Go8 warn research at risk from foreign agents bill

The Group of Eight has renewed its criticism of a bill to identify agents of foreign powers active in Australia. Last week the Go8 warned that as it stands the bill could apply to researchers working with overseas academics and organisations and yesterday CEO Vicki Thomson explained the argument at a joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security hearing.

Ms Thomson told the committee that the Eight intend to be “constructive not obstructionist” but went on to say the “the right thing to do is to delay the legislation until we are absolutely sure its content is fit for purpose.”

Despite “much of the Go8’s world-class research,” “being undertaken with international partners” she said, “there appears to be little understanding within the government and the bureaucracy about why the university sector is so concerned.”

She pointed to Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons’ quantum computing research at UNSW and similar research at the University of Sydney involving Microsoft as examples of what the bill could put at risk. “Ill-considered legislation or rushed legislation that makes a simple error could very well create barriers of red tape and bureaucracy to Australian researchers undertaking international collaboration in research and commercialisation. “

Ms Thomson called for “a specific academic exemption for research and the communication of research, teaching and development of joint intellectual property, (whether for commercial purposes or not).”


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