Foreign principals

Not all foreign engagement activities or arrangements will require registration under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS).

While all foreign engagement activity must be declared and documented either as a part of the foreign engagement compliance review process and/or as a part of regular performance development reviews with your line manager, the criteria that define a “foreign principal” are quite specific.

If you are dealing with a foreign entity in your work, you will need to consider whether they are, or may be, a “foreign principal”.

Examples of a foreign principal include:

  • A visiting academic who is not an Australian citizen or permanent resident is employed by a government funded university which requires all staff to be members of a specified foreign political organisation.
  • A research institute located overseas has various private sources of funding but its constitution gives a foreign government the legal right to nominate the majority of appointees to the governing board. 
  • The major shareholder in an innovative international health promotion company is a foreign government.
  • An influential overseas think tank is known to be affiliated with a foreign political party.

For the purposes of the FITS Act,  foreign principals are defined as one of the four following categories:

  • Foreign Governments

    A ‘foreign government’ means:

    • the government of a foreign country or parts of a foreign country (part of a foreign country includes, for example, the foreign equivalent of an Australian State or Territory)
    • an authority of the government of a foreign country (departments, agencies or other entities that act in the name of the foreign government)
    • an authority of the government of a foreign country, or
    • a foreign local government body or foreign regional government body.

    The definition of a foreign government is broad enough to include all levels of government. For example, the Home Office is an authority of England’s government as is the London Borough City Council. Both meet the definition of a foreign government.

    A foreign university’s relationship with government needs to be considered

    Depending on the political system in place, a foreign university may be an authority of a government or part of a government of a foreign country. Relevant considerations may include any legislation establishing or regulating the foreign university, the structure and operation of the government of the country in which the foreign university operates and the relationship between the foreign university and the foreign government.

    Foreign universities in some countries are very unlikely to be foreign principals by reason of independence guaranteed to them under laws governing their operation and regulation (for example, English Universities).

  • Foreign Political Organisations

    A ‘foreign political organisation’ includes:

    • a foreign political party, or
    • a foreign organisation that exists primarily to pursue political objectives.

    An organisation is a foreign political organisation if its primary purpose is to pursue the political objectives associated with governing a foreign country, even if the country does not have a system of registration for political parties.

    The definition of a foreign political organisation is broad enough to include political parties, trade unions and public policy institutes where the principal purpose of the organisation is the political governance of a foreign country.

  • Foreign Government Related Entities

  • Foreign Government Related Individual