Confucius Institute

In Parliament, Matters of Interest, Speeches

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:37): I rise today to speak about my concerns about the Confucius institutes in our nation and in particular the one at Adelaide University. Last week, it was revealed through a media investigation that, of the 13 Confucius institutes at Australian universities, 11 of the contracts that were able to be accessed through freedom of information laws found that our academic institutions are being compromised. 

I note that with Victoria University, their agreement said that the institute must accept Hanban’s assessment on teaching quality, although it added that, ‘If teaching relates to a Victoria University award course, the teaching quality must also satisfy Victoria University’s requirements.’ The University of Melbourne’s agreement states only that its facility must take into consideration any assessment by the headquarters, that being Hanban, on the teaching quality at this institution. The University of Sydney’s agreement stipulates that it must accept Hanban’s assessment of the quality of teaching ‘unless it is inconsistent with the university’s academic rules, policies and procedures’. 

The University of WA stated in its contract that it has the right to determine the content of the curriculum in the manner of instruction for all programs administered by the institute at UWA, but Hanban ‘ultimately has the right to determine the programs to which it provides funding’. The contracts signed by QUT and the University of Newcastle similarly stated that the universities had control over content and instruction while Hanban had discretion over its funding. 

The University of New South Wales agreement was unique, in that it did not have a relevant clause clarifying where the authority actually sat. This revelation is even more concerning when it was reported that RMIT and the University of Adelaide refused to provide their agreements whatsoever, despite multiple requests. A spokesperson for RMIT said that the university considers agreements with third parties to be confidential and a spokesman for the University of Adelaide cited the fact that the contract was ‘a legal document’, which is precisely the point of concern. 

I have raised in this place before and I have hosted in this building a film In the Name of Confucius. This film raises concerns about Confucius institutes and Confucius classrooms, which have led to them being close down in Canada and have exposed time and time again the Chinese Communist Party, through Hanban, having control of the appointment of staff and the content of curriculum. That content, and certainly the translation of what is specified for someone to be employed by a Confucius Institute via Hanban, is that they ‘have good political and professional qualities, love the motherland, voluntarily worked for the cause of Chinese language internationalisation, have the spirit of devotion, strong sense of organisational discipline and team spirit, good character, and no criminal record’, which is seemingly innocuous. 

However, what that love of the motherland equates to is a hatred of all that is not espoused by the motherland. It leads to the erosion of the identities of Tibet and Taiwan. It has seen practices where children at schools where there are Confucius classrooms in New South Wales have come back bullied because of their Tibetan names or their culture. It has seen the New South Wales government last year suspend all Confucius classrooms from the overseas trips that they were taking and from continuing to expand in that jurisdiction. 

I note that next month the New South Wales internal desktop review of their Confucius classrooms will be released. I urge our South Australian government to take on notice that that report will be available, given that we have three Confucius classrooms in this state. I also note that the federal Attorney-General has exercised his concerns and raised them with Australian universities, and I urgently urge the University of Adelaide to release their contract to provide assurances that academic freedom in this state has not been compromised for the pursuit of about a quarter of a million dollars. It is far too important for these things to go unchallenged. I also call on the Marshall government to do all they can to provide that transparency.