Foreign Relations State and Territory Arrangements Bill 2020
The submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in relation to the Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020 and the Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020 (the Bills) was prepared by the Law Council of Australia.
The Bills seek to create a legislative scheme that would enable the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Minister) to assess whether arrangements between state and territory governments and foreign governments, and entities related to them, would adversely affect Australia's foreign relations or would be inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy.
The Law Council appreciates that there are increasing complexities in Australia’s relationship with a number of international partners and recognises the desire for the Australian Government to maintain consistency in its foreign relations and increase oversight of key arrangements.
Noting this context, the Law Council raises a number of aspects of the proposed scheme for the Committee’s consideration, including:
- any additional regulatory burden imposed under the reforms, particularly for Australian public universities;
- the need to promote certainty in how the proposed measures are applied; and
- the appropriateness of excluding procedural fairness requirements, merits review and the application of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) (ADJR Act).
Should to the proposed scheme proceed, the Law Council makes the following recommendations:
- key terms in the operation of the proposed scheme, including the definition of ‘institutional autonomy’, should be set out in the primary legislation;
- guidance should be published to assist in determining how the Minister will consider the range of matters relating to Australia’s foreign policy when assessing a proposed negotiation or arrangement;
- consideration should be given to the appropriateness of excluding procedural fairness, merits review and the ADJR Act in the context of the stated aims of the proposed measures; and
- consideration should be given to the need for further justification for the proposed scheme, with specific reference to existing legislative controls already in place regarding foreign engagement by entities subject to the Bills.
You can read the full submission below.