Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned foreign powers including China that Australia wont cop attempts to influence politics in Australia in the wake of dramatic raids in Sydney today.Describing the matters under investigation by ASIO as “serious” Mr Morrison said the ASIO raids targeting NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane underlined the threat of foreign influence operations.
“We won’t cop anyone coming and seeking to interfere in our political system, in our energy sector, in any area of perceived opportunity for an outside actor,’’ he said.
“We won’t cop it. We are a resilient people. We will stand up to it. And we will take action, as what you’ve seen today demonstrates.”
The Prime Minister said the investigation was being pursued by the task force the Morrison Government established, which became operational last December.
“The details of that, I’m not at liberty to go into as I’m sure you’d expect but it’s been investigation that has been going on for some time. It’s taken — it’s elevated to a new level today,’’ he said.
“I think — the actions of the Australian Federal Police and ASIO demonstrate that the threats in this area are real. The need to take action is necessary and the Government is absolutely determined to ensure that nobody interferes with Australia’s activities.
“They’re extremely serious. The actions taken by ASIO and the AFP demonstrate that seriousness.
“I was briefed on these matters last night and advised that they would be taking these actions. These are matters that I’m also aware of have been under investigation for some time.”
The Australian Federal Police this morning raided properties linked to Mr Moselmane, who made bizarre comments over China and COVID-19.
In a statement, the spy agency confirmed the AFP raids were part of an ASIO operation.
It is believed the investigation relates to Chinese foreign influence in Australia.
“ASIO can confirm that search warrant activity is occurring in Sydney this morning as part of an ongoing investigation,’’ a spokesman said.
“This activity does not relate to any specific threat to the community. While this activity occurs it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
Mr Moselmane’s Rockdale house in Sydney’s south was searched by AFP officers this morning.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said on Friday the process to suspend his membership of NSW Labor was underway.
She also confirmed that Mr Moselmane would no longer sit in the parliamentary caucus.
“It’s dreadfully concerning, it’s terrible,” she said.
Mr Moselmane in April stood down as assistant president of the NSW upper house after praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to COVID and claiming it had not spread “very far”.
Mr Moselmane has previously praised China’s “tough, unswerving leadership” on COVID-19.
“For the People’s Republic of China, President Xi stepped up and provided that leadership. He mustered the resources of the nation and together with the great people of China – fought it and contained it,” he said.
“Failure to contain the epidemic could mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost. The combined phenomenal effort of the state and the people in the fight to contain the virus was breathtaking.
Ms McKay said the raids were “a shock” to NSW Labor. She also confirmed a staffer in the office might be a person of interest to the investigation.
“I was advised earlier this morning that there had been search warrants executed on the home and the office of Mr Moselmane,’’ she said.
“I have asked the general secretary of the party to begin suspending his membership of the Labor Party. It is the right thing to do. He will no longer sit in the caucus, he will no longer be a Labor Party member. His membership is being suspended as we speak, that process is now under way.
“I believe there was one other person of interest that was a staff member, but we are trying to work out if he is actually a member of the Labor Party. If he is he will be suspended as well, but as I said this is happening as we speak.”