Friday, December 29, 2017

Attack on free speech means university is no longer a place to learn life lessons

I did an English degree in the 90s and as far as rites of passage go, it was awesome. It was for the most part, uncomplicated. It was wholly free from a dialogue of victimhood, political correctness and timidity of thought.

Now, as my 17-year-old nephew prepares to go to university in a month or so, I confess to being a little nervous about the environment he and hundreds of thousands of Australian young adults are going into.

For some time at least anecdotally there have been concerns about the erosion of critical thinking at Australia’s universities. The odd opinion piece, like this one, the occasional news report, all hinting at, warning of an odious slide into mental protectionism.

What do I mean by that? Well, campuses have seemingly become overrun by the notion of providing a “safe space” either in word or in deed, where nobody disagrees, nobody is allowed to get offended and truly diverse ideas inevitably die like dogs in the gutter.

Now, let me be clear from the get-go. This is not about curriculum, although that’s one for another day. It is about social engineering and deliberate restriction of free speech.

Research conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs and published at the end of last year in the Weekend Australian paints a clear and frightening picture of just how real this issue is. The IPA conducted an audit and analysis of university policies, procedures and guidelines. It found 81 per cent of Australia’s 42 universities are actively hostile to free speech. Actively hostile. That means the people running these joints are actively trying to restrict intellectual freedom.

At universities. Let that sink in for just a minute.

The IPA also found that 17 per cent go so far as to threaten free speech. It found hundreds of policies, including in one case, a 1600-word “flag policy” (the mind boggles), yet the majority of unis fail to comply with their legislated obligation to have a policy that “upholds free intellectual inquiry”. Only eight universities complied.

It went on to describe an environment in which there have been violent protests against certain speakers, and students instructed not to express their viewpoint. Violent protests.

Apart from violence being, you know, a criminal activity, does that not just scream a lack of intellectual depth? If the best response students have to a differing view is to torch the joint or belt someone with a piece of 4x2, you’re not really talking about our nation’s brightest. What is even more sobering is that the audit found almost all of the regulations and restrictions extend beyond the law itself. Students are more censored, restricted and gagged by their universities than in real life.

It seems the culture behind all of this has been allowed to quietly thrive and spread like lantana on your gran’s back fence because nobody thought they’d ever need to prune it.

I know it’s the habit of every generation to look back and think they did things better. I’m not so foolish nor blinkered to suggest it was perfect, because it wasn’t.

But what it was, was an environment in which we learnt not just in lectures (and let’s be clear, sometimes not even in lectures) but in the day-to-day social navigation around differing views, ideas, cultures and beliefs and the basic life skills that navigation teaches a person.

The reason we should be taking notice of this lies in the black and white numbers of the IPA’s audit. Sure, it backs up a view I’ve held and many of my peers and mates have held for some time, but it’s not about being right, it’s not even about that. It’s about the kind of place a university should be.

It’s about the systematic removal of circumstances in which young people can, through normal, everyday life, develop independent and critical thinking by dealing with people who hold opposing views — even ones most of us might find a tad gauche.

I’m going to go a step further. Learning to deal with offence — rather than the offence itself, is a gift. It’s a life lesson. It teaches you to think for yourself, toss out the garbage, keep what works, listen with an open mind, and respectfully walk away without setting fire to something or calling a lawyer.

And if university isn’t one of the places young people get to learn this, then change is way overdue.


Politically correct Victoria Police insist they DON'T have an African gang problem despite the blight of Apex, an officer being kicked in the face and 100 'South Sudanese' youths trashing an AirBnB

Victoria Police insist they don't have an African gang problem in Melbourne after an officer was kicked in the face at a shopping mall and 100 youths of Sudanese appearance trashed an AirBnB house.

The comments from Superintendent Therese Fitzgerald came after a boy kicked a police officer in the head as he crouched down attempting to arrest a 16-year-old youth for alleged shoplifting on Boxing Day.

The scuffle at Highpoint Shopping Centre, at Maribyrnong in Melbourne's west, was caught on CCTV on Tuesday afternoon.

However, Superintendent Fitzgerald said this latest incident involving African youths was not a sign there was an ethnically-related gang problem, amid a spate of crime linked to Apex gangs.

'We have problems with youth crime across the state and it's not a particular group of youths we are looking into. It's all youths. It's youth crime,' she told reporters.

Superintendent said 'youth crime in general' was to blame - a week after police were pelted with rocks after being called to an AirBnB house at Werribee, in Melbourne's west.

Officers were forced to retreat from the house, trashed inside by a party, when more than 100 youths of primarily South Sudanese appearance turned on them.

Photos taken from inside the house show walls kicked and punched in, mattresses thrown on top of furniture and pepper spray splattered across bedroom curtains.

