Ensuring freedom of speech and freedom of academic inquiry

The Morrison Government is taking action to protect freedom of speech and freedom of academic inquiry at Australian universities.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan today introduced the Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020 into Parliament to strengthen protections for freedom of speech and academic freedom.

The legislation will bring the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) into line with the French Model Code, which all universities have agreed to adopt this year.

“Freedom of speech is a core value of Australian universities,” Mr Tehan said.

“When universities foster robust inquiry and open debate they advance our collective knowledge and strengthen our society.

“As Justice French observed in his review: even a limited number of incidents seen as affecting freedom of speech may have an adverse impact on public perception of the higher education sector.

“Protecting free speech is also an individual responsibility. The test of our commitment to free speech is whether we are willing to tolerate the speech of others, especially those with whom we most disagree.

“This legislation gives effect to the recommendations made by former High Court Chief Justice Robert French AC in the independent review into freedom of speech in higher education.

“These amendments will help ensure consistency, and support universities in promoting academic freedom and freedom of speech.”

Lawyer and former Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University Professor (Emeritus) Sally Walker AM is conducting an independent review to evaluate the progress that universities have made in implementing the French Model Code.

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