Universities must act to prevent espionage and foreign interference, but our national laws still threaten academic freedom

31 Mar 2022

Sarah Kendall writes for The Conversation | Follow Sarah on Twitter

This week, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released its much anticipated report on national security threats affecting the higher education and research sector.

The 171-page report found the sector is a target for foreign powers using “the full set of tools” against Australia, which can undermine our sovereignty and threaten academic freedom. It made 27 recommendations to “harden the operating environment to deny adversaries the ability to engage in the national security risks in the sector”.

The committee’s recommendations, when correctly implemented, will go a long way towards combating the threat of espionage and foreign interference. But they are not enough to protect academic freedom. This is because the laws that make espionage and foreign interference a crime could capture legitimate research endeavours.