Union calls for all-uni statement on intellectual freedom

This just in from the head-exploding desk – the NTEU likes an idea from Government MPs

Suggestions the federal government could fund a university system free-speech test case (CMM yesterday) are backed by the National Tertiary Education Union. Coalition MPs are concerned James Cook U might appeal scientist Peter Ridd’s win in his unfair dismissal case. The Federal Court found Dr Ridd’s criticism of the university and researchers there were covered by academic comment provisions of the enterprise agreement.

The union’s Gabe Gooding, says “the possibility of Federal Government intervention in support of the rights provided in the collective agreement,” is “particularly timely given that they are considering the report of the French Review, which proposed a legislated definition of academic freedom.”
She also renews (CMM June 24) union calls for peak body Universities Australia to work with the union to negotiate a statement of academic and intellectual freedom rights.

It isn’t, CMM suggests, going to happen. Universities do not like the government intervening in their affairs, let alone the union.

Nevertheless, this is a smart move by the union, a precedent-setting test case could provide a great defence against people critical of academic opinion. On Tuesday night new senator for Tasmania Claire Chandler argued, “universities are shutting down debate, for example by charging exorbitant security fees when certain speakers, generally with viewpoints that differ from predominantly left-wing academics wish to share their perspectives on campus.”

A free speech test could give the “predominantly left-wing academics” who concern Senator Chandler the right to protest against people they do not like speaking on campus.


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