September 28, 2020
Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020
The IRU has submitted its response to the committee inquiry into Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020 and Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020.
The legislation is intended to “protect and manage Australia’s foreign relations” including through requiring universities to register all current and future agreements with qualifying foreign entities.
The IRU is concerned the legislation as drafted will create significant new burdens for Australian universities that are disproportionate to the important risks the Government seeks to mitigate.
In its submission, the IRU makes the following recommendations:
1) The Government should use the successful University Foreign Interference Taskforce to identify and propose a fix for any gaps in the existing rules and regulations around foreign interference, instead of imposing additional laws.
2) If the Government remains convinced that university agreements should remain within the scope of the Bills, it should reverse the arrangements requiring all agreements to be registered and instead provide for the Minister to:
- define the risk areas where universities should identify agreements as potentially problematic;
- allow universities to refer such agreements to DFAT for further assessment of foreign policy risk; and
- retain the power to identify other agreements the Government wishes to consider.
3) The legislation should be amended to allow for universities to appeal any ministerial decision to cancel an agreement with a foreign entity, to ensure the process remains fair, transparent and trusted by all participants.