The Morrison Government has established an independent review to evaluate the progress that universities have made implementing the French Model Code on university free speech.
The French Model Code sets out a framework for universities that protects freedom of speech and academic freedom as paramount values of Australian universities.
All universities have undertaken to adopt the Model Code this year in a way consistent with their individual legislative frameworks.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan today announced that lawyer and former Vice-Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) Sally Walker AM would evaluate the alignment of university policies with the principles of the Model Code.
“Our Government is committed to protecting free speech and universities share that commitment,” Mr Tehan said.
“The French Model Code has been well received by the sector, with all universities committing to adopt the Code.
“The review will consider areas of strength or weakness in institutional responses to the Code and offer suggestions where alignment could be improved.
“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. Universities must be leaders when it comes to defending those freedoms.”
The terms of reference ask Professor Walker to:
1. Validate the alignment of universities’ suite of relevant policies with the principles of the Model Code on freedom of speech and academic freedom in higher education providers;
2. Consider whether there are areas of particular strength or weakness in institutional responses and offer any suggestions to institutions where she considers alignment with the Model Code could be improved;
3. Identify exemplars of particularly good practice that could be shared or promoted within the higher education sector;
4. Provide advice to the Minister for Education on the overall alignment of universities policies with the principles of the Model Code and, if warranted, any suggestions on how the alignment could be further improved;
5. Provide advice to the Minister for Education on whether the Code needs further refinement or change.
Former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC drafted the Model Code as part of his Independent Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers.