Uni free speech rules 'worth considering': HRC

September 20, 2018

Australia's Human Rights Commissioner says universities should consider a code of conduct that ensures controversial figures can speak more freely on campus, as the Morrison government grows increasingly concerned about campus politics - something  Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi brought to light in The Australian newspaper last week.

A recent study by the Institute of Public Affairs found that Australia’s universities are failing to protect free speech on campus.

Ed Santow, who is responsible for free speech issues at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said freedom of expression at universities was on the organisation's radar in the wake of several controversies involving political protests.

"Of course we care deeply about freedom of speech on campus," he told The Sydney Morning Herald,"We also want to be supportive where there’s a desire to combat hateful speech."

Campus politics is under the spotlight as the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation struggles to find a home at an Australian university. And last week, author Bettina Arndt met fierce protests before a speech at the University of Sydney from students who disagree with her view there is no "rape crisis" on campuses.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday suggested possible changes to university codes of conduct, citing a charter introduced by the University of Chicago in 2012 and adopted by others.

The charter stipulates that while staff and students can criticise views expressed on campus, "they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe".

Asked about codes of conduct similar to the Chicago declaration, Mr Santow said: "In principle I think it’s definitely worth considering."

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