Former High Court chief to lead free speech inquiry

November 22, 2018

The Morrison government has tapped former High Court chief justice Robert French to lead an inquiry into free speech on university campuses amid its concerns about the influence of left-wing activists.

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 Sydney Morning Herald reports, Mr French, who is chancellor of the University of Western Australia, has been tasked with developing a framework akin to the Chicago principles on free expression, adopted by dozens of universities in the United States, and to investigate "realistic and practical options" for managing areas of conflict.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has already expressed concern about left-wing protests shutting down events on campus, and has advocated new policies to force protesters to pay for security at functions they disrupt.

"We must ensure our universities are places that protect all free speech, even where what is being said may be unpopular or challenging," Mr Tehan said.

"The best university education is one where students are taught to think for themselves, and protecting freedom of speech is how to guarantee that."

Senator Bernardi has told Sydney radio station 2ch's Kel Richards, opposition to freedom is widespread in Australia.

To read Michael Koziol's full article, click here.

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