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The systematic silencing of conservative voices in Australian universities

By Augusto Zimmermann - posted Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Dr Van Meter is clinical associate professor of Paediatrics at both the Emory University and Morehouse Schools of Medicine and president of the American College of Paediatricians (ACP), which is known for its opposition to gender reassignment of children. Dr Van Meter has highlighted problems with the 'proven science' relied upon by transgender advocacy groups.

Student Guild president, Megan Lee, welcomed the cancellation of this event organised by the

Australian Family Association. 'We want to make clear to the university that students in the Student Guild do not believe there is a place for hate speech on campus … a university is not an appropriate place for those discussions,' she said.


The official basis for denial of venue is that the organisers were unable to guarantee a risk-free environment for attendees, with the University Campus Management team at the last minute demanding a 'robust event management plan' on the grounds that the risk surrounding the event had been 'elevated to a higher level.' According to the Pro Vice Chancellor at Murdoch University from 1999 to 2001, Dr Kevin Woods, this was simply a convenient excuse and

It is becoming more prevalent in our society that anyone who expresses an opinion opposed to the 'progressive' left is to be demonised as a person espousing hate speech, rather than being treated as a person expressing their right to free speech.

Bullies block talk

Dr Bettina Arndt is a sex therapist, journalist and clinical psychologist. She went on a national tour with the aim of debunking unsubstantiated claims that Australia's universities are hotbeds of sexual assault. Shewas supposed to speak at the University of Sydney on 11 September last year, but became the subject of a campaign of 'mounting harassment, official delay, and obstruction'. First, the university administrators stalled for 12 days the organiser's application for a venue, claiming it was still being processed. When it was finally decided the talk could go ahead, the administrators also announced Liberal Club students would be charged for security. Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence presented those students a bill of nearly $500, plus the room hire. The Liberal Club president Jack O'Brienwrote to Dr Spence on 24 August, asking for the university to waive security costs as a sign of support for controversial discussions and ultimately the event was allowed to go ahead without the students paying for security.

Dr Arndt was due to speak to about 90 people, but only a few of them managed to get past the crowd. Other were stuck outside trying to get through when up to 40 student protesters blocked the corridor leading to the talk. The riot squad was called and a video records students intimidating people and blocking the corridor.

Final Comments


As an academic myself, I have noted with great despair the sort of pseudo-intellectualism that has made its way into Australia's universities. Of course, the academic elite will vehemently deny that there is any such problem on our campuses. And yet, suppression of free speech is a very real thing and the silencing of minority opinion has been systematic in faculty recruitment and academic promotion across most Australian universities.

Indeed, any deviation from the established norms may result not only in personal abuse but also in outcomes such as formal or informal sanctions, administrative reproach, promotion refusal, denial of academic tenure, being sentenced to sensitivity training, and serious difficulty finding an academic job.

In today's Australia, questions of research quality, academic excellence, critical thinking, and intellectual distinction appear to be considerably out of style. The nation's academic elite openly support speech codes and over-regulation of student life. Indeed, most of our universities have become rather oppressive spaces ruled by officious bureaucrats enforcing their own leftist dictates upon everybody else, academics included.

I do not know any 'conservative' academic who is against free speech. And yet, I know very well that the silencing of conservative opinion has been systematic on our campuses.

In my opinion there is little doubt the majority of these university administrators are failing to properly exercise their legal (and constitutional) obligation to protect freedom of speech on our campuses.

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This article was first publshed ini the IPA Review, which is distributed to members of the IPA.

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About the Author

Augusto Zimmermann, LLB, LLM, PhD is a Lecturer in Law at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

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