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Sharri, Sky News, 30 April 2024

TopicsUniversity anti-Israeli encampments, lack of action from Vice Chancellors and the Education Minister.

Sharri Markson: Now let’s bring in our Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson. Sarah, what’s your response to the fact that I’ve just obtained leaked documents from the University of Sydney where they don’t think there’s anything wrong with students chanting `Intifada’?

Senator Henderson: Sharri, good evening and the revelations that you have just broadcast are, frankly, shocking. And it is now clear that the University of Sydney is not a safe place for Jewish students and staff. This is appalling. (Vice Chancellor) Mark Scott needs to immediately intervene and, frankly, fix this chaos at the University of Sydney. There are very strong policies at all universities, including at Sydney, which guard students against harassment, intimidation, threats of violence, and the bottom line is Sharri, the universities are not taking any action. I just heard you reference the University of Sydney’s statement, they talked about taking some disciplinary action, but have they taken any action against students guilty of this horrendous and shocking conduct? I have to say and I’m listening to all this unfold right now, on air. This is appalling. Whoever has given this advice needs to go from the university and what the hell is the Minister for Education doing? Why has he not intervened? Why has he not demanded that these protests be shut down, that the rule of law, frankly, be followed that the police be called in when necessary, and that the university comply with its very broad ranging policies. Kick these students out, expel them, take their enrolments away. You know, tinkering at the edges is not good enough. And as we’ve talked about a few weeks ago, Sharri, two academics from Tel Aviv University were barricaded into a room. There’s meant to be an investigation. What has happened to that? It’s an absolute dog’s breakfast, but the buck stops with the Minister for Education who is responsible for the higher education sector. I’ve called for him to resign if he can’t get this under control, but government has lost all control. And, frankly, this is absolutely shocking.

Sharri Markson: They just seem, I mean, Jason Clare gave me a strong, for him, statement last night, which I read on air. But it just seems like the government wants to ignore this issue. They want to hope it goes away. And the reality is, and this isn’t just University of Sydney – we’re seeing similar at Melbourne University. You know, the anti-Israel sentiment at these Australian universities have been simmering even long before October the 7th. But this escalation is a copycat of what we’re seeing unfold in Colombia and other American universities. What is the best way to handle this? We’ve seen that overseas, police have been called, students who have been arrested. That hasn’t happened here. I can tell you that an email went out to parents of students or to the students themselves who are graduating at the University of Sydney tomorrow. And they say `Be aware that there’s an encampment’. I mean, all of these students are going to have their graduation photographs with pro-Palestinian encampment and probably the loudspeaker chants in the background, disturbing the whole thing. Why can’t the university move it off? Shut it down.

Senator Henderson: Well, Sharri, it is a direct breach of the rules of the university to camp overnight. So, number one, get the police in and arrest the students and get them off. Shut down the tents and these tent cities. Secondly, I was looking at the same document that you were looking at which is the `Freedom of Expression at the University of Sydney’ guide. Now, this is a guide, would you believe, for protesters and activists and it makes it clear: `… the university can take reasonable and proportionate measures to restrict speech that causes or is likely to cause an imminent risk of public disorder, undue interference in the rights of others, including in relation to the grounds of race, colour or national or ethnic origin’. So here are these policies. What is the Vice Chancellor doing? And what is the Prime Minister doing because, frankly, the Minister for Education Jason Clare, he has shown no interest in taking the strong action and saying, `I’m sorry, I’m not going to cop this on my watch’. He has the highest number of Muslims in his electorate of any in the country. He’s more concerned about protecting his own political survival, frankly, than anything else. The Prime Minister needs to intervene and put into the job a minister for education who is prepared to stand up to these universities. It is, as I say, it’s appalling. And as for the `kids’ excursion protest’, where children were encouraged to chant those horrific violent chants. It is just unacceptable. Why hasn’t the university taken strong action? Frankly, that academic from Macquarie, Randa Abdel-Fattah, she should be sacked. Her grant for $837,000 must be cancelled. And again, this is a complete weakness of leadership from both universities and the minister.

Sharri Markson: Yeah, indeed it is. Sarah Henderson. Thank you very much for speaking out so strongly on this issue. Appreciate your time.

Sarah Henderson: Thanks, Sharri.

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