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University of Tasmania - Freedom of Speech

8 August 2019

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for EDUCATION and TRAINING, Mr ROCKLIFF

In recent weeks pro-democracy students have posted a symbolic Lennon Wall at the University of Tasmania's student lounge, with hundreds of messages of support and solidarity for students fighting for their freedom in Hong Kong. The wall was torn down by pro-Beijing students a bit over a week ago, breaking the hearts of students from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and then replaced by students who stand with Hong Kong. The night before last, it was torn down again in defiance of a statement from UTAS management that 'the protection of freedom of speech on a university campus is paramount'. Are you concerned about attempts to crush freedom of speech on the UTAS campus and will you today condemn these acts and make a strong statement of support for prodemocracy students on the UTAS campus?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I am prepared to make a strong statement in respect to freedom of speech at the university campus, or anywhere, quite frankly. Freedom of speech is paramount, particularly when it comes to our student voice. That is why, as Minister for Education and Training, when students recently rose to speak about climate change I did not condemn them having a say. My interest as minister was about ensuring student safety and we knew exactly where they were when they were protesting outside Parliament House. We welcome the student voice. As I said to the youth at the Youth Parliament here a few weeks ago, in many respects the young people's voice is our social conscience when it comes to our community -

Ms O'Connor - Make a statement of support for the students in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, I have to be fair to everyone.

Mr ROCKLIFF - We are a democratic state and a democratic nation. We will always stand up for democracy and freedom of speech.