Foreign Influence Laws in Australia and Israel

Just as the United States uses the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) to try to shed light on foreign influence in American politics, Australia and Israel have laws that attempt to ensure similar transparency in their own governments.

Like FARA, Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (“FITS”) Act defines the “registrable activities” that, if undertaken, require a person to register under the Act. These activities include lobbying, which the Act defines as representing the interests of any person in any government or political process or attempting to influence decisions or the outcome of that process. Individuals must register for each foreign principal they work on behalf of and must renew their registration annually. The Act’s definition of foreign principals includes foreign governments, entities or individuals related to a foreign government, and foreign political organizations. Generally, a person works “on behalf of” a foreign principal if they work under the direction of a foreign principal and at the time the arrangement commenced both parties knew or expected that it would entail registrable activities. The Act imposes special reporting requirements on registered individuals during federal election and voting periods.

In Australia, it is a criminal offense to fail to register under the FITS Act, fail to renew registration, provide false or misleading information, or destroy documents to avoid having to register. The FITS Act provides many exceptions, though, including for people providing foreign actors with legal representation and advice, charity and humanitarian organizations, and Parliamentary and statutory officeholders.

The FITS Act allows the Secretary of the Attorney General’s Department to issue transparency notices identifying a particular actor as a foreign principal. If the Secretary is “satisfied” that an actor is a foreign principal, the Secretary issues a provisional notice. The party identified in the notice has the right to demand review. If the Secretary does not decide to revoke the provisional notice within 28 days of publication, it becomes final. The Act stipulates that “[t]he Secretary is not required to observe any requirements of procedural fairness” when exercising transparency notice powers.

In Israel, foreign influence regulations center on nonprofit organizations who are controlled or funded mainly by foreign countries or organizations. Qualifying nonprofits must list the names of associated foreign entities on every advertisement or publication the nonprofit promulgates in support of its mission. The nonprofit must disclose the objective of any foreign donation it receives and any conditions attached to the funding. Critics argue that Israel’s law unfairly targets organizations that oppose the Israeli government’s views. If a member of a qualifying nonprofit participates in a parliamentary committee meeting, they must announce their affiliation with the nonprofit to the committee chairperson before the meeting or when they speak during the meeting.