National should look at this in NZ

The Guardian reports:

Among the other government proposals that will be fleshed out on Tuesday is the appointment of a “free speech champion” who will investigate potential infringements of free speech in higher education and recommend redress.

In addition, a new free speech condition will be placed on universities in order to be registered and access public funding, and the higher education regulator in England, the Office for Students (OfS), will have the power to impose fines in the case of breaches.

Under the proposals, the government wants to introduce a statutory tort for breaches of the free speech duty, which would enable academic staff or students who have been expelled, dismissed or demoted to seek redress through the courts.

And for the first time the free speech duty will apply directly to student unions, which will be required to take steps to ensure free speech for their members as well as visiting speakers. The government is also looking at bringing student unions, which are currently governed by the Charity Commission, under OfS control.

Announcing the measures, the education secretary said: “Free speech underpins our democratic society and our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open mind.

“But I am deeply worried about the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring. That is why we must strengthen free speech in higher education, by bolstering the existing legal duties and ensuring strong, robust action is taken if these are breached.”

We’re not as bad in NZ as in the UK, but the Don Brash fiasco at Massey shows we are on the way. National should position itself as a champion of free speech, and propose similar legislation here.

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