International Students banned from Parliamentary Internship

Taz Hudson and Skanda Panditharatne

Due to espionage concerns, international students will no longer be allowed to do the Australian National Internships Program (ANIP) at Parliament. The change, overseen by the Australian Senate, is reportedly due to concern over Chinese influence.

ANIP, a research-based internship program administered by ANU, is the only university program that offers access to Commonwealth Parliamentary internships. An ANU spokesperson said that while the university accepted international students into its programs, host institutions such as the Parliament could demand additional criteria.

Reporting in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) suggested that the change was motivated by complaints by MPs about access granted to Chinese students. The AFR reported that concerns were raised that students with Chinese citizenship could have access to sensitive information through the program, and this presented a security threat. Senator Scott Ryan, in a statement to AFR asked “ ‘Why should we allow foreign nationals to have access to sensitive material, potentially classified material in Parliament House?’ ” However, a spokesman for the senator declined to comment on what prompted the change in the rules, when making the announcement on Thursday.

An ANU spokesperson said that the university was informed of the change to the eligibility rules last year, although Parliament only released a statement about the issue on Thursday. The ANIP Parliamentary internship program had previously been open to students of all nationalities who lacked criminal records. The change comes on the heels of a highly publicized data breach of ANU information systems by Chinese hackers.

The ANU International Student’s Department did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.


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