’s universities were simply designed to “spread sunshine”, the Prime Minister will argue urgent reforms are required. The new test will ask whether or not the proposed arrangements adversely affect Australia’s foreign relations and whether it is inconsistent with Australian foreign policy. If the arrangement fails the test the foreign minister will have powers to stop the state entity from negotiating, entering, remaining in or giving effect to any new arrangements. “Australia’s foreign policies and relationships must always be set to serve Australia’s interests,” Mr Morrison said. “One of the most important jobs of the Federal Government is to protect and promote Australia’s national interest.” The reforms also follow concerns over Victoria’s Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure in the state. The Federal Government will also have powers to terminate private contracts and other agreements, as well as infrastructure construction contact that comes about as a result of the Victorian Belt and Road initiative program. (News.com.au. See link in heading for further reading)

5. NEW ZEALAND - Security (Cyber), Economic: NZX down for third day in a row, following another cyber attack

FYSA: The NZ Stock Exchange (NZX) has been halted after its website went down for a third day in a row. Trading was halted prior to the market closing on Tuesday, and was closed for most of yesterday after an offshore cyber attack. The type of attack is known as a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), which overwhelms the online service rendering it inoperable. A spokesperson for the NZX says if the website goes down, they cease trading because retail punters cannot see the market announcements being made. (RNZ. See link in heading for further reading)

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