Community deserves answers on Iranian foreign interference

Senator Claire Chandler, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs

Senator James Paterson, Shadow Minister for Cyber Security and Shadow Minister for Countering Foreign Interference

The Australian community is entitled to much more transparency from the Government after comments by the Minister for Home Affairs in a speech this morning about Iranian foreign interference activities.

The Minister’s confirmation that ASIO has detected surveillance activity being carried out against Iranian-Australians is extremely concerning, but not surprising given the Iranian-Australian community has been raising concerns about being monitored and surveilled since September last year.

The recently completed Senate Inquiry chaired by Senator Chandler heard from dozens of Iranian-Australians who have raised concerns about threats, intimidation, surveillance and foreign interference by individuals affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran regime.

“As the Committee said in its report, it is essential that the Australian Government is open with the community about the extent of foreign interference and threatening behaviour linked to the IRI regime,” Senator Chandler said.

“However, the Minister’s comments today raise more questions than answers. Why has it taken until now for the Australian Government to admit this behaviour has been occurring? What action has been taken or charges laid? What links were identified with those responsible and the IRI regime?

“How can the Minister declare to the Iranian-Australian community that this activity was “shut down immediately” when in fact Iranian-Australians continue to report harassment and targeting of their families in Iran?”

“At our public hearings, Government agencies would not answer questions about members of the diaspora community being surveilled and threatened. I would like to understand why a senate committee investigating this issue was not provided details which have now been dropped into a speech by the Minister, the day after her Department appeared at Senate Estimates.”

While Shadow Minister for Foreign Interference and Cyber Security Senator James Paterson congratulated ASIO’s efforts to foil serious foreign interference, he said it is now incumbent on the Albanese government to impose the strongest possible response on those responsible.

“The Albanese government has several options available to respond to serious acts of foreign interference including further sanctions under the Magnitsky regime, listing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, and expelling Iranian embassy officials,” Senator Paterson said.

“Every Australian is entitled to peacefully protest. It is the responsibility of the Albanese government to protect these democratic rights with the strongest possible response to deter this activity and send a clear message to those responsible that it will not be tolerated.”