Friday, July 26, 2019

Sydney University suspends aggressive protest organiser

Bettina Arndt

We have finally learnt that Maddy Ward, the key organiser of the Sydney University protest against me, has actually been given a one semester suspension from her studies next year for misconduct in relation to the protest. She has written about this for an online “progressive” journal,, where she whines about left-wing students being targeted, having codes of conduct used against them by sinister “external figures and organisations”.

Back in June we discovered Ward had been charged with misconduct – she posted on Facebook that she was outraged that I had “weaponised” the bullying and harassment laws against her. Pretty funny, really, because it’s her tribe, the authoritarian left, which was responsible for persuading universities to regulate this type of behaviour.

So now it turns out she’s facing a real publishment, not just a slap on the wrist – mainly because she was subject to a previous suspended misconduct charge over her harassment of an anti-abortion group on campus, where she flashed her tits at the Christian protesters. Ward was also in trouble earlier this year for endorsing violence against Israeli soldiers in the form of a "martyred" female suicide bomber on the front page of the student magazine.

The Australian wrote about the decision today -

The reporter, Rebecca Urban, noted that the University has previously declined to provide details of findings against individual students for privacy reasons, but Maddy Ward  told The Australian that she had been found guilty of breaching the student code of conduct by “unreasonably impeding access to a lecture theatre” and failing to treat members of the public with “respect, dignity, impartiality courtesy and sensitivity”.

The paper quotes Associate Professor Peter McCallum commenting on the decision: “Any findings made in this case are not in any way intended to discourage free speech or protest.”

Yet the fact that the University has imposed a suspension on Ward sends an important signal that expression of free speech does not include screaming students bullying and harassing audiences for campus events and preventing them from accessing the venue.

This serious action puts a lie to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence’s persistent claim that the protest was no big deal. If, as Spence has claimed many times, the fuss about the protest was simply a circus, why would his University derail the young activist’s studies for half a year?

Ms Ward said she would appeal against her suspension. “I know I’m controversial and have quite left-wing views, but there’s a real hypocrisy occurring,” she said. “I do worry about the impact on other students because the code of conduct is impeding on students’ freedom of speech in an invasive and punitive way.”

From protests to trigger warnings: the creeping threats to free speech at our universities

Leading American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says academic freedom at Australian universities is in a healthier state than in the United States but there are danger signs that warrant nationwide action.

Professor Haidt, a social psychologist based at New York University, has held meetings with Education Minister Dan Tehan and academics during a visit to Australia and found indications that free expression is in retreat on campuses, consistent with a global decline in the state of debate.

American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says Australian universities need to act to protect freedoms on campus.
American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says Australian universities need to act to protect freedoms on campus.CREDIT:ANDREW KELLY

American universities have been convulsed by arguments about free expression, with controversies surrounding the free speech of speakers on campus and the ability of academics and students to explore sensitive topics.

Professor Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind, said his experiences in Australia led him to conclude "things are not as bad here but it's starting, so it's vital that your professors and administrators respond consistently to them" by putting safeguards in place.

There were some cases of politically "radical" students shutting down academics and pressure from other lecturers and university administrators.

"If everyone buckles and changes their language, then you will have what we have," he said.

He said protests against controversial speakers, including author Bettina Arndt, pointed to a problem.

"Everyone agrees that students have a right to protest but there is a clear, sharp line. The point at which any student interferes with the ability of another student to listen to another talk is a violation of core academic values," he said.

The violation should be treated as equal to plagiarism and punished accordingly, according to Professor Haidt.

He said rules and norms needed to be enshrined to protect pursuit of truth as a university's ultimate goal that must not be restricted.

Australia's universities are considering a model code to protect free speech and inquiry, proposed by High Court chief justice Robert French in a review commissioned by the Coalition government.

Professor Haidt backed the idea of a code but said the French model, while reasonable, contained "very large loopholes" that could still be deployed against controversial content. This included wording on a university's "duty to foster the wellbeing of staff and students".

Mr Tehan said his meeting with Professor Haidt was "thought-provoking" and the pair agreed it was important to promote a diversity of opinions in academia.

"One message I took away, is that Australia should look at what has happened at universities in the US and the UK and act now to prevent it happening here," Mr Tehan said.

As Australian institutions examine the strengthened protections, Professor Haidt said it was important for academic leaders to be "much more vocal from the moment students arrive on campus through to graduation, they must enforce those norms and punish people who violate those norms in a serious way".

He questioned the growing popularity of trigger warnings and safe spaces in academic environments.

He said there was no evidence that trigger warnings helped students with difficult content and a handful of studies suggested they had no positive effect.

