Trying to interfere with ANU never goes particularly well for conservatives. Tony Abbott and his senior ministers led the charge against the university for divesting in fossil fuel company Santos in 2014, declaring the university was "stupid" to offload its investment. Weeks later, Santos' share price fell off a cliff and four years on remains less than half of its level when Abbott and co were assailing the university. Oddly, we haven't heard much from the government about ANU and Santos in recent times.

Abbott and his friends at News Corp have launched another holy war against ANU, this time over its reluctance to provide a figleaf of academic credibility to a culture war thinktank. Malcolm Turnbull, who sensibly declined to offer investment advice the last time ANU was in reactionary sights, has this time joined in, saying he would grill ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt about knocking back the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. That might be a difficult phone call for the Prime Minister, who wouldn't be used to talking to someone who is not merely smarter than he is, but several orders of magnitude so.