Foreign Interference in Australian Elections

Professor Lisa Hill, Associate Professor Tim Legrand, Dr Melissa-Ellen Dowling

Electoral Regulation Research Network recorded seminar

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Foreign Interference in Australian Elections

Watch the video online here.


Professor Lisa Hill

Professor of Politics, Research Program Director, Democracy, Security, Trust and Integrity, Stretton Institute, The University of Adelaide

Associate Professor Tim Legrand

Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Social Sciences, The University of Adelaide

Dr Melissa-Ellen Dowling 

Research Fellow, Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Social Sciences, The University of Adelaide

About the Talk

What is at stake with foreign interference in Australian Elections? Is Australia’s digitizing democracy vulnerable to foreign interference?

In Australia, and elsewhere, public trust in democratic institutions is declining. Growing concerns of foreign malign entities amplifying and exploiting this trend through the nascent digital public sphere will be explored, with a focus on ways in which Australia’s digitizing democracy is vulnerable.

This webinar brought together discussion of the Australian electoral context, which was followed by an exploration of the threats posed to democratic legitimacy and functioning by attempted interference in domestic elections by foreign entities.

It was then be argued that Australia’s processes of public engagement are relatively resilient due to hybrid analogue-digital processes, which inadvertently safeguard our electoral system from malign influence. However, research findings also indicate that several modes of participation remain vulnerable at the preference formation and agenda-setting stages of policy development. This poses a risk to: (1) social cohesion, and (2) the integrity of policy outputs.

Dowling and Legrand offered a ground-breaking assessment framework for this threat which is transferable to other democratic systems internationally.

This webinar is a joint initiative of the Electoral Regulation Research Network (ERRN),  Stretton Institute and Melbourne School of Government.