And Academic Free Speech Threatened In Australian Universities
By Dr Gideon Polya
06 June, 2016
06 June, 2016
Academic freedom of speech is a cornerstone of university life but is under threat in neoliberal-dominated
Before detailing recent attacks on academic free speech in Australian universities, it is useful to spell out why academic free speech is critical for academic functions. Writing about 15 years ago in a detailed critique of academic self-censorship and censorship in Australian universities, I observed that “The core academic ethos involves commitment to truth, reason and free speech and these elements are operationally intimately intertwined in the concept of academic freedom. Academic freedom is critical for scholarly interaction, application of the scientific method and dissemination of findings to academic scholars, professionals and the lay public. In a wider social context academic freedom enables informed, critical positive and negative feedback within organizations and society as a whole. Academic freedom is presently under attack in
I made the following positive suggestions to improve academic free speech about 15 years ago (my present perceptions in 2016 are appended below in brackets):
i. Disclosure of managerial fraternal interests (Australian institutions are still largely managed by variously intersecting “boy's clubs” dominated by Prosperous Anglo-Celtic Men, or Pacmen) .
ii. Disclosure of interests and associations of university managers, middle managers and Council members (see i).
iii. Public audit and ranking of university ethical standards (especially re academic free speech).
iv. Our institutions and their managers should be regarded as suspect (
v. There is a need for a national university ombudsman (in addition to the National Tertiary Education Union oversight).
vi. There is a need for vigorous public advocacy for academics (in its absence, corporate Mainstream media-determined supine public opinion has permitted massive downsizing and casualization of academics).
vii. We need a special “free speech” status for academics (already provided for lying- and spin-enriched MPs speaking in Parliament but not for academics as professionals dedicated to truth, reason and informing the public).
viii. Finally, we should publicly insist that universities that constrain free speech are not fit for our children (academic free speech is the cornerstone of academia and vital for society) [1, 2].
Academics are stringently committed to truth whereas politicians and corporations lie. Thus Polya's 3 Laws of Economics mirror the 3 Laws of Therrnodynamics and are (1) Price minus COP (Cost of Production) equals profit; (2) Deception about COP strives to a maximum; and (3) No work, price or profit on a dead planet. These fundamental laws help expose the failure of neoliberal capitalism in relation to wealth inequality, the futility of lying, massive tax evasion by multinational corporations, and horrendous avoidable deaths from poverty and pollution culminating in general ecocide, speciescide, climate genocide, omnicide and terracide. Lying occurs via lies of commission and lies of omission, but lying by omission is far, far worse than lying by commission because at least the latter, while repugnant, at least admits the possibility of debate. One of the biggest lies of omission in
Of course free speech is vital in general for rational risk management that is crucial for societal safety and successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis, this involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses, and (c) informed systemic change to minimize risk. Unfortunately, this rational risk management protocol is typically perverted at the individual, family or local level, and at the level of the family of nations by (a) lying, self-deception, spin, obfuscation, intimidation and censorship, (b) anti-science spin, this involving the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position, and (c) blame and shame that is counterproductive because it blocks reportage crucial for rational risk management and in the worst cases leads to war.
