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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 871

Senator HARRADINE(11.30) —The aim of a university, as I understand it , is to seek the truth. Senator Ryan's most recent contribution to the debate certainly does not fit that description because she has shrouded the truth in a smoke-screen of innuendo against those of us who are supporting the amendment now before the chamber. She virtually said that that amendment is motivated by some undemocratic view that unless student bodies toe the line--

Senator Ryan —That is right.

Senator HARRADINE —The Minister says: 'That is right'. She confirms what I am saying; she has shrouded the truth in a smoke-screen of innuendo. She has now confirmed that she said that the motivation behind the amendment is some undemocratic view that unless students toe some authoritarian line, the integrity of student bodies ought in some way to be undermined. That is not the situation at all. I thought I made my view on that aspect perfectly clear in a previous speech. What we are trying to do is to protect the rights and consciences of students. What has been suggested now in the debate is that because the Australian National University Council has made a decision, we ought to follow. First of all, there is some doubt about whether the ANU Council initiated this matter--

Senator Peter Rae —There is no doubt about that. It certainly did not initiate it.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Rae happens to be on the ANU Council and he now confirms that it did not initiate the measure.

Senator Ryan —They opposed it in 1978.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Ryan says that the Council opposed it in 1978.

Senator Ryan —That is right, and they have retained that opposition all along.

Senator HARRADINE —I am glad the honourable senator said that. Through you, Mr Chairman, I ask Senator Ryan whether she remembers the Peter Berzins case, which is a case in point. This is one reason why I mentioned that we should not take a great deal of notice of what the University Council might or might not say.

Senator Ryan —Oh!

Senator HARRADINE —I ask the honourable senator to listen. There was a case involving Peter Berzins at the ANU. I think it was in 1977. This student objected to his money being paid out by the university body to an outside pro- abortion lobby. Because he objected the University Council refused to have his examinations corrected. Is that democracy? Is that how we think that the universities should seek the truth? Students go to universities to study, to seek the truth and to have their grasp of the truth examined. On that occasion the university denied that right to that student because of his firmly held conscientious belief that none of his money should go to an outside organisation promoting a pro-abortion attitude which violated his conscience. I did not raise 1978; the Minister did. Let us concentrate this debate on why this measure came before us in the first place. The Berzins example provides one of the reasons why it came before us.

The Government is now trying to say that in a similar event it would not demand that a new Peter Berzins join this organisation, but that it would demand that he pay the organisation. If the Government insisted, because that organisation said so, that some of his money was to go to outfits outside the university promoting beliefs which violated his conscience, it would be undermining the rights and consciences of individual students. I am not necessarily talking about internal organisations in the university. Of course, all sorts of viewpoints need to be expressed and exposed within the university campus. That is part of seeking the truth. But if students' money is allowed to be used to promote activities outside the university campus, including radio station 3CR which is violently anti-Jewish, the rights of individual students not only to the integrity of their conscientious beliefs but also to their intellectual integrity will be denied, because one would be saying: 'If they do not pay the money, their exams are not corrected'.