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Adelaide University Student Union is gagging freedom of speech by banning the distribution of material opposed to compulsory membership.

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PETER CAVE: Adelaide’s University Student Union has been accused of gagging freedom of speech by banning the distribution of material opposed to compulsory membership. Federal Liberal MP, Christopher Pyne, says the union is using standover tactics to try and silence dissent on campus, as he explained to Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: This university union at Adelaide University wants to not only deny people freedom of association, to join a union or not join it, but they also want to deny people freedom of speech and the right to promote their causes. Universities across Australia promote things like how to avoid drink-driving offences or how to shoplift successfully, but you’re not apparently allowed to promote voluntary student unionism.


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Have you seen this material that’s being circulated?


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, I haven’t seen it, but what it is is posters promoting a talk that I’m giving next week at the university in favour of voluntary student unionism. It really is an egregious example of heavy-handed union thuggery, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Stalinist Russia. Freedom of speech is an inherent political right which, when put in jeopardy, is a matter of great importance, and Australians should be outraged that a university union thinks it’s acceptable to write in a letter something like:  distribution of ... material will not be permitted within or around the union premises, as though they have a right to say what will or won’t be distributed around a union premises.


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But do you really think that they can police that, that they can put that ban into effect?


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I’m certain that the Liberal Club will defy this ban, but I’m disgusted that the university union would attempt to impose it in the first place, particularly on the basis that they are saying that it’s against the interests of the organisation, as though the organisation is some 1984 Orwellian sort of group of people that has the right to say what is and isn’t in the rights of the organisation. The Liberal Club is a member of this organisation. It has a right to dissent from the views of the so-called executive, or in this case the politburo of the Adelaide University Union which has determined who can and can’t say what dissent is at the university.


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But if the Adelaide University Union has a vote and the Liberal Club is a member of that union, shouldn’t you abide by the result of that vote?


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The Liberal Club can say that they don’t accept it and be dissenting from it. That’s the right of every Australian. That’s why we’re a democracy. We don’t have to accept decisions that we don’t like. If we want to argue against them, publicly, we’re entitled and free to do so. That’s the beauty of living in a democracy. This is anti-democratic, it’s heavy handed and it’s a disgraceful display.


PETER CAVE: South Australian federal Liberal MP, Christopher Pyne.