University students walk outside the School of Business Building at the University of Sydney in Australia. File photo/Reuters
Australia moved to counter foreign interference at its universities on Wednesday, establishing a task force to help protect sensitive research, cyberdefences and free speech.
With concern growing about China’s clout on campuses Down Under, education minister Dan Tehan announced more intensive consultation between schools and government officials — including spy agencies.
The group will focus on bolstering cyberdefences, protecting sensitive intellectual property and making sure collaboration with foreign individuals or organisations does not hurt Australia’s national interests.
Tehan stressed the need to strike a balance between the “national interest” and universities’ “freedom to pursue research and collaboration that expands our knowledge and leads to life-improving innovations.”
That balance has been called into question by a series of hacks, controversial donations and incidents of on-campus intimidation linked to Beijing.
A data breach at the Australian National University last year exposed sensitive staff and student data going back two decades.
Australian universities have taken tens of millions of dollars from Beijing to establish “Confucius Institutes” that steer clear of issues damaging to China’s ruling Communist Party.
They have resisted calls to register the institutes under new foreign interference laws.
The ongoing unrest in Hong Kong has also been mirrored on campuses across Australia, with pro-democracy students intimidated by pro-Beijing Chinese student groups, and their private information published online.
“The test of our commitment to free speech is whether we are willing to tolerate the speech of others,” Tehan said, “especially those with whom we most disagree.”
Joe Root is determined the “spicy” nature of England’s latest clash with Australia won’t prove a distraction when the arch rivals meet for a place in the World Cup final.
Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon says his side will be the underdogs when they face hosts England in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals. “They have been the No. 1 team for a couple of years now.
Horton, who took silver behind Sun at the weekend, refused to step onto the top step of the podium for photos after the medal ceremony in Gwangju, as doping allegations swirl around Sun.
The SPEA said if parents are reluctant to send kids to the schools in the first phase of reopening, they can choose the distance learning option.
The ministry announced one death due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 358.
The statement comes as a big relief to Indians who were stranded due to the coronavirus pandemic.