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Kenny Report, Sky News, 2 May 2024

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

Chris Kenny: Let’s bring in the Shadow Education Minister, Sarah Henderson, now joining us live from Geelong. Thanks for joining us, Sarah. I’m very keen to get your thoughts on what’s happening at our universities and how the university leadership should be tackling it?

Senator Henderson: Well, Chris good evening. That was a very comprehensive and impressive editorial from you, summing up some of the very alarming issues at Australian universities, particularly Melbourne Uni and Sydney Uni. It is appalling that the university Vice Chancellors are not taking appropriate action. The fact is, Chris, there are very comprehensive policies which safeguard students against intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and the like and they are not enforcing those policies. And we have seen the weakest education minister ever in the shape of Jason Clare, who frankly, if he can’t do the job, he should go because there is much more that universities should be doing to ensure that campuses are safe for all students. Of course, particularly Jewish students as well as Jewish staff.

Chris Kenny: Now, I’ve discussed this issue with students face-to-face and seen them refuse to condemn Hamas and refuse to call for the release of hostages. I think that is incredibly weak and heartless, but it’s the next level. It’s taking that next step to have university students on air actively supporting Hamas. Now, given there are listed terrorist organisation, including in this country, surely it’s even illegal to be publicly supporting Hamas?

Senator Henderson: Well, why hasn’t the universities, particularly Melbourne and Sydney, called in the police? I mean, there are very strong criminal sanctions against racial vilification in this is blatant threats of violence to some students at universities. Chris, shockingly weak leadership. I do note the Vice Chancellor of Sydney, Mark Scott, has said he is investigating some matters. But frankly, this is not nearly enough. And why are the encampments allowed? You are not allowed to camp overnight at any university, and yet the leadership of the universities is tolerating this sort of behaviour. I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen from the likes of Princeton University in the US where they have time and place protests. So, you’re allowed to protest, you’re allowed to exercise your freedom of speech, your academic freedoms but you must do so in a certain place and time so that buildings cannot be blockaded, so that unlawful activity is not sanctioned by the universities. If this keeps going, we are going to see this get worse and the reputation of our universities is going down the drain and it’s happening on Labor and Jason Clare’s watch.

Chris Kenny: Yeah, it’s a big mistake to think they should go quietly and this will go away. They should be trying to get rid of it. Now let me show you and remind our viewers of the footage we saw of children being dragooned into this protest, children chanting `Intifada’ at Sydney University.

Excerpt of protests

Chris Kenny: Yes, Sarah, as education spokesperson, the concern about children being chanting `intifada’, which is an armed uprising which has led to terrorist attacks on Israelis for many, decades. And the fact that this child protest was orchestrated and endorsed by another academic, Randa Abdel-Fattah from Macquarie University. She’s in receipt of government grants to do research on areas like Islamophobia and the like. I mean, what are we doing throwing money at her to sow division in our community along such dangerous fractures?

Senator Henderson: Well, Chris I’ve called for that grant a very substantial amount of money, $837,000 to be terminated. Again, the Education Minister, Jason Clare, has refused to intervene, which is absolutely pathetic, absolutely spineless. It is very clear this academic has breached the responsible code of research, which applies to every Australian Research Council grant. She should be sacked from Macquarie University. The indoctrination of children encouraging them to make these threatening and violent chants is absolutely appalling. And the fact that Sydney University hasn’t banned this academic, I mean, what the hell are they doing, Chris? I am just becoming more and more angry as each day passes with the weak and pathetic leadership from our universities and from this Labor government. She needs to be sacked, the ARC grant needs to be cancelled. And frankly, the minister also needs to investigate whether that money needs to be refunded because one of the fundamentals of conducting responsible research is to treat people with respect. And researchers are also compelled to follow all university guidelines and policies and laws. And there’s no way that she’s complied with university policy. So, on that basis alone, she does not deserve this grant. And as I say, Chris it just shows the pathetic and weak leadership from the education minister that he hasn’t taken the appropriate action on this academic.

Chris Kenny: Well, don’t lose that anger, Sarah, because I’m certain that’s shared by most sensible Australians. Thanks so much for joining us there. Senator Sarah Henderson, who’s the Shadow Education Minister joining us live from Melbourne.

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