Academic free speech is vital for societal risk management because academic scholarly specialists are smart, skilled and informed. However academics have become increasingly sidelined in an anti-science
At the everyday level of the economy, the currently dominant and obscenely wealthy neoliberal One Percenters subvert rational risk management by purchasing public perception of truth at the expense of sidelining the expert and informed opinions of expert academics. Thus
Thus, for example, Professor Piketty advocates public international wealth exposure and an annual wealth tax of up to 10% (noting that
At an existential level, mendacious, academic-sidelining, pro-One Percenter neoliberalism can be seen as deadly now and in the future. Thus poverty kills and one can readily estimate the associated carnage as avoidable deaths (avoidable mortality, excess deaths, excess mortality, untimely deaths, premature deaths, deaths that did not have to happen). Gross global inequity is presently associated annually with an estimated 17 million avoidable deaths in the Developing World (minus
The WHO informs that 7 million people die from air pollution each year, this including 10,000 Australians killed by carbon fuel burning pollutants and 75,000 people world-wide killed by pollutants from the export of Australian coal . 85,000 Australians die preventably each year from causes such as smoking, alcohol, obesity etc, the breakdown being (1) 26,000 annual Australian deaths from adverse hospital events, (2) 17,000 obesity-related Australian deaths, (3) 15,500 smoking-related Australian deaths, (4) 10,000 carbon burning pollution-derived Australian deaths, (5) 4,000 avoidable Indigenous Australian deaths, (6). 5,600 Australians die alcohol-related deaths, (7) 2,100 Australian suicides, (8) 1,400 Australian road deaths, (9) 630 Australian opiate drug-related deaths with 570 linked to US restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry, and (10) 300 Australian homicides (80 being of women killed domestically) . These horrendous specifics are nevertheless largely ignored in Murdochracy
Australian and Western corporate Mainstream media and politicians have sidelined expert climate scientists and biologists over the worsening climate emergency due to man-made climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The former Australian Federal Labor Government's expert Climate Commission of top academic scientists was set up to inform the public about climate change but was closed down by the subsequent reactionary Coalition Government – nevertheless, it reconstituted itself as a privately-funded Climate Council to properly inform the public. However, informed by the Murdoch media, most Australians don't regard climate change as the most important problem and the present Coalition Government is effectively climate change denalist through resolute climate change inaction. Indeed, despite massive coral bleaching this year on the Great Barrier Reef due to ocean warming, the Coalition Federal Government and the Labor Queensland State Government have approved the world's biggest coal mine that will deliver coal exports to ships traversing the dying, iconic reef, a World Heritage-listed natural wonder that neoliberal Australia is deliberately destroying, no matter the pleadings of coral scientists.
It gets worse. A catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise is now unavoidable and Canadian earth scientists have estimated that the result of burning the world's total fossil fuel reserves would be global mean warming of up to 10C [15, 16]. In 2016 we are seeing record atmospheric CO2 pollution of over 400 parts per million (ppm) that is increasing at a record rate of about 3 ppm per year, worst ever coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, worst ever seasonal melting of Arctic ocean sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, devastating wild fires in Canada linked to global warming, and record temperatures of 50C or more in some South Asian cities .
Massive Mainstream media and politician constraints on effective academic free speech is having a deadly impact on the world and even on rich
The latest Australian academic free speech scandal involves Melbourne's La Trobe University that is a good university with an excellent reputation for bringing tertiary education to underprivileged students from the working class northern suburbs of Melbourne and to other students who have not attended top private schools that are feeders for the very top Victorian universities, namely Monash University and the University of Melbourne. La
Dr Rox Ward (who co-founded, developed and currently directs the LGBTI children-protective Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, SSCV) had joked with a friend on Facebook: “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done”. The La Trobe University administration reacted by suspending Dr Ward, saying to Dr Ward that her comment had “Undermined public confidence in the Safe Schools program by undermining public confidence in you as a researcher and as a person associated with the Safe Schools program” . By this shocking decision the present La Trobe University administration has severely damaged La Trobe University's excellent reputation, the reputation of its past, present and future staff and students (I am an alumnus and taught there for about 40 years) , and indeed the reputation of all Australian universities and Australia. Academic freedom is the cornerstone of academic life.
Dr Roz Ward's comment was made on a personal Facebook account and was quite correct. There is nothing more racist than invading, devastating and ethnically cleansing other countries. The present Australian flag is certainly a racist flag and testament to centuries of genocidal British colonialism and over 2 centuries of genocidal White Australian invasion of other countries as
Cowardly, craven US lackey racist White Australia under the serial war criminal and climate criminal Coalition is currently involved in its Third Syrian War and Eighth Iraq War in a century, is second only to the US in backing genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel, and via Pine Gap is targeting war criminal, civilian-killing US drone strikes in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan… who's next under mass murderess and presumptive next US president, Hillary Clinton? Serial invader
After public outcry the La Trobe University administration reversed its decision but failed to apologize, with the Vice Chancellor (VC) saying that lengthy legal proceedings would not be in the best interests of the university. The disgraceful suspension of Dr Roz Ward was not in the best interests of the university. The present La Trobe University administration has severely damaged La Trobe University's excellent reputation with its shocking suspension of Dr Roz Ward that attacked academic free speech, the cornerstone of academic life. One hopes that it was not just threat of legal action but indignant public support for academic free speech that forced the La Trobe University administration to lift the suspension of Dr Roz Ward for telling the Awful Truth about Australian history. The damage is done but a comprehensive apology from the VC of La Trobe University would go some way to ameliorating the immense harm done to the reputation of La Trobe University, noting that from both a student and academic perspective, “La Trobe University” is not the derelict La Trobe University administration but the past, present and future staff and students of this fine institution.
