Sunday, October 2, 2022

Universities given until the end of the year to adopt the freedom of speech legislation

Australian Education Minister Alan Tudge has given universities until the end of this year to enforce a freedom of speech code, threatening to use legislation if universities refuse or fail to implement it.

‘You can not pursue truth without freedom of expression. You cannot create knowledge without the freedom of academic inquiry, ” Tudge said in a speech today at the Universities Australia Conference in Canberra.

He then quoted what the first vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Sir Douglas Copland, said in a letter to Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1948 (pdf): “The establishment and maintenance of academic freedom is more important than the actual research and teaching that is done within the walls of a university.”

Tudge was critical that some universities had yet to begin implementing the French model code, to which all university leaders agreed 26 months ago.

It refers to the High Court’s former judge Robert French’s code, which has freedom of speech as one of its core values.

‘I want to see the Model Code fully implemented this year, with no more excuses. You all committed to that, “he said. “If it turns out that universities cannot or do not want to accept the model code, I will examine all options available to the government to apply it, which may include legislation.”

George Williams, the deputy vice-chancellor of the University of New South Wales, has called on the government to pass a “law of freedom of speech” to allow Australians the legal right to freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech must include the right to say things that people disagree with and that may be offensive,” Williams tells The Daily Telegraph. “We do find an increasing danger of self-censorship … it has a cool effect on what people say and do.”

People walk past directions for Australian universities in Melbourne’s central business district on 10 June 2020 (William West / AFP via Getty Images)

Tudge also told university leaders not to forget that public universities were initially set up with a single purpose – to educate Australians.

“In the last few months, I have talked to almost every vice-chancellor about research and international students, but not many talk to me about their ambitions for Australian students,” he said.

He called on universities to focus on improving the learning experience of Australians, starting with a return to personal learning.

The speech also addressed the government’s agenda on research commercialization.

Tudge said he wanted Australian universities to work with more businesses and governments to translate research into breakthrough products, in addition to ‘brilliant, pure research’.

An overview of building closer ties between Australian universities and industry was announced, which would be led by two university leaders.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) calls Tudge’s emphasis on commercialization ‘short-sighted’.

“If the government was serious about its commitment to research and commercialization opportunities, it would have continued the additional funding for research in this year’s budget, but it has also been cut,” NTEU national president said. Alison Barnes said.

The union was also disappointed in Tudge for failing to address the number of jobs due to COVID-19, calling it the ‘biggest crisis’ universities have ever faced.

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Nation World News Desk
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