"The way to get over a fear or phobia or PTSD is through repeated exposure to a stimulus in a physically safe environment and that's exactly what a classroom is," he said. "So I think there is no space on a university campus for content warnings."

He also said no classroom should ever be treated as a "safe space" because of the risk it would shut down candid discussion.


Morrison is no Donald Trump or Boris Johnson

Where Trump was committed to upsetting the status quo, Morrison stood for stabilty against Labor's program of destruction

In its cover story on the crisis of conservatism The Economist excoriated right-wing leaders — with Donald Trump as demon-in-chief — and cast Scott Morrison as one of those reactionaries who exploit grievance and betray the true essence of conservative values.

Attacking leaders for their “repudiation” of conservatism, it branded them as “usurpers” who follow in Trump’s path and “are smashing one conservative tradition after another” in tactics designed “to stir up outrage and tribal loyalties”.

Morrison is traduced in the article. The magazine says conservatives should be pragmatic. It continues: “The new right is zealous, ideological and cavalier with the truth. Australia suffers droughts and reef-bleaching seas, but the right has just won an election there under a party whose leader addressed parliament holding a lump of coal like a holy relic.”

Indeed, Morrison is sandwiched in the article between Trump and Italy’s leader of the Northern League, Matteo Salvini, a nationalist and populist who warns about an Islamic caliphate engulfing Europe and who, the magazine reports, has encouraged the anti-vaccination movement in Italy.

Those familiar with the periodic bizarre views of The Economist about Australia may be unsurprised. What is missing in this report is the distinctive politics of each nation. The irony of Morrison’s inclusion as a wrecker of true conservatism is that far from being Trump’s political blood-brother, Morrison is the opposite.

His election success arose not because he followed Trump but because his conservatism, at nearly every point, defied or contrasted with Trump. Morrison will hardly advertise this before his Washington visit where Trump is rolling out the red carpet for him. Trump sees a connection between them, a useful but also a risky image for Morrison.

The President has compared Morrison’s “surprise” win with his own 2016 victory and the Brexit vote in Britain and, no doubt, Morrison’s visit will generate plenty of copy suggesting a Trump-Morrison concord of interests and shared conservative visions.

The real significance, however, of Morrison’s election in terms of global conservatism lies not in his populist duplication of Trump or European reactionaries or the Brexit vote but his adherence to a pragmatic conservatism far more geared to upholding traditions than destroying them. The Economist could not have been more wrong.

Trump, unlike Morrison, campaigned to dismantle the status quo, in his case the Washington establishment. He came as an outside agent to disrupt the system, repudiate internationalism and operate according to a new “America First” rule that meant protection, trade wars, nationalist exclusion and compromise of the US alliance system and global leadership, an agenda guaranteed to create trouble for Australia.

Morrison’s win, against this global backdrop, sent the message from Australia that pragmatic conservative traditionalism is not extinguished. The expected elevation of Boris Johnson as British PM — with his assumed affinity of sorts with Trump and his pledge to take Britain out of Europe — will highlight the different nature of Australian conservatism, contrary to The Economist’s simple-minded generalisations.

Morrison, of course, will not advertise such differences because his interest lies in the best relations possible with Trump and Johnson. But the facts are undeniable. While Trump and Johnson are agents of radical, often dangerous change, Morrison campaigned against dangerous and radical change from the Labor Party and won on this platform. Morrison presented himself as the leader offering trust, reliability and reassurance, hardly the diet of Trump and Johnson. Yet many politicians and media commentators are manifestly confused and cannot grasp what Morrison represents or what drives him.

In the latest Quarterly Essay, Erik Jensen reveals Bill Shorten’s confusion about Morrison. “I don’t know who the real Scott Morrison is sometimes,” Shorten conceded during the campaign. “Is he far right-wing? Is he not? I don’t know. I don’t know.” Shorten, like many commentators, is worried about Morrison’s religion. “I find him a bit hard to interpret,” Shorten said. “I know his Christianity — his Pentecostalism — is very important to him, so — I don’t know how much that is him.”

The progressives seem at a loss. Shorten’s remarks are incredible. If you don’t understand your opponent how can you defeat him? Yet Labor didn’t understand Morrison. For six months it kept running its big-end-of-town rhetorical attack after Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull when it was obvious this attack didn’t work against the “common man” Morrison.

The progressives cannot purge their belief that Morrison wants to play the politics of race, religion and security. This is part of their DNA — consider the hysterical claims made about him after the white supremacist Christchurch massacre. Climate change is another trigger. During the campaign a highly emotional Shorten went over the top denouncing Morrison as “a coal-wielding, climate-denying, cave-dweller”.