The present La Trobe University administration was not alone in attacking academic free speech in
Notre Dame University Australia recently followed the lead of Notre Dame US (that forced out world-famous anti-racist Jewish scholar Dr Norman Finkelstein at the behest of racist Zionists) in attacking Dr Sandra Nasr, lecturer in Middle East politics at Notre Dame University,
Most Australian universities are linked to the egregiously censoring academia-linked web magazine The Conversation and my complaints to the VCs and other administrators of numerous censorship-complicit institutions were almost completely ignored (arrogant bad manners as well as academic free speech-betraying bad policy) . Codes of conduct severely limit academic free speech in Australian universities which are concerned that academic exercise of free speech might damage a corporate university's “brand”. Thus 2 decades ago Professor John Scott, a former and excellent vice-chancellor of La Trobe University - a university that has a splendid record of bringing tertiary education to less privileged, non-private school young Australians - commented: “The prime roles of a university are threefold: to teach, to conduct research and to provide service, including constructive criticism, to the community . The teaching role has been severely threatened . Fundamental research is now difficult to conduct . Critical comments by university staff have been censored . It is time that governments recognised that universities are not just an expensive luxury, but a highly important part of our national activity” . Unfortunately a new corporate-style university administration has emerged led by people who can often be seen as grossly over-paid and parasitic refugees from scholarship.
Things got even worse for Australian universities in 2012 with the passage of the Australia-United States Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty-related Defence Trade Controls Bill that make it an offence punishable by 10 years in prison for an academic without a permit to inform non-Australians (in conversation, tutorials, lectures, conference papers, scientific papers etc) about numerous technologies and thousands of chemicals and organisms listed in a presently 353-page Defence and Strategic Goods List . To give credit where it is due, Universities Australia (formerly the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee, AVCC) protested to the Federal Government over this appalling attack on academic free speech in
The rabidly pro-Zionist Coalition Federal Government has declared that it would cut off any Federal funding of academics who support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against nuclear terrorist, racist Zionist (RZ)-run, genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid
Australian academics are not only subject to dire threats against free speech but are also constrained in what they can read. Thus
Summary and conclusions.
Free speech is vital for an informed electorate and democracy. Academic free speech is vital for scholarly research, ethical teaching and for informing the public. However due to Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist (NAZI)-promoted terror hysteria, free speech is under increasing constraint in an increasing fascist Australia in which it is now punishable by up to life imprisonment to read, say or do certain things the government doesn't like. Increasingly corporatized universities are restricting academic free speech by “codes of conduct” and punishing academics for expressing controversial views. Academic free speech is vital for societal risk management because academic scholarly specialists are smart, skilled and informed. Academic free speech is particularly crucial in Murdochracy
. Gideon Polya “Current academic censorship and self-censorship in Australian universities”, Public University Journal, volume 1, Conference Supplement, “Transforming the Australia University”, Melbourne, 9-10 December 2001: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/57092/20080218-1150/www.publicuni.org/jrnl/volume/1/jpu_1_s_polya.pdf ] .
. Gideon Polya, “Current academic censorship and self-censorship in Australian universities”, Free University Education: https://sites.google.com/site/freeuniversityeducation/academic-censorship .
. “Free university education”: https://sites.google.com/site/freeuniversityeducation/home .
. Brian Ellis, “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics”,
. Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics” By Brian Ellis - Last Chance To Save Planet?”, Countercurrents, 19 August, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190812.htm .
. Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-first Century”, Harvard, 2014.
. Gideon Polya, “Key Book Review: “Capital In The Twenty-First Century” By Thomas Piketty”, Countercurrents, 01 July, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya010714.htm .
. “Boycott Murdoch Media”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottmurdochmedia/ .
. “1% ON 1%: one percent annual wealth tax on One Percenters” website ( https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/1-on-1 .
. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes an avoidable mortality-related history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com.au/ .
. Gideon Polya, “4 % Annual Global Wealth Tax To Stop The 17 Million Deaths Annually”, Countercurrents, 27 June, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya270614.htm .
. “Stop air pollution deaths”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/stop-air-pollution-deaths .
