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International Relations Regulation policy

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Policy is effective from 19 July 2022.

(2) This Policy is made with respect to the following legislation which is referred to as ‘Australia’s international regulatory regime’:

  1. Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 ;
  2. Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 ;
  3. Charter of  United Nations Act 1945 ;
  4. Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 ;
  5. Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 (Foreign Arrangements Act);
  6. Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018 (FIT Scheme);
  7. The University Foreign Interference Taskforce’s Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector (UFIT Guidelines); and
  8. Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 as amended in 2021.
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Section 2 - Purpose

(3) This Policy sets out the University’s commitment to comply with its obligations under Australia’s international relations regulatory regime as set out in clause 2.

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Section 3 - Scope

(4) This Policy applies to all staff, students and where relevant, associates.

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Section 4 - Policy

(5) The University appreciates that the threat of foreign interference, foreign influence and cyber intrusion are risks to Australia’s national security as well as being a risk to its operations.

(6) A proactive approach to identify and address these risks will safeguard the University’s operations and reputation, support academic freedom, demonstrate the University’s understanding of national security interests, maintain the confidence of the University’s stakeholders and ensure the University can fully leverage its education and research activities.

(7) The University, as well as Australian citizens and permanent residents, have legal and moral obligations to protect and act in Australia’s national interest. Failure to protect the national interest may result in the University being in breach of its obligations; staff and students may be subject to disciplinary proceedings by the University and/or criminal proceedings by the Commonwealth Government.

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Section 5 - The Regulatory Framework

Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territories Arrangements) Act

(8) Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 requires the University to disclose all ‘Foreign Arrangements’/written commitments with defined Foreign Entities to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

(9) The Minister has the power to consider and vary or overturn any Foreign Arrangement considered not to be in the national interest.

(10) Disclosure to DFAT must take place before contract signing and is managed by the Office of General Counsel (OGC). Contract sponsors (as defined by the Contracts policy) have the obligation to ensure that a potential Foreign Arrangement is reported to OGC before a contract is executed. Further information about Foreign Arrangements can be found at the Deakin University Foreign Arrangements page.

Universities Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) Guidelines

(11) The Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector require the University to proactively manage the threat of interference from foreign governments and foreign actors to safeguard the University’s security assets and sensitive information and reputation, protect academic freedom, and the integrity and benefits of its research. They contain four areas of broad focus:

  1. Governance and risk frameworks
  2. Communication, education and knowledge sharing
  3. Due diligence, risk assessments and management
  4. Cybersecurity.

(12) The Guidelines therefore have broad applicability across many different University processes – including staff recruitment and appointment, conflict of interest declarations, international collaborations and partnerships, honorary appointments, cyber security and data management, and decision making. Specific University processes embed and reflect the steps staff need to follow to address the risk of foreign interference. Further information about the UFIT Guidelines can be found at the Deakin University Foreign Arrangements page.

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act (FIT Scheme)

(13) The FIT Scheme seeks to ensure that the nature and extent of foreign influence over Australian Government decision making is transparent and public. Any person seeking to influence the Australian Government and decision making on behalf of a foreign power must register with the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department as a lobbyist.

(14) The University’s objects are set out in section 5 of the Deakin University Act 2009. The University must act within its objects in the interests of the University and not in the interests of a foreign power. The University may have obligations to notify the Commonwealth Government of actors it reasonably believes may constitute a foreign influence risk.

(15) The Government and Political Engagement policy sets out how the University may engage with governments and political activities. It is therefore very important that all University transactions, undertakings and contracts are assessed as being in the University’s interest as required by the Contracts policy.

Autonomous Sanctions Regime

(16) Australia’s autonomous sanctions legislation (comprised of Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 Charter of  United Nations Act 1945Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 ) prohibits the provision of training, technical advice and assistance in relation to a range of goods and services (including the supply of training and technology) to specified individuals, organisations, and countries and their citizens due to national security and foreign policy grounds. It also prohibits receiving payments from sanctioned individuals or entities.

(17) The University will take reasonable steps to ensure that the University and its staff, students and its associates do not, without a permit from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, undertake sanctioned activities set out in the DFAT Sanctions Regimes listings that would constitute a sanctions offence available at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sanctions regimes website, including:. 

  1. the supply, sale or transfer of arms or related material, including software;
  2. technical advice, assistance (including financial assistance or a financial service) or training in relation to a military activity or an activity involving the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, maintenance or use of arms and related material;
  3. making available particular assets such as funds, financial assets and economic resources; or
  4. using or dealing with assets such as funds, financial assets and economic resources that are owned or controlled by sanctioned countries or designated persons or entities, including accepting funds for the enrolment of students who may be designated and declared persons.

(18) In addition to Australia’s autonomous sanctions, the University will comply with sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and translated into Australian law. A current list of UNSC sanctions is available at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sanctions regimes website.

(19) The Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Admission, Selection and Enrolment procedure specifically addresses steps to be taken to comply with autonomous sanctions in respect of enrolling international HDR students.

Defence Trade Controls

(20) The Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 prohibits exports listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL) to listed overseas destinations without a permit. The DSGL includes military items and certain commercial goods that may be repurposed for military, nuclear, chemical and biological programs. The legislation also prohibits the training of individuals from listed countries in military, nuclear and like technologies.

(21) The Defence Trade Controls procedure details how the University’s research staff and students should comply with this legislation.

Security of Critical Infrastructure Act

(22) The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018  imposes compliance obligations on owners and operators of critical infrastructure. This now encompasses the higher education and research sector. A university that controls or operates a ‘critical education asset’ has obligations to notify the Home Affairs of any cyber security incident affecting a critical education asset.

(23) These obligations are met by the University’s Information and Communications Technology Security policy and the Critical Incident Management policy.

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Section 6 - Procedure

Responsibilities of University Members and Associates

(24) The Decision Tree on the Deakin University Foreign Interference page is provided to assist the navigation of compliance obligations in relation to foreign interference.

Specific duties – International Partnerships

(25) Engagement with an international partner on behalf of the University, whether a grant application to an international funding body, proposed research collaborator, academic partner, student placement host, accepting a donation or scholarship, procurement or commercial activity, or other university collaboration, requires consideration of the risks and benefits of establishing that partnership – known as due diligence. Staff should identify the relevant policy and procedures that apply specifically to their activity and ensure that any specific requirements are complied with.

(26) The purpose of due diligence is (in part) to assess whether engagement with the international partner may introduce an unacceptable risk of foreign interference into the University.

(27) The first due diligence step is to fill out the Foreign Interference Checklist available on the  Deakin University Foreign Interference page . If concerns about foreign interference risk are identified, staff need to escalate the concern to their line manager or appropriate senior staff member. Advice of General Counsel can be sought.

(28) Staff who are involved in establishing relationships with international partners must consider whether they have an interest to declare under the Conflict of Interest procedure.

(29) Where a contract with an international partner is anticipated, the completed Checklist must:

  1. be considered by the authorised signatory/contract sponsor prior to executing the contract on behalf of the University (as required by the Contracts policy and Contracts procedure);
  2. be reported to the University Relations Officer.

(30) Similarly, the approver of any activity involving an international partner that does not require a contract must also review the completed Checklist.

Specific duties – Individuals 

(31) Staff or associates who engage or propose to engage with foreign nationals/individuals on behalf of the University should:

  1. consider whether they have an interest to declare under the Conflict of Interest procedure;
  2. in relation to recruitment of staff, seek advice from People and Culture to confirm that appropriate pre-employment checks are undertaken in order to identify Foreign Influence-related concerns regarding a candidate’s previous employment with a Foreign Entity;
  3. ensure that commencing staff make relevant disclosures under the Conflict of Interest procedure;
  4. complete the Checklist on becoming aware that a foreign national appears to be engaged in activity that relates to University operations or infrastructure and is unusual, suspicious, persistent or ongoing;
  5. consider whether they are engaging or proposing to engage in a Foreign Arrangement which requires reporting to General Counsel for disclosure to DFAT;
  6. escalate any concerns to their supervisor or to General Counsel.

(32) Staff and students who deal with Sensitive Information must also consider when a Checklist should be completed and disclosed to the Responsible Officer.

Guidance for staff and students 

(33) If staff or students are concerned about how to assess a potential foreign interference risk, they may:

  1. discuss or disclose any concerns to their immediate supervisor, manager, senior manager, or Responsible Officer relevant to their area, on a confidential basis;
  2. contact the University Relations Officer and/or the Office of General Counsel for guidance and advice, which may be obtained on a confidential basis;
  3. consider the Decision Tree on the Deakin University Foreign Interference page.

(34) The Responsible Officers for Deakin are:

Faculty/Area  Responsible Officer
All of University University Relations Officer (Executive Vice-President Futures)
Research Portfolio Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research
Faculties, Institutes and Centres Relevant Executive Deans
Resources Portfolio  Relevant Senior Managers
Futures Portfolio Relevant Senior Managers
Academic Portfolio Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic
Vice-Chancellors Portfolio Senior Managers
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Section 7 - Definitions

(35) For the purpose of this Policy:

  1. associates: contractors, consultants, volunteers, visiting appointees and visitors to the University;
  2. critical education asset: an asset that is used in connection with a program of research that is critical to:
    1. a critical infrastructure sector (other than higher education);
    2. national security or the defence of Australia;
  3. foreign arrangement: any written arrangement, agreement, contract, understanding or undertaking between the University and a foreign entity (both legally-binding and not legally-binding), defined under the Foreign Arrangements Act;
  4. foreign entity: as a foreign country, university without institutional autonomy, government, or department, agency or entity of a foreign government (defined under the Foreign Arrangements Act);
  5. foreign influence: Where a foreign national, or foreign entity, undertakes one of the following activities in Australia:
    1. parliamentary lobbying (lobbying a member of parliament and certain parliamentary staff);
    2. general political lobbying (lobbying a Commonwealth public official, department, agency or authority of the Commonwealth, a registered political party, or a federal election candidate or registered political campaigner);
    3. communications activity (where information is disseminated to the public, or produced for communication to the public);
    4. a disbursement activity (where money or things of value are distributed on behalf of a foreign principal);
    5. activities performed by a staff member who is a former cabinet minister; or
    6. activities performed by a staff member who is a recent designated position holder where the person contributes experience, knowledge, skills or contacts gained in their former capacity as a recent designated position holder;
  6. foreign nationals: may include, but are not limited to, embassy or foreign government officials, including trade or business representatives;
  7. international partner: any individual, organisation, entity that is separate from the University and resident outside Australia and its territories;
  8. partnership: any written arrangement, commitment, agreement or contract with an external partner, regardless of whether it is legally binding or not;
  9. sensitive information: official and confidential information created or managed by the University requiring protection from misuse or loss, which if eventuated, would harm the University’s operational or strategic objectives; and
  10. unacceptable risk of foreign interference means a risk to Deakin’s reputation or operations, or to compromise Australia’s national interest or foreign policy. The risk may arise though the nature of the activity (eg sensitive research) or through the identity of the international partner;
  11. undue influence: when someone, because of their status or position, seeks or is able to derive an outcome that is favourable to them by exerting pressure over another person. That pressure is designed to pressure or procure a member of the University to act in a way that is contrary to the University's best interests, their employment obligations, the law or the University’s policies and procedures.