“Universities have turned against the Western traditions of free speech and academic inquiry that created them in the first place. As universities are chartered by State legislation, NSW One Nation will seek to restore these freedoms. We will outlaw segregationist ‘safe spaces’, discriminatory quotas and the imposition of political beliefs on students. We will also hold a parliamentary inquiry into alternatives to the current university model, seeking to foster greater intellectual freedom and lower costs for taxpayers and students.”
In recent years, Left-wing identity politics and post-modernism have taken over Australian universities. This has created a culture of censorship and groupthink that runs counter to the founding purpose of higher education. In training the nation’s best and brightest, it is crucial for young scholars to be exposed to contentious, even uncomfortable ideas.
Disagreement and debate are the lifeblood of a good university. Students shouldn’t be encouraged to retreat into ‘safe spaces’ where they can shelter from people and ideas different to their own. In the learning process, disagreement is vital: helping students to test the quality of their thinking and discover new ways of rebutting others.
No idea should be too dangerous for a university to consider (unless it deliberately breaks the law). No set of words should be given the taboo status of a ‘trigger warning’, taking campuses back to the censorship and superstitions of the Middle Ages. One Nation supports major reform of the NSW university system, re-establishing its founding principles of free speech and open academic inquiry.
Part of the new regressive trend in higher education involves a political attack on Western civilisation. This was clear in the ANU’s rejection of the Ramsay endowment for the teaching of courses on Western civilisation. It is also evident in the hostility of Sydney University staff to the Ramsay concept. This is one of the burning paradoxes of our time: for Left-wing political reasons, universities, a foundation stone of our civilisation, are now hostile to the culture and values that created them.
Across NSW, universities are practicing censorship and segregation. ‘Safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ have become common. Charles Sturt University has adopted a policy of banning ‘offensive language’ including ‘sarcasm’, while the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association prohibits ‘condescending’ language. The ridiculous North American trend of ‘de-gendered pronouns’ has also come to NSW.
The practice of ‘de-platforming’ has become popular, with protestors shouting down alternative views on campus or forcing speakers to be disinvited. Unfortunately, this has become a way of life at Sydney University, where Christians, men’s groups and conservatives are often attacked and intimidated. When Bettina Arndt addressed a meeting about sexual harassment statistics in 2018, the riot police had to be called to deal with the feral protestors. Sydney University then charged the event organisers for the cost of security, not those who broke the law.
Many of these injustices are driven by the administrative wings of universities: ‘HR’ types who have imported from overseas the type of ‘progressive’ social engineering that debases the traditional purpose of higher education. These bloated bureaucracies see universities not as a place of independent learning but another opportunity for cultural control. It’s a classic case of ‘mission creep’, with university managers constantly looking for new ways of controlling and manipulating the lives of their students.
In this highly political environment, many students have gone ‘underground’ with their views. They know the post-modernist and Leftist identity politics being pushed in their courses is nonsense, but for the sake of decent marks, they need to go with the flow. This is the saddest commentary of all on what our universities have become: students feeling the need to deal in falsehoods as a way of surviving the tyranny of intellectual oppression.
At Charles Sturt University, it’s official policy for students to have to value “social justice including … global citizenship and environmental sustainability”. Even worse, the ANU has started selecting students based on the ‘skill’ of “Inclusion and awareness of diversity” – a political process discriminating against conservatives and libertarians. This kind of bias should not be allowed to cross the border into NSW higher education.
Not only have universities become intensely political, they are also seeking to supplant basic processes of legal fairness. Sydney University, for instance, has adopted a policy of judging allegations of sexual assault and harassment “on the balance of probabilities”. The legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been abandoned. In any case, universities are not equipped for gathering and judging evidence as a de facto criminal justice system. This should be left to the State’s police and judiciary.
Even though, in terms of female safety, universities are among our best institutions, they have launched a campaign aimed at the demonisation of men – a product of identity politics. This involves redefining the meaning of words commonly used in our everyday lives. Sexual harassment on campus is now said to include staring at an attractive women, offering ‘risqué gifts’ and telling so-called sexist jokes, such as ‘three blondes walk into a bar …’ This is a classic example of political correctness: seeking to redefine our lives by redefining our language.
Due to propaganda from the Australian Human Rights Commission, universities are now forcing students to undertake ridiculous ‘stick figure’ consent courses. It’s assumed our best and brightest don’t know the meaning of ‘consent’. There are reports some universities are withholding academic results unless the courses are completed – an unacceptable stand-over tactic.
Through these authoritarian agendas, universities are fouling their own nest. A growing number of people are asking: if universities have drifted so far from their founding purpose, if they are now run so comprehensively by radical Left-wing politics, why can’t alternatives emerge to provide students with an independent, non-political higher education? New information technologies have made this possibility real.
In Australia we associate universities with large campus land holdings and buildings, vast student numbers and courses in every conceivable subject area. Yet overseas, smaller universities have flourished, specialising in disciplines such as science, economics and the liberal arts. With the rise of university censorship, another academic model has emerged: online sites with full academic freedom, attracting some of the best minds from around the world.
One of these platforms, Quillette, was founded in Australia. It describes itself as, “Respecting ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.” With the quality of scholarship it attracts, it is not inconceivable for the Quillette-type model to evolve into accredited online higher education – with significant cost benefits for taxpayers and students. One Nation supports this possibility as an alternative to the current intellectually restricted system.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation will legislate to return NSW universities to their original purpose, fostering free speech, debate and intellectual inquiry, free from political indoctrination. Universities will need to:
Foster freedom of speech, open discussion and academic inquiry (other than in matters that break the law).
Avoid practices that segregate students from each other and/or try to shield students from ideas and information with which they disagree or find ‘offensive’. Note that in our human rights policy, One Nation proposes to make segregationist practices a criminal offense in NSW.
Treat staff and students on merit, without discriminatory quota systems.
Avoid political bias in course content and teaching, and any requirement for students to hold certain political beliefs, either in gaining university entry or progressing through their course-work.
Adopt the common usage of Australian language, ensuring no student is disadvantaged by their use of such language (such as gendered pronouns).
Report all allegations of sexual assault and harassment to the police. Universities should not try to turn themselves into alternatives to the NSW criminal justice system.
Ensure that no student is disadvantaged in their academic rights and results because they refuse to participate in politically-motivated absurdities like ‘consent training’.
Bill protestors for the cost of security arrangements, not those trying to peacefully exercise their free speech.
Generally act in a way consistent with the values and virtues of the Western civilisation that created the university system.
One Nation will also hold a parliamentary inquiry into alternatives to the current university model, seeking to foster greater intellectual freedom and lower costs for taxpayers and students.