Former High Court chief justice Robert French (pictured) will conduct a review of freedom of speech at universities, in the wake of a series of incidents in which contentious debates have been stifled on campuses.
The move follows the Conservative Party publicly outlining the many instances of restrictions of free speech and expression in all walks of Australian society, especially universities.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has, for years, been calling out the encroachment on free speech and academic freedom on campuses in the form of
- 'safe spaces',
- 'no platforming' of speakers on campuses, including threats - or actual acts - of violence or invoicing event organisers to pay for the 'cost' of violent protesters outside their events,
- the disgraceful prosecution of QUT students under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act,
- use of 'trigger warnings' designed to avoid 'offence' to an every growing list of potential and largely subjective conditions,
- directives to use individuals' preferred 'pronouns',
- the exclusion of academics who oppose groupthink on topics such as global warming or the benefits of Western civilisation, and
- the growing influence of Chinese communist government funded and supported language schools, think-tanks and students pushing changes to language, teaching, records and student election outcomes to reflect the Chinese communist worldview.
The Australian reports, the review, is a first step by the Morrison government towards holding universities accountable for restrictions that breach a planned national code of freedom of speech on campus.
The development of the national code will be the centrepiece of the review.
The government has given Mr French four months to assess the effectiveness of the framework protecting freedom of speech and to develop a code that will be used by the government as a national benchmark for university performance.
The review comes soon after a series of attempts to close down contentious debates at several universities and a warning by Mr French that it was wrong to use “an extended concept of safety” as an excuse to stifle debate.
This follows attempts at La Trobe University and the University of Sydney to prevent columnist Bettina Arndt from questioning the existence of a “rape culture” at the nation’s universities.
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