Australia’s federal police and intelligence agency raided the home and parliamentary office of a New South Wales state politician on Friday in an investigation Prime Minister Scott Morrison has linked to foreign interference.
State Labor Party leader Jodi Mackay said she would be briefed by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), who she said conducted the raids on the home and parliamentary office of Shaoquett Moselmane.
She told reporters the raids were “dreadfully concerning” and that a staff member of Moselmane who wasn’t a Labor member was also caught up in the raids on Friday morning.
Moselmane has not made a public statement on the raids, and his lawyers did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. He has not been accused of wrongdoing.
An ASIO representative said the agency had conducted “search warrant activity” in Sydney on Friday morning as part of an investigation that “does not relate to any specific threat to the community.”
ASIO did not provide any further details of the raids or the reason they took place.
The clerk of the state’s Legislative Council, David Blunt, said police executed a search warrant on Moselmane’s parliament office. “The protocols have been followed rigorously and scrupulously throughout the day,” he told Reuters.
It is “very unusual” for the federal police to execute a search warrant inside the state parliament, he said.
Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter, who authorized the ASIO search warrants, said in a statement the government “is sharply focused on activity in this area as evidenced by the complete rewrite of the laws applying to espionage and foreign interference and also foreign influence.”
Prime Minister Morrison said the federal government was “absolutely determined to ensure that nobody interferes with Australia’s activities” and the actions of the police and ASIO “demonstrate that the threats in this area are real.”
Foreign interference legislation was passed in 2018, spurred in part by a classified ASIO report on Chinese influence activity in Australia, and sparking anger from Beijing.
Earlier this year, Moselmane resigned as assistant president of the New South Wales parliament’s Legislative Council after praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinese community associations in Australia have come under scrutiny for any links to Beijing’s United Front Work Department, which seeks to harness support for China through overseas Chinese communities.
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