Australia moves to stop foreign interference in universities

Australia moves to stop foreign interference in universities”

South Australian police seperate pro-China students and pro-Hong Kong protesters outside the University of South Australia in Adelaide on August 16.

Australia has also raised concerns about the influence of Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes at Australian universities.

Australia moved to counter foreign interference at its universities Wednesday, establishing a task force to help protect sensitive research, cyber defenses and free speech.

The task-force would also ensure academic research and students are free from any undue influence, Tehan said.

Although Tehan said Australia's university sector had not become "captive to any country", he added that all research collaboration with any foreign nation "must be in the Australian national interest".

Attorney General Christian Porter last month urged all universities to ensure global partnerships, including with Confucius Institutes, complied with Australian law and that the partners potentially needed to register.

The task force will ensure that university collaboration with foreign entities in research is transparent and doesn't harm Australia's interests.

The task force includes a cyber-security working group that will better protect university networks against unauthorised access and damage.

Tehan said the new taskforce would complement other work between Defence, agencies, universities and industry underway to "develop practical, risk-based legislative proposals to address identified gaps in the Defence Trade Controls Act". Foreign political donations have also been banned.

"One of the most important things here is that government and the university sector need to work very closely on these issues - and we need to put in place clear markers as to what is expected", he said.

As a result of the increasing debate about the influence China may be exerting on higher education institutions, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) announced it would review a AU$10million (US$6.7 million) partnership with a Chinese state-owned military technology company, CETC.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang hit back on Wednesday that talk of "so-called Chinese infiltration of Australia and related statements are completely baseless and made out of ill intention".

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