Students at the University of Melbourne protest a visit by Tony Abbott in 2014 (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

Last week Crikey added up the cost of the free-speech martyrdom of climate and reef science sceptic Peter Ridd.

Ridd’s sacking by James Cook University has launched court actions, occupied valuable Senate committee airtime and been a cause celebre of the free market pressure group, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which has a related taxpayer-subsidised charity arm.

It has also been on the agenda of a federal government inquiry — established by Education Minister Dan Tehan — into freedom of expression on campuses, with former Deakin University vice-chancellor professor emeritus Sally Walker appointed to review the workings of a new model code to be introduced by universities by the end of the year.

So what are the other free speech issues put forward by the IPA (apart from buckling to pressure from Chinese national students)? Here are some examples:

  • The sub-editor of a student newspaper at the Australian National University censored student opinion pieces following the election of Donald Trump
  • The Australian National University was criticised for rejecting the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation following internal opposition
  • Deakin Young Socialist Alliance members were asked by the Deakin University Student Association to remove t-shirts critical of former prime minister Tony Abbott
  • Abbott was forced to cancel a visit to Deakin University following security and logistical issues posed by protests
  • Academics at Flinders University rejected the university’s plan to host a Bjørn Lomborg-run Research Centre with $4 million of federal government money, labelling Lomborg as “infamous” for his views on climate change
  • La Trobe University refused to allow anti-transgender speaker Babette Francis to book a venue for an event
  • Monash University withdrew a textbook that included a quiz question which offended Chinese students. The Monash academic who set the quiz was temporarily suspended and voluntarily left the university following the furore
  • The University of Melbourne Student Union held workshops on “male privilege”
  • UNSW told students not to use the term “marriage” when referring to the well-known “marriage theorem” in mathematics because this could cause “offence”
  • The University of Sydney refused to provide students with a venue to host Australian Christian Lobby head Lyle Shelton
  • The University of Sydney refused to answer questions relating to its short-lived decision to ban a Palestinian-American activist, amid claims administrators singled him out for his support of boycotts against Israel.
Peter Fray

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