Australia’s Morrison government will launch an official and broad-ranging parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference at universities including the involvement of academics in Beijing’s Thousand Talents recruitment program—which has been covered extensively by The Epoch Times.
On Aug. 31, News Corp’s The Australian reported that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has outlined the terms of reference for the inquiry in a letter to Andrew Hastie, the chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.
The inquiry will reportedly examine if publicly-funded research is being unknowingly transferred to foreign nations, such as China, against Australia’s national interests.
The inquiry was championed by independent federal MP Bob Katter after the University of Queensland suspended undergraduate student, Drew Pavlou, who is known for organising demonstrations against Chinese Communist party’s (CCP’s) influence on campus—in particular through Beijing’s soft-power organ the Confucius Institutes.
“We did it [Drew Pavlou],” Katter wrote on Twitter on Aug. 30. “On the night before parliament was set to vote on my inquiry into foreign interference at Australian universities, the govt. has launched the inquiry referring it to the Security and Intelligence Committee.”
Pavlou also wrote on Twitter: “We won. Government launching full inquiry into CCP interference in Australian universities. No student will ever have to go through what I went through for speaking out.”
The Australian published an excerpt from Dutton’s letter to Hastie: “I wish to refer to the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security the matter of potential interference conducted by, or on behalf of, foreign actors, in Australian universities, publicly funded research agencies and competitive research grants agencies.
“Special focus should be given to options that reduce technological and knowledge transfer from Australia that may be detrimental to our national interests, while not undermining international productive research collaboration,” wrote Dutton.
The announcement comes after the Morrison government announced last week a new Foreign Relations Bill that will allow the Commonwealth to scrutinize and potentially throw out arrangements made by any federal, state, and local governments—and government-related entities like universities—with foreign governments or related bodies that are deemed to work against Australia’s national interests.