Labor Senator Kim Carr has accused "Cold War warriors" of denigrating the work of researchers, amid calls for Chinese scientists to require permits to work on national security-sensitive topics.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute director of defence, strategy and national security Michael Shoebridge said on Tuesday research should not be allowed to go ahead if it will end up in the hands of a foreign power.
"We need to say the end user [of the research] is really important, and if there's reasonable grounds to believe the end user will be the Chinese military or Chinese security, the research partnership should not go ahead," Mr Shoebridge said.
Alex Joske, a researcher with the International Cyber Policy Centre within the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said 300 scientists associated with the Chinese military had been sent to Australian universities.
He said a permit system like the United States would be an "effective barrier" to prevent scientists taking what they've learned about super computers, navigation satellites, materials science back to their home military or security service.
"It would be illegal for example for Australian scientists to ship certain satellite components to China without a permit but it's legal to train someone from China and give them the necessary knowledge to develop the same technology, there's no regulation of that," Mr Joske said.
But Senator Carr said this "gross overreach" had been rejected in a review done by Dr Vivienne Thom last October, and another review five years prior.
"It's important to defend our scientists and researchers given that we depend upon international engagement to secure new discoveries of benefit to this country as well as others," Senator Carr said.
"China is our fourth largest international research partner behind the US, the UK and Germany. In fact, our export control regime is tougher than that of the United States.
"My investigation through Senate estimates processes of all science agencies and universities through the Australian Research Council shows there has been no breaches recorded of the Defence Control Act which regulates the engagement of international scientific engagement of restricted defence research with the exception of one dating back to Pakistan in the early days of the Act."
Senator Carr said a media campaign was being run to "establish a new Cold War with China" and "denigrate and defame our research community".
"Research by its nature is an international undertaking," Senator Carr said.
"It's important to remember scholars are coming in with valid visas, which are issued by the Department of Immigration, not by universities or research agencies. Instead of blaming universities or science agencies we should at the vetting processes security agencies undertake for visas, which the government is seeking to outsource."
Senator Carr's comments come as Liberal MP Andrew Hastie stood by his controversial comments, comparing the world's approach to China to the failure to prevent the rise of Nazi Germany.
"My voice is in my pen and op-ed stands and I don't resile from it," Mr Hastie told the ABC.
"We've got a great democracy, that's what democracies do, we debate and so I welcome the contest of ideas."
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