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Sharri, Sky News, 17 October 2023

Sharri Markson: Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson is on a mission to force our elected representatives and education bodies to take antisemitism in universities and in schools more seriously. She wrote to Education Minister Jason Clare, who wrote back to tell Sarah Henderson that the government is now working to establish a working group to advise ministers on what steps need to be taken to improve student and staff safety on campus. He says this is going to be expanded to look at the specific issues of concern relating to Jewish student. Sarah Henderson says this doesn’t go far enough to protect students and she joins me now. Sarah, thank you so much for your time. So you’ve taken the initiative in the wake of the antisemitism we’ve seen and the anti-Israel sentiment at universities in the wake of these terror attacks, to write to Jason Clare, the Education Minister. What did he say back to you?

Senator Henderson: Well, Sharri, good evening and great to join you. And I’ve actually written to the minister twice, once a number of days ago and now again today. The minister did outline the various measures and his concerns about the safety of students, including in relation to the working group and expanding the remit of the working group. He also said he’s seeking information from every vice-chancellor and also the states and territories which run schools. And that’s all well and good, but I believe that urgent action is required to support Jewish educational institutions – Jewish schools and Jewish childcare centres which need to upgrade their security measures. The government does have a fund in place that is being fast-tracked, but I cannot stress how important this is that these institutions are immediately and urgently supported, Sharri.

Sharri Markson: Look, I think there’s two issues here. The one is the actual safety of students going to Jewish schools, and that is a serious issue. And I’m glad that you’re calling for extra security because that’s definitely needed. But then there’s the separate issue, and I get emails every single day from viewers about this, which is the really strong anti-Israel sentiment, and it borders on antisemitism that we’re seeing in university campuses, across the country, across the globe, really. But how concerning is this, that there are so many university academics who, in the wake of the terror attacks, like two days afterwards, started a new petition to support, boycott divestment and sanctions movement?

Senator Henderson: Sharri, this is deeply concerning. Jewish students have already revealed a survey which shows that two thirds of Jewish students on Australian university campuses have experienced antisemitism in the last 12 months. So many Jewish students don’t even want to talk about or demonstrate that they are Jewish on campus. It is a really serious issue. And a week ago there were terrible signs at Sydney University. Jewish students complained about these signs and a gathering – an anti-Israeli gathering – and Sydney University took no action. I have to say, Melbourne University, there was a sign, apparently with a razor blade attached to the back of it. Melbourne University took this very seriously, reported this to police. So some universities have been better than others, but frankly there is a particular concern about the safety of Jewish students on Australian campuses. Look, let’s face it, Sharri, Australian Jewish families are frightened to death even about sending their kids to Jewish schools and childcare centres. And that’s why it is critical that the government respond immediately in every way possible. But it is disgraceful. I condemn these university academics who have shown no regard for Jewish students. It’s absolutely pathetic.

Sharri Markson: Look, we’ve just got a minute left, so I just want to ask, you know we’ve seen that there was senior University of Sydney staff who attended that first protest where people were chanting, “gas the Jews”. What leadership do you think we need to see from the University of Sydney Dean?

Senator Henderson: Well, I do not understand why the University of Sydney tolerates this behaviour. That protest at the Sydney Opera House was absolutely disgraceful. The chants were disgraceful. I cannot believe that criminal charges have not been laid in relation to the conduct, the horrific antisemitic conduct. So frankly, any academic that attends any such protest should no longer have a job. That is the bottom line, and I cannot believe the university vice-chancellors are tolerating any of this antisemitism on their campuses.

Sharri Markson: Yeah, very strong words there. Sarah Henderson saying that any academics who attended that antisemitism protest should no longer have a job. Thank you so much for your support and for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.

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