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University encampments

This motion to suspend standing orders must be opposed. The encampments on university campuses are fuelling shocking levels of hate, incitement and antisemitism across this country. They are dividing students and they are causing extraordinary distress to Jewish students and staff. What is going on in Gaza right now is horrific. The Israel-Hamas war is horrific, but I condemn Senator Faruqi, who failed to condemn Hamas, the terrorists who have terrorised innocent Palestinians and who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children on 7 October last year and are still holding many hostages.

I commend Deakin University, which has shown leadership and has taken the very strong action to shut down the encampment at its Burwood campus. The request it has made to the organiser of the encampment is because of the university’s responsibility to ensure the safety, security and amenity of all campus users. The letter by Kerrie Parker, Deputy Vice-Chancellor University Services, reads: ‘The university takes its obligations in relation to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors to the campus very seriously. Our Deakin community and the individuals it comprises each have the right to access and enjoy a safe and secure learning and working environment free of impediment, intimidation and harassment. This is compromised by the continued presence of the encampment. The closure of Morgans Walk, a restriction brought about by the unacceptable behaviour of protesters, is creating an impediment to the normal use and function of the campus.’

Senator Faruqi’s representation that this is all peace and love is absolute rubbish. These encampments are causing hatred, distress and intimidation not just for Jewish students and staff but for so many visitors, students and staff on university campuses. The mother of a Jewish student wrote to me the other day and said, ‘My son is being told not to go into the quadrangle, which is the centre of the University of Sydney, because of the encampment.’ He is being barred from having free access to his own campus. It is an absolute disgrace. Frankly, this is a very important opportunity for the government to show leadership. It is a test of leadership for this hapless education minister, Mr Clare, and the Prime Minister, who need to say: ‘Enough is enough. The encampments must end.’
I salute Deakin University, which is showing leadership, which is taking a stand and which strongly supports free speech, the right to protest and academic freedom. The ability to undertake protest, political discourse and debate at Deakin and at every university should not be infringed upon or curtailed by activities which pose serious risks to students, staff and visitors at campuses. As Deakin says, the encampment there ‘poses hygiene and safety risks and restricts the access, availability and use of Deakin premises and facilities for the benefit of the Deakin community of users’.

So I say to the government and to Senator Chisholm, who I believe is going to speak next on this motion: please use this as an opportunity to at last take a strong stand against these encampments because, frankly, we have seen a shocking failure of leadership from the education minister, who could not even condemn or understand the use of terrorist chants like ‘intifada’, because they mean different things to different people. Even the Prime Minister had to step in and slap him down. This hapless education minister has failed to directly condemn the encouragement of children to chant terrorist chants, such as ‘intifada’, and it is time we saw leadership from the Albanese government to end the encampments.


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