The Australian government will soon be able to torpedo deals that states and universities strike with foreign governments after final approval from federal parliament.
Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative pact with China could be a casualty of the coalition’s latest measure aimed at curbing foreign influence.
“We didn’t agree with it in the first place, still don’t agree with it, and no doubt decisions on that will be made in due course,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters when asked about the Victorian deal.
The laws allow the federal government to review and scrap state, territory, local council and public university deals with other nations.
The foreign minister can assess arrangements between governments or public universities and foreign governments to check if they align with foreign policy goals.
Before the final vote, independent senator Rex Patrick failed to get enough support for the upper house to insist on an amendment making the minister’s decisions subject to judicial review.
While the substantive laws passed last week, consequential amendments were approved in the Senate on Tuesday.
The new regime is set to further anger China, which raised the legislation as one of 14 grievances damaging to relations with Australia.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the legislation provided a mechanism for states and territories to consult with the Commonwealth on international engagement.
She said there could be tangible impacts on Australia’s foreign relations.
“This increased engagement, and the growing strategic complexity of the 21st century, brings greater risks, requiring more consultation and due diligence to ensure states and territories are aligned with the Commonwealth’s foreign policy,” Senator Payne said.
The government will report annually to the parliament on the foreign minister’s decisions.
A new task force has been established in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to implement the legislation.