21 October 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Free Speech Union welcomes the introduction of the Education (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill drawn from the ballot this afternoon in the name of Dr. James McDowall. This Bill will strengthen free speech on university campus, and ensures tertiary education providers defend academic freedoms, says Free Speech Union spokesperson, Jonathan Ayling.
“Freedom of expression and the rights to opinion and conscience face extreme opposition in parts of our society, and this is seen most clearly on our university campuses. Tertiary providers are tasked with being the critic and conscience of the nation. Yet from cancelled lectures to safe-zones and trigger warnings, universities continue to indulge in controlling what view points students are exposed to, often under the cover of 'Health and Safety'. This is contrary to the role of these institutions, and threatens the liberal values of tolerance and diversity fostered by free speech.
"This Bill is an important step to ensure that educational providers foster the ability of students to think critically by being exposed to a wide range of perspectives. Universities are tasked and funded by the public to ensure no question is off the table, and no perspective is rejected outright.
"The best defence we have against attacks on free speech is a strong culture which celebrates and values open debate and tolerance. Yet, it has become clear that in the absence of such a culture in many universities, a stronger legal mandate is also needed.
"We call on each Party in Parliament to support this Bill, to ensure that our institutions of higher learning remain providers of liberal education which includes diverse perspectives and speech, enabled by freedom of expression."
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