Alan Tudge threatens universities over delay in plans to protect freedom of speech

Education Minister Alan Tudge. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Education Minister Alan Tudge. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The federal Education Minister Alan Tudge appears to be running out of patience with universities over plans to protect freedom of speech on campuses and is now threatening tardy "woke" institutions with new laws.

He has told the Universities Australia conference in Canberra that some universities are still to sign up to the federal government's Model Code on the "core value" of freedom of speech which was introduced 26 months ago.

The minister - who has previously been critical of a woke culture at some universities - said 33 were fully or mostly aligned to the Model Code and the "sky did not fall in following the implementation," but for the rest he had a warning.

"I want to see the Model Code implemented fully this year, with no more excuses. You all committed to do this," the Minister told the gathering, which included many Vice-Chancellors.

"If it becomes apparent that universities remain unable or unwilling to adopt the Model Code, I will examine all options available to the government to enforce it - which may include legislation."

The model code for free speech was recommended by former High Court Chief Justice Robert French more than two years ago.

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Mr Tudge said it had been a long and important journey.

"You cannot pursue truth without freedom of expression," Mr Tudge said. "You cannot create knowledge without freedom of academic inquiry."

The Morrison government will be expecting universities to report annually on how freedom of speech issues are being managed against the Code.

And as universities still struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic with mass job losses and remote learning experiences, the government is demanding a better standard of teaching at universities.

"I am still hearing from too many students or their parents who tell me that their usual student experience has still not returned. That they may only have one contact hour or none," Mr Tudge told the conference.

"So for this year, we must see a focus in our universities on how to enhance the classroom and learning experience of Australian students. And this must start with a return to the previous face-to-face learning, where Covid rules allow.

"Some do it brilliantly, but it should be all that do it brilliantly."

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This story Tudge issues threat to 'woke' universities first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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