Two recent articles in the Australian have caught my eye.
Education Minister Dan Tehan has accused leading universities of “failing Australia” by refusing to champion free speech on campus, warning that they risk inflicting major damage on the next generation who will determine the nation’s future.
Universities will lose reputation and talented students if they fail to defend free speech against an activist campus culture bent on shutting down debate, warns researcher Matthew Lesh.
Yes. Well. Maybe. Okay. Hard to get excited.
So there are several reforms that need to be implemented at Australian universities. I would start by having university councils elected by alumni and donors only. But that isn’t what the current government – or any other government – has in mind.
I am less sympathetic to Dan Tehan on this issue. Yes; what has been happening, largely at the University of Sydney, is disgraceful. Quite rightly Senator Amanda Stoker asked TEQSA what, if anything, they are doing about it.
But here is the thing: the single largest outrage over the last few years was a government agency – the so-called Australian Human Rights Commission – persecuting four students at QUT. As far as I’m aware the so-called Australian Human Rights Commission was never once told to cease and desist, or threatened with defunding, nor even publicly rebuked.
Then there is the ongoing outrage that is compulsory student unionism. It is all very well the education minister carrying on about left-wing activists at Australian universities, yet why then insist that non-activist students finance the very behaviour the minister denounces?
If the minister is really concerned about what is happening at Australian universities, as opposed to virtue signalling, there is some really low-hanging fruit that can be picked. Bottom line – why is it that Senator Stoker – a back bencher – has had to do the hard work here and not the minister himself?