Labor is calling on the government to provide more information about its plan to give the foreign affairs minister the power to cancel agreements with foreign governments deemed to go against the national interest.
There is disquiet within Labor ranks of the potential reach of that new measure, as Guardian Australia reported overnight. Deals reached by universities, state and territory governments and councils will be covered by the bill, which is expected to be introduced into parliament this week.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, wrote to the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, on Friday asking to see the draft bill. Late last night Wong called on Scott Morrison to provide the details:
We are all in the dark about what the legislation will do – all we have from Scott Morrison is headlines … It’s a pattern we’ve seen from him before – make an announcement, get a headline without any substance to deliver. Meanwhile, all those who have existing agreements that might be cancelled are desperately trying to understand what’s going on.
Labor signalled last week that it was likely to support the new power, although it would look at the bill to ensure it was “workable”.
On Monday the Victorian Labor senator Kim Carr told Guardian Australia the party should be cautious about the government’s legislation on university agreements because he saw it as part of “a half-baked campaign against our scientists and researchers for partisan political reasons”.
Graham Perrett, Labor’s assistant education and training spokesman, said universities felt they were in the government’s crosshairs and he believed there was “a lot of cheap politics in this … with a little soupçon of xenophobia thrown in”.
Morrison has said the new powers are aimed at protecting “Australia’s national sovereign interest” rather than being directed against China or any other country.
Source: The Guardian