Neighbours say they were left terrified when youths from the house started roaming the streets, throwing rocks and smashing cars.

Less than a week later, a police officer was kicked in the face as he crouched down trying to arrest a 16-year-old boy for alleged shoplifting at Highpoint Shopping Centre.

The scuffle, which was captured on CCTV, unfolded in front of shocked Boxing Day shoppers before the assailant ran from the centre into the car park.

The senior constable sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to hospital as the youth who assaulted him remained at large. 'It could have been a lot worse and I'm pleased to report he's returned to work today,' Superintendent Therese Fitzgerald told reporters on Wednesday. 'He's got bruising to his eye but is in very good spirits.'

A 16-year-old Flemington boy was arrested over the alleged theft but he was released pending further inquiries.

Police are wanting to speak to a teen who is described as African in appearance and was wearing a white top and black bandana.

In June, at nearby Footscray, a man was struck in the head with a tomahawk as a gang of 15 African youths burst into a barber shop and began rioting.

In April, a gang of five Sudanese teenagers allegedly bashed their autistic classmate, in a horrific attack on a bus at Tarneit, in Melbourne's west.

The 17-year-old student was travelling alone to the city centre, when five boys approached him and told him to hand over his mobile phone and new Nike shoes.


'Ongoing erosion of legal rights': Government slammed for ignoring key report for two years

The Turnbull government has been slammed for ignoring a major legal report for more than two years, while continuing to enact laws that erode fundamental rights.

The Law Council of Australia and the libertarian Institute of Public Affairs have urged the new Attorney-General, Christian Porter, to curb what the think tank called "the ongoing erosion of legal rights" in Australia.

In its annual audit of the nation's laws, released to Fairfax Media on Tuesday, the IPA identified another 19 breaches contained in statutes passed this year – taking its count to 324.

And the organisation fingered Treasurer Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and recently-departed attorney-general George Brandis as the ministers behind many of the problematic provisions.

Six new items breached the presumption of innocence, largely impacting employers who are sued under the Fair Work Act, while seven provisions compromised people's right to silence, the IPA found.

One such law, introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, forces a person to answer questions about boats if a biosecurity officer believes they possess relevant information.

IPA research fellow Morgan Begg said the breakdown of basic legal rights "seems to be entrenched in the law-making process" in Australia.


Coalition close to point of no return

The writer is well informed but making prophecies is a mug's game.  Note what happened to prophecies that Trump would never become president

Only a dramatic turn of events is likely to rescue the government and address what appear to be embedded structural problems for the Coalition.

These problems are as deep as they are widespread and are reflected across every state and in key Coalition demographics.

There is little evidence that the government has attempted to address this fundamental problem in any significant way. What it has tried obviously hasn’t worked.

Any hope that 2018 will be a banner year for Malcolm Turnbull, rather than a repeat of the horror year of 2017, rests with his ability and willingness to make meaningful change.

The quarterly analysis of Newspoll, the final instalment of the year, bears this out. The Coalition ends the year in worse shape than it began, trailing Labor on a two-party-preferred split of 54/46.

This will be deeply vexing for Turnbull, who would rightly believe he finished the year well having dealt with same-sex marriage, survived the citizenship crisis by winning two by-elections while claiming the scalp of a Labor senator in controversial circumstances.

None of this has made the slightest bit of difference.

The loss of primary votes in Queensland and NSW is critical. Between them, the two states hold 87 of the 150 seats in the country.

While things are still dire in Western Australia, on the pure numbers, NSW and Queensland would produce a bigger loss on a much smaller swing. And if the apparent internal analysis by the LNP is right, suggesting that the preference flow from One Nation at the Queensland election was at best 50/50 in some seats, then the problems are even more profound.

The latest numbers reveal two disturbing trends for Turnbull. For the first time, Labor is ahead of the Coalition when it comes to voting males. Support among the over 50s is also down 10 points since the July 2016 election.

Nothing could provide more evidence that the Coalition base has jumped overboard and that the theory Turnbull should be chasing a younger demographic is a deeply flawed one.

This is being played out no more intensely than in the regions. Labor’s gains here are significant and would be confounding for the Nationals.

Having started with a 14 per cent deficit at the last election, Labor has lifted six points to be one point ahead of the Coalition.

While Shorten is deeply unpopular more generally, he is only three points behind Turnbull as preferred prime minister in the regions defined as non-capital cities.

The fact that blokes in the country are pissed off shouldn’t be a great surprise. This is where the loss of economic activity in the post mining boom era is felt most keenly. But the size and dimension of the disaffection would be a considerable worry for the government.

The people are cranky and the government, occupied for the past three months with same-sex marriage and determining the genealogy of every MP, is being blamed for it.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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