. Gideon Polya, “Coalition Climate Crimes & 200 Reasons Why Australia Must Dump Pro-coal, Pro-war Coalition PM Malcolm Turnbull”, Countercurrents, 1 November, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya011115.htm .
. Gideon Polya, “Australian Coalition Government Sacrifices Key Industries While Committing Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars To Carbon Pollution & War”, Countercurrents, 10 February, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya100214.htm .
. "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/too-late-to-avoid-global-warming .
. Katarzyna B. Tokarska, Nathan P. Gillett, Andrew J. Weaver, and Vivek K. Arora, “The climate response to five trillion tonnes of carbon”, Nature Climate Change, 23 May 2016: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate3036.html .
. Andy Rowell, “Scientists Warn Of 10C Warming As We “Dial Up Earth's Thermostat”, Oil Change International, 23 May, 2016: http://priceofoil.org/2016/05/23/scientists-warn-of-10c-warming-as-we-dial-up-earths-thermostat/ .
. Gideon Polya, “Exposing And Thence Punishing Worst Polluter Nations Via Weighted Annual Per Capita Greenhouse Gas Pollution Scores”, Countercurrents, 19 March, 2016: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190316.htm .
. “Gas is not clean energy”: https://sites.google.com/site/gasisnotcleanenergy/ .
. “Climate genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ .
. “2011 climate change course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course .
. Gideon Polya, “
. Chris Graham, “” Latrobe suspends safe schools co-founder and academic Rzoz Ward for criticizing “racist” Australian flag”, 1 June 2016: https://newmatilda.com/2016/06/01/latrobe-suspends-safe-schools-co-founder-and-academic-roz-ward-for-criticising-racist-australian-flag/ .
. Gideon Polya, “As UK Lackeys Or US Lackeys Australians Have Invaded 85 Countries (British 193, French 80, US 70)”, Countercurrents, 9 February, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya090215.htm .
. Gideon Polya, “Review: “The Cambridge History Of Australia” Ignores Australian Involvement In 30 Genocides”, Countercurrents, 14 October, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya141013.htm .
. Jake Lynch, “Jake Lynch: my year of fighting anti-Semitism charges”, Crikey, 16 July 2014: https://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/16/jake-lynch-my-year-of-fighting-anti-semitism-charges/ .
. Gideon Polya, “Academic Free Speech Under Zionist Attack At Notre Dame Australia And
. Gideon Polya, “Censorship And Holocaust Ignoring Make The University Of Melbourne Unfit For Students”, Countercurrents, 5 November, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya051112.htm .
. “Censorship by The Conversation”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by .
. Gideon Polya, “Crisis in our universities”, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National, Ockham's Razor, 19 August 2001: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/crisis-in-our-universities/3490214#transcript and “Free university education”: https://sites.google.com/site/freeuniversityeducation/home ).
. “Impact of the Defence Trade Controls Bill on academic freedom”, NTEU: 10 October 2012: http://www.nteu.org.au/article/Impact-of-the-Defence-Trade-Controls-Bill-on-academic-freedom-13461 .
. Ean Higgins, “Libs to cut funding for anti-Israel activists”, The Australian, 25 May 2013: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/libs-to-cut-funding-for-anti-israel-activists/story-fn59niix-1226650231080 .
. “Boycott Apartheid
. “Gaza Concentration Camp”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/gaza-concentration .
. “Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ .
. “Non-Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/nonjewsagainstracistzionism/ .
. “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/nuclear-weapons-ban
. “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .
. Helen Brown, “Melbourne Uni to challenge terrorism laws”, ABC TV Lateline, 2 October 2006: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2006/s1753912.htm .
. Gideon Polya, “Terror Hysteria - Draconian New Australian Anti-Terrorism Laws Target Journalists, Muslims And Human Rights”, Countercurrents, 8 October, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya0810114.htm .
. Bill Rowlings, “I could go to jail for this next month”, Civil Liberties Australia, 26 August 2014: http://www.cla.asn.au/News/i-could-go-to-jail-for-this-next-month/ .
. Sarah Sedghi, “” Border Force Act could see detention centre workers jailed for whistleblowing”, ABC News, 1 July 2015: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-30/detention-centre-workers-face-imprisonment-for-whistleblowing/6584392 .
Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis,
) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan,