This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around
Australia at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
Reporter: Sabra Lane
5 May, 2006
MARK COLVIN: The fight against terrorism is shifting to Australian
university campuses and research institutions.
The Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs want academics to
report foreign students enrolled in particular subjects.
The Government also want to broaden export controls, forcing lecturers
to apply for licences if they're going to share their knowledge
Sabra Lane reports.
SABRA LANE: It's not a so much a crackdown on students recruiting for
extremist causes, rather an attempt to detect spies in our midst and
stop them from getting their hands on research at conferences.
Last month, the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs sent the
document called "Export Controls, Your Responsibilities" to
universities and research institutions.
It says universities must inform the Government if suspicious parties
are trying to get their hands on material or research that could be
used in weapons of mass destruction programs.
President of the National Tertiary Education Union Carolyn Allport
acknowledges the need for national security measures, but says
academics weren't consulted.
(to Carolyn Allport) Are your members comfortable with dobbing in
CAROLYN ALLPORT: I don't think they will be. I certainly don't think
they will be. So I think they're going to be very concerned about this
paper. We recognise it's an important strategic objective of the
Government, but at the same time, universities aren't there to be the
SABRA LANE: Former senior intelligence analyst David Wright-Neville,
who now heads up the Global Terrorism Research Unit at Monash
University, says it's off the mark.
DAVID WRIGHT-NEVILLE: I think it's a little clumsy in the sorts of
obligations it places on academics. Academics certainly are aware of
the sorts of risks that we confront in the contemporary environment. I
don't think they need to reminded of that.
It's unreasonable to expect that academics can identify terrorist
activities. Trained intelligence officers with many years of
experience often find it very difficult to identify terrorists, so how
an academic with experience in fairly esoteric areas sometime, can do
the jobs of people who are trained to do it, is really beyond me.
SABRA LANE: With universities expanding offshore, the document says
the likelihood countries will exploit Australian expertise for WMD
programs is increasing.
While short on details, it also reveals export control laws are under
review, with the Government keen to include "intangible technology
Carolyn Allport explains.
CAROLYN ALLPORT: Research, papers produced by academics in
universities, or working papers, you know, seminar papers, seminars
themselves, conferences, this is what's listed in the paper.
They also suggest that people who are making requests from certain
designated countries to come to a conference here are also seen to be
risky. If there was a conference on, I don't know, some sort of
chemical conference here, for example, and someone from Iran or North
Korea or China made a request to come to that conference, I'm assuming
from what I read here that the Government automatically sees these
people as potential terrorists.
SABRA LANE: A 2004 report to the United States Congress on economic
and industrial espionage found some foreigners deliberately sought
jobs at universities and research houses to acquire secrets for their
An intelligence analyst who declined to be interviewed by PM says the
guidelines are needed as America's enemies are targeting allies like
Australia and Canada. Countries he claims have underestimated
David Wright-Neville disagrees.
DAVID WRIGHT-NEVILLE: It suggests that we're still in the stage of
sort of knee jerk panic reactions, and I really think we need to have
a Bex and have a good lie down for a while, that really none of this
sort of stuff is going to address the long-term threat posed by
terrorism and in fact I think it runs the risk of being
MARK COLVIN: David Wright-Neville ending that report by Sabra Lane.
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