This reveals an emotional condition of frustrated righteousness that blinds its exponents. Shorten, after refusing to reveal the costs of his own climate change policy, branded his climate change opponents as “malicious and stupid”.

Labor’s problem is that Morrison had a superior and more accurate understanding of the Australian character. Progressives struggle to come to grips with this — it means admitting their view of the country was wrong. The instinctive reflex is denial and they search for a psychological explanation that excuses their failures and blames Morrison. There are several options — that Morrison is a religious freak or a milder version of Trump or too devoid of any vision to run the country efficiently.

Nowhere is this confusion greater than the critique that Morrison won on an unacceptably limited agenda, thereby overlooking the reality that if Morrison had run on a more ambitious agenda giving Labor a better target then he would have lost. After the chaos of previous years it would have been electoral suicide for Morrison to roll out a big reform agenda that his critics now profess to miss. Morrison was astute enough to recognise the obvious.

He ran on trust, reliability and economic delivery. In a fashion typical of John Howard or Robert Menzies, Morrison rejected Labor’s class warfare theme. He decided Australia wasn’t a broken polity, that unlike the US it didn’t have a busted middle class without health insurance or proper school education. He decided the public didn’t want sweeping changes or the vast agenda of taxes and spending offered by Labor.

“This is the thing Australians really baulk at,” Morrison said before polling day. With voter distrust of politicians at an all-time high, Morrison said the public’s attitude was Labor will “stuff it up and won’t deliver on what they promised”. Morrison’s calculation was that the “quiet Australians” had no stomach for grand plans or ambitious reforms — they just wanted economic delivery they could rely on.

Morrison corrected for the mistakes of his predecessors: Tony Abbott was too ideological; Turnbull could not appeal to conservative voters because he was not a conservative. Morrison is a social conservative elected against Peter Dutton by the Liberal Party moderates. The logic of this vote defines his politics — a traditional, pragmatic conservatism tinged with some liberal instincts, spurning ideological aggression but reflecting the Howard legacy of border protection and national security vigilance.

As Morrison said, he will seek to govern “from the middle” while his opponents will be desperate to deny any such successful strategy. Morrison’s model is apparent — restrain spending but back the compassion politics of the NDIS and mental health; support a religious discrimination act but not a religious freedom act; support constitutional recognition but not the voice to parliament.

The trick, of course, is whether he can maintain economic growth without a far more ambitious reform agenda.


Global order, climate targets for newcomers

A crumbling global order and the fight against climate change are the key targets for Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott’s successors in parliament.

Wentworth Liberal MP Dave Sharma and Warringah independent Zali Steggall joined a host of other new MPs who gave their maiden speeches in parliament yesterday.

Mr Sharma, Australia’s former ambassador to Israel, warned that the decline of the US and the rise of China meant Australia needed a more independent foreign policy, even if it meant missing out on trade and market opportunities. “Our strategic holiday is over,” he told the house yesterday.

“Our neighbourhood is getting tougher; the certainties on which we’ve depended for decades are no longer so certain; and we will need to rely more on ourselves, and less on others, in safeguarding our freedoms and our independence.

“At times, we may need to pay an economic or political price — a trade opportunity forgone, a market missed, a bumpy period in diplomatic relations — in order to retain our freedom of action as an independent and sovereign nat­ion, or to stand up for values we support, or to uphold key principles in the current global order.”

The new MP for Wentworth echoed Mr Turnbull in calling for greater investment in technology start-ups and argued for more political stability safeguarded by four-year parliamentary terms.

“During my time as Australia’s ambassador to Israel, I dealt with only one Israeli prime minister, but I served four different Australian prime ministers,” he said.

Ms Steggall, who defeated Mr Abbott in the Sydney seat of Warringah on a platform of tackling climate change, said conservatives needed to lead on the environment and pointed to another conservative leader, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. “In the 1980s, a conservative Thatcher government led the way in banning CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) in the atmosphere,” Ms Steggall said.

“Thatcher’s words to the UN General Assembly in 1989 are ­appropriate today: ‘We carry common burdens, face common problems and must respond with common action.’

“I urge this 46th parliament to be remembered for developing a comprehensive plan to decarbonise every polluting sector by 2050 and then putting it into action.”

Ms Steggall became emotional as she recalled her time in 1998 as a bronze medal-winning Winter Olympian.

“It was a long hard and often lonely road, with many sacrifices but ultimately so rewarding as I took Australia to the peak of alpine skiing,” she said. “I felt a huge sense of responsibility representing Australia … especially when carrying the Australian flag into the closing ceremony in Nagano.”


 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

1 comment:

Paul said...

Puts the Mad in Maddy.