Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has arrived in Australia, urging the federal government to speak out over threats made to Malaysian scholarship students.
Staying silent over the issue would encourage Malaysian authorities to continue to intimidate students, Mr Anwar told journalists on his arrival in Adelaide on Friday.
A student adviser at the Malaysian consulate in Sydney has emailed the students, warning them against attending Adelaide's Festival of Ideas on Saturday when Mr Anwar will speak on his fight for democracy.
The email refers to "stern action" against those involved, advising them to "refrain from further joining this activity".
"You are smarter to think and focus on what matters rather than joining this activity that could make your hardship in maintaining good grades and earning the scholarship goes down the drain."
Mr Anwar told journalists he regretted the fact that the Malaysian authorities had decided to intimidate students to stop them from meeting him.
"I would strongly urge the Australian authorities, in the most diplomatic light manner, to make it known that this cannot be tolerated or condoned," he said.
While acknowledging that he could not guarantee action would not be taken in relation to scholarships, Mr Anwar suggested students could attend in groups.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who will introduce Mr Anwar to Saturday's audience, described the email as "an outrageous threat" and has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop calling for action.
"The Malaysian government needs to back off and the Australian government needs to have a backbone and stand up to the threats," he said.
Asked about the genuineness of the email, the senator said the person who purportedly sent it does work for the consulate and had refused to comment on it, as had Malaysian authorities."I think it is fair to say if it was not genuine, we would have heard about it very quickly."