Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, has today introduced the Higher Education Support Amendment (Demand Driven Funding System and Other Measures) Bill 2011 into Federal Parliament. In addition to introducing the necessary changes to the Higher Education Support Act (HESA) that will implement the new student demand driven system, the Bill also includes important changes that for the first time legislatively defines freedom of inquiry as a central characteristic of our universities.
“The Government, and in particular Senator Kim Carr and Prime Minister Gillard, gave a commitment to the NTEU that this Government would acknowledge in legislation that one of the distinctive purposes of every Australian university is to promote and protect free intellectual inquiry,” Jeannie Rea, National President of NTEU said today.
“NTEU commends the Government for delivering on its commitment in protecting the fundamental right of critical inquiry and intellectual freedom in Australia’s universities.”
“In addition to amending the objectives to HESA, the amendments will require each university entering into a Mission Based Compact with the Commonwealth to have ‘a policy that upholds free intellectual inquiry in relation to learning, teaching and research’.”
“These changes, which are well overdue in Australia, are an explicit acknowledgement that university staff have a right and a responsibility to exercise free intellectual inquiry, including the right to expression of controversial or unpopular opinions without being disadvantaged or discriminated against.”
Ms Rea concluded, “The NTEU believes these amendments are cause to celebrate and in doing so we acknowledge the contribution of Dr Carolyn Allport, the former President of the NTEU, for her commitment and determination to secure the basic rights of intellectual freedom for those working and studying in Australia’s universities.”
For comment please contact:
Jeannie Rea, National President, 0434 609 531
Paul Kniest, Policy and Research Coordinator, 0418 170 622