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2CC, Breakfast with Stephen Cenatiempo, 3 May 2024

TopicsAnti-Israeli protests, Lack of action from university Vice Chancellors and the Education Minister, Randa Abdel-Fattah.

Stephen Cenatiempo: On the line, Shadow Education Minister, Sarah Henderson – Sarah, it is absolutely extraordinary that we are not getting any leadership from anybody on this.

Senator Henderson: Well, Stephen, it is absolutely extraordinary that essentially the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and the Education Minister, Jason Clare have been missing in action. And now we see, of course, the chancellors making that completely inadequate statement, which did not even directly condemn anti-Semitism and all the horrific things which have been happening on campus. And even though they were responding to a letter from the Australian Academic Alliance against anti-Semitism… this is also a failure of leadership. And what is particularly concerning, they referred, of course, to their wide-ranging policies in place and, and codes of conduct which protect students and staff from threats, intimidation, racial vilification and harassment. But they didn’t actually seem to be concerned about the fact that these policies are not being appropriately enforced. The universities are simply not acting. And you just played a clip of that ANU student endorsing Hamas, a terrorist organisation. Why is that student still at ANU? She should be immediately expelled. These universities have got to stand up for the safety of all students and staff. It is getting out-of-control, this government has lost control and frankly, Jewish Australians are being profoundly betrayed by this government.

Stephen Cenatiempo: But I think there’s a broader problem here and obviously, the issue at hand is anti-Semitism, and I understand that, but at a broader level, our universities are obviously failing our students. I mean, if that student at ANU thinks that Hamas deserves our unconditional support, you’ve got to wonder what information she’s being fed? She also said this in an interview that she conducted on the ABC the day before yesterday with Ross Solly their Drive announcer, when he questioned her about the October 7 attacks and Hamas killing innocent Israelis, this was what she had to say:

StudentWell, that’s actually, like, the thing about babies being killed and, like, the number is quite false, right that there’s been a lot of misinformation spread around about who killed who, right? And, actually, like, there is lot of evidence to say that Israel and the IDF themselves actually also did murder a lot of their own people.

Stephen Cenatiempo: I mean, it’s extraordinary that … a place of higher learning is, is producing these kinds of students.

Senator Henderson: Stephen, it is and what the university leadership is failing to do in not complying with its own policies – it is fueling anti-Semitism. It is allowing stuff to breed on campus, and you’re right. This is a much broader problem. This isn’t just said about anti-Semitism. This is about the sort of behaviour at our universities which is dividing Australia. Australian parents need to know that when they send their children to university, that their children will be safe. That they’re there for education not indoctrination. And while of course, there is a fundamental right to protest, there is a fundamental right to free speech and to academic freedom – that is not absolute. And if you look at what is happening in Princeton University in the United States, they have what’s called `Time and Place’ protests, where students are allowed to exercise their free speech and protest, but they’re not allowed to blockade buildings, they’re not allowed to conduct themselves in a way which is unlawful and they’ve really drawn a very strong line. And you’ve got in some universities like Melbourne and Sydney, and ANU is getting worse, (these) encampments – the university Vice Chancellors are allowing those tent cities to be established, when of course you cannot camp overnight at any university. And in making all sorts of concessions, in a way, which is causing enormous safety fears for students

Stephen Cenatiempo: Can the education minister step in and sack these chancellors?

Senator Henderson: He doesn’t have direct power to, but the education minister can do a lot more than he’s already doing. He can demand that these policies are enforced. He can get rid of the academic Randa Abdel-Fattah …

Stephen Cenatiempo: She’s the one who took the 10-year-old kids to the rally …

Senator Henderson: Yes and encouraged children to yell and chant `Intifada’. I mean, she won an $837,000 Australian Research Council grant. I’ve been calling all week for that grant to be cancelled because of her conduct. And there are grounds for that grant to be cancelled. And yet the minister is refusing to intervene. I mean, Stephen, as I’ve said, throughout the week, if the minister is not prepared to do the job of the minister for education and run the higher education sector properly – he should step down and allow someone else to do the job. But the problem is, of course, from the very top, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has shown no interest in this issue. And now we see our universities being dragged into this chaos. Enormous safety concerns for Jewish students and staff, and the reputation of our universities is now facing the risk of being irreparably harmed.

Stephen Cenatiempo: So, I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

Senator Henderson: Thanks so much, Stephen

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