Senate committee sticks with bill to scrutinise uni foreign affairs

Universities got a hearing on the bill to scrutinise overseas entanglements – but that was all

The Senate committeconsidering the Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill has reported and HE concerns with the legislation are included at length.

But including is not agreeing and the committee does not recommend any changes to address the university concerns that the legislation will unnecessarily interfere with research and education links with foreign institutions and involve augean amounts of admin. In fact, the committee wants to extend government oversight, “noting recent concerns in relation to Australian research hospitals entering into agreements with foreign entities suspected of breaching Australian ethical guidelines.”

This was always going to happen. At a committee hearing Liberal senators Eric Abetz and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching were robust in questioning HE university organisation representatives about their members connections with the Chinese Government and agencies (CMM October 14).

And the committee reports; “Several troubling examples were raised during the inquiry where Australian universities have failed to uphold expected standards in relation to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and ethical research practice in the face of interference from foreign actors,” the examples provided all related to China.

Labor and The Greens both want changes to the bill but not so much as to end its intent.

But the enormous amount of effort universities and their industry organisations put into the inquiry will not be wasted. It was excellent practise for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry just starting on foreign interference in universities, (CMM yesterday).

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