New Tassie Politician Defends Freedom of Thought

I often describe Tasmanian politics as a cross between a small-town Rotary Club and a special school. We make the shenanigans of the kidults in the Beehive look like the acme of cosmopolitan sophistication, by contrast. Worse, thanks to an electoral system every bit as arcane as New Zealand’s MMP, Tassie’s state politics is disproportionately dominated by green-left micro-politicians pandering to the Sandy Bay cafe set.

Thankfully, slightly more sanity reigns at the Federal level. Naturally, then, it’s been left to a federal senator to kick against the pricks of leftist groupthink poisoning higher education.

Tasmanian Liberal senator Claire Chandler has highlighted the importance of academic freedom and diversity of thought during her maiden speech to the Senate on Tuesday.

“We are living in a country where universities are shutting down debate,” Senator Chandler said.

Senator Chandler recalled having her perspective rejected by lecturers and other students when she was studying law and political science at the University of Tasmania on the basis she was “just a Young Liberal”.

“Surely universities should encourage the consideration and debate of a range of views – not dismiss certain perspectives out of hand while endorsing other views without scrutiny?” she said.

“While I was involved in campus politics while at university I was acutely aware of the contrast my views presents to the majority of students, and indeed lecturers, around me…Since my time at university, however, it appears that left-wing activism and group-think has only increased, at the expense of genuine and free academic inquiry.”

This is not an isolated incident. Jewish students report that university campuses are becoming increasingly hostile and violent left-wing activists regularly attack and drive out speakers who challenge their orthodoxies and academics are sacked for daring to disagree with conventional wisdoms. Here in Tasmania, students whose views are even slightly to the right of Marx and Engels say that they quickly learn to keep their mouths shut. I have been informed of incidents such as a lecturer branding a student a “fascist” for being a Christian.

At the heart of the problem is a glaring lack of basic civics education. Youngsters hold profoundly anti-democratic views in no small part because they don’t actually understand how democracies like ours work.

Senator Chandler said she believed Australia has shied away from educating young people about democracy.

“We’re afraid we won’t be able to teach them without being inherently political,” Senator Chandler said.

“It is absolutely possible to provide the next generation with a comprehensive civics education that maintains an appropriate level of impartiality.

“As a person who was inspired through my own education to learn more about our Parliament and our democracy, and who has eventually ended up elected to serve my state, I think we owe it to the future success of our democracy to ensure children understand and value our political institutions.”

Not least is the importance of representative governance. Just like sore-loser Democrats who whine about the Electoral College in the US, leftists in Australia can’t seem to fathom that government has to represent everybody, not just the handful of inner cities – the “five teeming sores”, as Alec Derwent called them – where the green-left elites coagulate.

“Tasmania may only be a small island, but it is certainly a diverse one, with more than 60 per cent of our population living outside our capital city of Hobart,” she said.

“To put this in perspective, Queensland is the only other state where more people live outside the capital city than in it.

As one businessman warned me when I moved here, Tasmania is plagued with a “can’t-do” attitude. It doesn’t help that fly-in-fly-out Mainland activists are determined to keep Tasmania locked up as their personal national park.

Senator Chandler expressed her concerns that progress and investment were being driven out of Tasmania.

“It seems that wherever there is opportunity and success in Tasmania, the anti-everything brigade are quickly on the scene, determined to stop progress at all costs,” Senator Chandler said.

“Ironically, it’s those that like to call themselves ‘progressive’ who are always at the forefront of these efforts to prevent progress.