Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010; Second Reading

6:01 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Mason. How could I forget my friend and colleague Senator Gary Humphries, who was president of the ANU Liberal Club in the 1980s! There are many more others and I hope I may be forgiven over any of the oversights which I may have made.

Let me conclude by making this point. Freedom is indivisible. One of the great lessons we have learned since the Enlightenment, one of the great lessons of the West, is that you cannot have the authoritarian cast of mind for some purposes and the Liberal cast of mind for others. If you believe in freedom, you believe in intellectual freedom and you believe in freedom of association and you believe in academic freedom and you believe in civil liberty. You believe in them all because you believe in freedom, choice and the rights of the person as a core value. The person who tells you, 'We will have compulsion in the affairs of university students,' is the same person who, out of the other corner of their mouth, will be saying, 'We will not have academic freedom either.'

If you do not believe in freedom for one purpose, you do not believe in freedom for all purposes. So beware, as I have said throughout the course of these remarks, of the authoritarian cast of mind, incipient in student activists of the Left. The current Prime Minister began her career as an activist of the hard Left on university campuses and only gradually traded away her hard Left dogmatic beliefs for a kind of flimsy pragmatism. But she remained an authoritarian throughout, as is seen even today in her approach to the issue of asylum seekers.

The authoritarian cast of mind is of a piece, just as the liberal cast of mind is of a piece. Either you believe, in the pith and marrow of your bones, that a good society is a society in which everybody is enabled to be free and not imposed upon or bossed around or forced to do what it would choose not freely to do or you believe that human nature is at its best and most noble if people do have free choice. The great pioneers of and the great warriors for voluntary student unionism have carried the torch of freedom on university campuses in this country for 30 years and they have carried that torch of freedom much more loyally than left-wing academics, who mouth pieties about academic freedom but nevertheless impose the cultural values of the Left, have ever done. It is a setback for them and it is a setback for us today but they will live to fight and to prevail again.


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