Thursday, 3 December 2020
Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; In Committee
The government does not support the Greens amendments to remove universities from the bill. Of course we acknowledge that universities are a major contributor to the Australian economy. That are a major exporter. They have world-class standing and an increasing global posture, which is absolutely welcomed by the government. But it is a complex and contested world, and one of the things that this bill seeks to do is to ensure that we are working together to ensure consistency in foreign policy and foreign relations, because Australian public universities are publicly funded institutions, established by law with a fundamental role in international research and partnerships, because the status of Australian public universities and their international posture means their foreign arrangements do have the potential to impact Australia's foreign relations and foreign policy. It's also the case, though—and the government has acknowledged this—that university arrangements present a lower degree of risk than state and territory arrangements with foreign national governments. So, within the bill, they are designated as non-core arrangements; they are subject to fewer requirements and a lesser degree of scrutiny as a consequence of that.
We will work very closely, through the task force in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with universities to support their efficient and effective engagement with the scheme. As I set out yesterday in my discussions in the committee stage with Senator Rice and Senator Wong in particular, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has consulted during many meetings with universities and representative university bodies, and we will continue to work closely with them in the implementation of the bill, should it be passed.