Australia bans foreigners from parliament internships

Oz Kiwi opinion

This is the sort of nonsense policy that only further excludes non-citizens from the ability to participate in Australian life.

If there are concerns about the possibility for interference or spying by foreign powers in Australian politics, measures should be targeted at those likely to pose a risk rather than imposing blanket bans on non-citizens.

In the case of the New Zealand citizen mentioned in the article, surely the problem is that he had links to Chinese military intelligence (links that some who are Australian citizens might also have) rather than the fact he is a New Zealand citizen!

Screening applicants on the basis of known risks in their backgrounds seems a much more sensible approach than using citizenship as a crude measure of whether someone poses a potential security risk.

Unfortunately, this ban is just one more way in which young NZ citizens who’ve grown up in Australia are excluded from participating in the political process – already they can’t vote, can’t stand for parliament, and can’t join the federal public service.

As usual with these policies, New Zealand citizens, as the only group of permanent residents without a direct path to citizenship, will be disproportionately affected.


Australia bans foreigners from parliament internships

Foreigners have been banned from working as interns for Australian members of parliament, with the move coming after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China of meddling in domestic affairs.

12 July 2018

Reuters-SBS article

Foreigners have been banned from working as interns for Australian members of parliament, a spokesman for the Senate said on Thursday, in a reform apparently aimed at blocking Chinese prying into Australian affairs.

The programme placing young people in a much-prized position working for a federal legislator for a three-month stint had been open to all nationalities, as long as the applicant did not have a criminal record.

“Internships at Parliament House are restricted to Australian citizens,” said a spokesman for Senator Scott Ryan, president of the Senate, which oversaw the change.

The spokesman declined to comment on what prompted the alteration or if it was made to block Chinese interference.

Late last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China of meddling in domestic affairs. China denied the accusation which led to a strain in ties between the important trading partners.

The Financial Times newspaper reported in September that a New Zealand citizen who had previously interned at an Australian parliamentary committee had links to a Chinese military spy school.

That report prompted a review of the intern system, which concluded standards should be bought in line with the rest of the government.

Chinese students had often applied to the programme and many worked as interns over the years.

A spokeswoman for the Australian National University (ANU), which provides many of the interns, said it had been informed of the change in the eligibility rule late last year.

The change was only publicly disclosed some months later when the ANU amended the rules it posted on its website.

Last month, Australia passed legislation designed to prevent interference by foreign governments, a reform Turnbull said was needed to combat Chinese meddling.

Under the law, lobbyists for foreign countries will be required to register and they will be liable to criminal prosecution if they are deemed to be interfering in domestic affairs.

[Read the Reuters – SBS article]

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