Sunday, September 23, 2018

You protest, you pay: Australia's Federal Education Minister bids to bolster free speech at universities

Students and activists who protest at campus events would have to pay for their own security under a plan being pressed upon Australia's major universities by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.

Mr Tehan put the idea to Group of Eight vice-chancellors on Thursday night as they met to discuss a string of incidents that the Morrison government believe show free speech under threat.

That included a speech by controversial author Bettina Arndt to the Sydney University Liberal Club, which was charged for security. The event was targeted by left-wing students opposed to Arndt's view that there is no such thing as a "rape crisis" on Australian university campuses.

Last month the University of Western Australia cancelled a talk by American transgender sceptic Quentin Van Meter, saying the organisers had been unable to provide the risk paperwork in time.

"We've seen some examples where groups have tried to prevent forums taking place, and I think what we have to ensure is that where that is happening, there is an ability - especially on our university campuses - for those events to go ahead," Mr Tehan told Fairfax Media on Friday.

"We want to make sure that there are procedures and structures in place that mean events can occur ... and not be put in jeopardy because of increased security costs.

"It might well be those people who seek to disrupt [who] might have to end up bearing some of the responsibility of the financial cost. It should not be based solely on those who want to run events [having to pay]."

Mr Tehan acknowledged the Sydney University event ultimately went ahead as planned, but said the problem was becoming more frequent and should be dealt with right away. But the vice-chancellors told Mr Tehan they already have measures to protect free speech on campus.

"They said they have policies in place, they’ve agreed to provide me with those policies," Mr Tehan told Fairfax Media.

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence was unable to attend the meeting with Mr Tehan. But in a statement, a university spokeswoman said: "We'd be interested to hear any suggestions the minister has in practice for charging a crowd of protesters, only some of whom may be members of the university."

The Sydney University Liberal Club was charged $475 for security for the event. But it never had to foot the bill - it was paid by Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger, who cut a cheque for $5000 to cover all the event's costs.

Asked how to enforce a "you protest, you pay" policy, SULC president Jack O'Brien said one could "identify key protesters and the key organisations that ran the protest", and send them the bill. "We want to see a bit of action on this," Mr O'Brien said on Friday. "It's a bit disgraceful."



Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Maybe they should do that here when it comes toa bunch of liberal leftists Hollywood clelberties taking part in another DEMAND A PLAN and with David Hogg and his March for our Lives idiots

Anonymous said...

"It's a bit disgraceful."

Correction : It is very disgraceful !

Stan B said...

OK, here's a plan. If you are deemed to be the cause of the need for extra security - that is, you misbehave, cause property damage, or are guilty of assault or riotous behavior during a "protest," then you are saddled with the bill. Everyone who misbehaves - on either side - is saddled with equal liability for any "additional security costs."

So in addition to any criminal penalties you incur as a result of your abhorrent behavior, you are also saddled with civil penalties for the overtime being paid to the security officers involved.

End of issue.

Anonymous said...

The right to assemble, to speak, and to protest are all guaranteed rights to US citizens.
The right to political communication is a right guaranteed to Australian citizens. This encompasses the same rights.
No one should be prevented from peaceably speaking - or demonstrating against that speech.
It is the police department's job to maintain the peace - and they already get paid for it.
If anyone acts illegally - including by a breach of the peace - then they get fined.
Security costs are a risk management tool and a political tool. Neither are a good reason to strip rights away.