campus free speech
(Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

It's a sector that generated nearly $38 billion in exports last year, embodies the long-sought dream of Australian economic engagement with Asia and employs over a quarter of a million people.

So why is our university sector so politically powerless, indeed, treated with contempt by the government?

The iron ore mining sector, which generated $77 billion in exports but employs around 100,000 people, is far more powerful. Figures like Andrew Forrest are treated with something approaching awe; Forrest can even ambush and humiliate a minister and criticise the government's failure to appease Beijing, and barely a word is said against him or his company.