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Dan Tehan wants a ‘model code’ on free speech at universities – what is it and do unis need it?

Katharine Gelber and Kristine Bowman write in The Conversation (24.6.19) about the federal Education Minister’s push for Australian universities to adopt a ‘free speech code’, with the authors suggesting that the pressure for universities to take action on free speech may be more about politics than anything else.

‘The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, has called on universities to implement a model code to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus. He’s referring to the code drafted by a former High Court chief justice, Robert French, in his review of freedom of speech in Australian universities.

‘Tehan said he commissioned the review due to concerns certain views were being shut down on campus. This followed protests at Sydney University during a talk by sex-therapist and commentator Bettina Arndt. The talk challenged notions of a rape culture on campus.

‘French’s report concluded there was no systemic free speech crisis in Australian universities. But he noted many universities’ policies use broad terms that create the potential to limit free speech on campus.

‘He therefore suggested universities voluntarily strengthen their protections for free speech by adopting general principles, which he set out in a model code. So, what does that code look like? And should universities be adopting it?’

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