Hong Kong union leader Lee Cheuk-yan and two colleagues were set to speak at ANU yesterday. Then the university cancelled the booking and then it didn’t
The National Tertiary Education Union was sponsoring the event, billed as a discussion “of the current situation in Hong Kong, including the role trade unions play in issues of human rights and social justice.”
All was well yesterday morning when university staff confirmed the booking but it was cancelled by the ANU venue team at 3pm, which reported that Strategic Communications and Public Affairs advised the event was “not approved.”
It sounded like the sort of situation to be covered by Education Minister Dan Tehan’s national free speech on campus code. But it wasn’t;
ANU advises CMM that last month four academics from Hong Kong spoke on the political situation there at and that yesterday’s event was also approved. “When the full details of the event were provided to the university, and after a thorough risk assessment, it was deemed necessary to provide security. This is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all staff, students and visitors attending the event. ANU has now provided security for the event at no cost to the organisers and it is going ahead.”
At 10 pm last night ANU Media expanded on its position, (via Twitter), “to be perfectly clear, there was no issue with today’s event, including the speakers and subject matter, from the university’s perspective. … rather it was an issue of security and ensuring appropriate notice was given to ensure security.”
Not that ANU had any choice, given chancellor, Gareth Evans remarks last year about free speech on campus; “lines have to be drawn, and administrators’ spines stiffened, against manifestly unconscionable demands for protection against ideas and arguments claimed to be offensive,” (CMM October 4 2018).
There were conflicting reports last night on whether the speakers spoke when and where as originally advertised by the union.