Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson. Picture: Alix Sweeney

SPEAK UP: Government backs free speech at universities

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has commissioned a free speech code of conduct for universities and is being backed by MP Phillip Thompson.

Former Deakin University vice-chancellor Sally Walker will be tasked with investigating whether universities are in alignment with the free speech code devised by High Court chief justice Robert French.

"What this review is about is ensuring that all Australians understand the importance of freedom of speech and academic inquiry - and that our ­universities understand that," Mr Tehan said.

"We are seeing challenges to free speech and academic ­inquiry across the globe. I want, and the government wants, these freedoms to be the pillars of our universities … Robert French did an outstanding job and we want to ensure that code is lived up to by our universities."

This follows federal Kennedy MP Bob Katter calling for a parliamentary inquiry into foreign influence at universities.

Kennedy MP Bob Katter. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

Mr Katter was concerned with the treatment of a suspended University of Queensland student, Drew Pavlou, after his involvement in alleged anti-Chinese Communist Party demonstrations.

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson said this was a fantastic step in ensuring universities were a place of education, freedom of thought, freedom of debate and freedom of speech.

"I would like to see universities have no political influence, no foreign influence. No quietening down or stopping free speech because I want our learners, our young people, to know they can think and can say what's on their mind, they can debate and not be swayed by politicians or foreign influence," he said.

Mr Thompson said this was something that could complement the proposed inquiry into foreign influence proposed by Mr Katter and LNP MP George Christensen.

He said he would take guidance from MP Andrew Hastie, the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which would conduct the inquiry if it were to happen.

 

All universities have agreed to implement the code of conduct by the end of the year.

Originally published as SPEAK UP: Government backs free speech at universities



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