The United States Studies Centre (USSC) has entered into an arrangement with the US Department of State to conduct general political lobbying at the University of Sydney (USyd) over 2019, according to documents recently made available under the Australian Government’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS).
Launched in December 2018, FITS “provide[s] visibility of the forms and sources of foreign influence in Australia’s governmental and political processes,” an Attorney General press release said in late-December 2018.
Under the arrangement signed in late 2018, the USSC will launch a conference titled “Indo-Pacific Strategic Futures: Conference and Simulation” and publish policy recommendations informing Australian and regional policymakers.
The conference aims to “build support for the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific through increased public dialogue among states connected by shared interests, democratic values and a commitment to countering malign influence.”
With 1 per cent of the USSC’s budget derived from the US Government, students enrolled in USSC subjects perceived no particular US-centric bias in the content taught.
A student taking USSC units of study told Honi, “It did not feel like I was force fed a certain narrative or that it limited my scope to think of the United States in a critical way.”
“I think the issue with the USSC is more to do with other programs that it runs external to subjects,” the student said, pointing to external workshops and speaker events which the USSC runs. In 2017, the USSC hosted Republican Senator John McCain at an event in Sydney.
The USSC was born out of a USyd partnership with the New York-headquartered American Australian Association (AAA), which comprises representatives from American big-pharma and banks, including J.P Morgan and Merck & Co.
Financial reports from 2014 to 2017 demonstrate that the USSC received up to $363,266 in US government grants, excluding one-off funding arrangements.
The USSC is not alone in receiving funding from the US State Department in 2019. The Perth USAsia Centre at the University of Western Australia has also been listed under the scheme.
Comparable centres like the USyd China Studies Centre and the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney have not been listed under the scheme.
FITS requires a person undertaking an activity to determine whether they are required to register within 14 days of entering into a relationship with a foreign principal. It is an offence not to register where required to do so.