Abbott’s ‘foreign interference’ fiasco a chilling message

Having heard successive Australian governments insist for almost twenty years that “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” from their increasingly totalitarian “national security” laws, it’s tempting to laugh at the news that former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott had fallen afoul of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) his own party introduced in 2018. But in truth, it is no laughing matter. The pursuit of Abbott over a speech to a conference convened by a conservative American political group may be the result of even-handed enforcement of a bad law, but is more likely intended as a message to the foreign-policy dissidents who have always been the scheme’s real targets. Either way, it vindicates the warnings of the Citizens Electoral Council and many others that the FITS is an unacceptable affront to the freedom of speech and association that are supposed to be cornerstones of our so-called democracy.