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Media release: Research universities play a vital role in protecting Australia’s national security

The Albanese Government’s response to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security report: National security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector, will build on the strong foundation Group of Eight (Go8) universities have in place to protect national security.

Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said the Go8’s commitment to Australia’s national security was unwavering and research-intensive universities had worked closely with Government through the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) to ensure an effective guardrail against foreign interference.

“As the group of universities which invest $7.7 billion annually in research and undertakes 70 percent of all university-based research, we have been at the forefront of protecting our research from foreign interference.

“The Go8 acknowledges however that protecting our research from foreign interference is a shared responsibility and never a case of ‘job done’ and we support various compliance, reporting and transparency measures to ensure we protect that which must be protected.

“In this context we look forward to details around a review underway of the ARC’s performance in assessing foreign interference and national security risks in the context of grant decisions as recommended by the PJCIS.

“We also note recommendation 7 relating to Confucius Institutes and recognise that there is currently some international debate surrounding this issue, most notably in the UK and the US. We will continue to liaise with our member universities and Government on the implications of this recommendation.

“Further, recommendation 19 proposes a risk-based sample audit of Australian Research Council grants over the past decade with a focus on membership of foreign talent recruitment programs and penalties for research institutions who are failing to detect or respond to any breaches to ARC grant rules identified in the audit.

“We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that the existing penalties are adequate and the role of the UFIT guidelines in assessing risk.

“As a founding and continuing member of UFIT, the Go8 recognises and backs the need to ensure that the world class research conducted by our members  is protected and supported so it can continue to protect and support Australia’s economy, communities and people.

“The Go8 will continue to work collaboratively with government and its security agencies to provide the best possible protections for our research, which is critical to national security and Australia’s future,” Ms Thomson said.

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155