The Morrison Government has passed important legislation to further strengthen protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech at Australia’s universities.
The Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020 amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to provide a clear definition of academic freedom and replaces the term ‘free intellectual inquiry’ with ‘freedom of speech and ‘academic freedom’.
Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said the reforms put into law the principle that freedom of speech and expression are essential in our universities.
“Universities are places for critical thinking, debate and challenging ideas, and they must be places that also protect free speech, even when what is being said may be unpopular or challenging,” Minister Tudge said.
“The passing of this Bill requires universities to uphold these fundamental principles on campuses across Australia.”
“It will also help ensure consistency and encourage universities to promote academic freedom and freedom of speech for students and staff.”
The legislation aligns the Higher Education Support Act 2003 with the Model Code on freedom of speech and academic freedom recommended by former High Court Chief Justice the Hon Robert French AC.
“All universities have agreed to adopt the French Model Code, but not enough have policies that are fully aligned. I want all universities to adopt this as soon as possible.” Minister Tudge said.
“Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle on our university campuses, and it shouldn’t be difficult for universities to ensure this is the case.
In December last year, Professor Emeritus Sally Walker AM released findings from her independent review of university alignment with the Model Code and found that only 23 of Australia’s 42 universities were fully or mostly aligned.