Australia admits 'tension' with Beijing over new anti-influence laws

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China

(CNN)Relations between Australia and China have grown frosty in recent months, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted Thursday, amid reports in local media that Australian ministers had been refused Chinese visas.

In December last year, Turnbull's government announced multiple new laws aimed at tightening Australia's security and electoral processes, including a ban on foreign donations. The move followed a series of scandals involving China's alleged influence in Australian politics.
Talking to reporters, Turnbull denied allegations Australians had been refused entry to China, but admitted the the two countries had drifted apart following the introduction of the new legislation.
    "There has been a degree of tension in the relationship which has arisen because of criticism in China of our foreign interference laws, but it is very important that the Australian government ensures only Australians are influencing our political processes," Turnbull told local radio station 3AW.
    China is Australia's largest trade partner by a wide margin but the two countries have clashed in the past over political issues, including human rights and the alliance with the United States.
    Turnbull added the relationship between China and Australia was very "deep and extensive," saying he regularly corresponded with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
    Earlier this week, Australian media carried reports alleging Beijing was in talks with the government of the South Pacific island of Vanuatu to host a permanent Chinese military base, less than 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) from the Australian coast.
    Both Vanuatu and China have denied the reports, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accusing Australia of "stirring up troubles" in his daily press briefing on Wednesday.
    "The South Pacific Island countries should not be the sphere of influence of any country. Enough with certain Australian individuals' interference in other's internal affairs," he said.

    New anti-influence laws planned

    The proposed anti-influence legislation referenced by Turnbull has yet to pass into law, with some parts still in review by parliamentary committees.
    The proposals would see a ban on all foreign political donations to Australians, criminalize attempts by foreign actors to influence the government, as well as giving law enforcement agencies greater powers.