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Government needs to be 'very conscious' of foreign interference in Australian universities, ASIO says

Photo: ASIO boss Duncan Lewis is wary of foreign influence in Australian universities. (AAP: Lukas Coch)

Government needs to be 'very conscious' of foreign interference in Australian universities, ASIO says

By political reporter Stephen Dziedzic

25 Oct 2017,  

(Translation appears in Arabic section)

The head of Australia's domestic intelligence agency has warned that the Federal Government needs to be "very conscious" of foreign interference in universities.

ASIO boss Duncan Lewis was not willing to say which foreign governments were active on Australian campuses, or give any examples of deliberate intrusions.

But he made it clear that Australian spies were keeping a close eye on the issue.

"We need to be very conscious of the possibilities of foreign interference in our universities," Mr Lewis told a Senate estimates committee in Canberra.

"That can go to a range of issues. It can go to the behaviour of foreign students, it can go to the behaviour of foreign consular staff in relation to university lecturers, it can go to atmospherics in universities."

Mr Lewis said providing any more information publicly would compromise his agency's work.

Australian Government officials have been more open in private.

They say the Chinese Government exerts a heavy influence on Chinese student groups at Australian universities and they have accused Beijing of using those groups to spy on Chinese students in Australia, and to challenge academics whose views clash with the worldview of the Chinese Communist Party.

Security officials say Australia is now working with its Five Eyes partners — the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand — to hammer out a strategy to push back against intrusions into Western universities.


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