The United States Studies Centre proactively registered its agreement with the US Department of State for a conference in 2019 given the broad and untested definition of “lobbying” in the legislation creating the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS).
The Centre’s audiences span students and academics, the business community, journalists, the lay public and policymakers. It is not a lobbying group. As a university-based research centre, it abides by the university’s academic freedom policy.
Late last year — shortly after the FITS legislation passed through the Australian Parliament — the Centre sought legal advice as to applicability of FITS to its activities. The overwhelming bulk of the Centre’s activities — its research, teaching and outreach, almost exclusively funded by Australian sources — do not trigger any registration obligations under FITS.
In some areas, given the lack of clarity in the FITS and the untested nature of the Act, Centre management has taken a cautious approach with respect to registration requirements. It did not receive a transparency notice from the Attorney-General’s Department.
The Indo-Pacific Strategic Futures Conference is a workshop that will review, discuss and debate Australian, US and regional geo-strategic and geo-economic policy, building support for the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Developing policy recommendations is an objective of the conference, as is distributing those recommendations to US, Australian and regional policymakers with a published report and events in Canberra and/or Washington. The Centre retains editorial control over the publication of a report featuring these recommendations following the conclusion of the conference.
Contributing to the national policy conversation is an important part of the Centre’s mission and is the reason why it is funded by the Australian government.
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