Victory for free speech on campus

Article in Central Sydney Mag.

The March 15 banning of two Socialist Alliance activists, Paul Benedek and myself, from the University of Sydney was revoked on April 9, after vice-chancellor Michael Spence received a storm of protest letters.

Among the many who protested against this attack on freedom of speech were renowned journalist John Pilger, 15 professors and lecturers at Sydney and other universities, Sydney City councillors Meredith Burgmann and Irene Doutney, leaders of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), students and civil rights activists.

On April 19, Spence wrote to people who had sent him protest letters:

"I am pleased to advise the notices that were issued to Messrs Boyle and Benedek have now been revoked ... I regret that this matter escalated in the way that it did."

Spence tried to excuse the bans by falsely claiming that Benedek and I had refused the security officers' directions.

Pilger replied to Spence:

"I very much appreciate your positive response and am delighted to learn the banning notices have been revoked. This is good news for freedom of speech and association.

"My enquiries cast doubt on the security officers' version of events. Both Messrs Boyle and Benedek provided ID when asked, and closed down the Resistance stall when directed to do so. Indeed, they were packing up the stall when they were issued with the banning notices, and while Paul Benedek, with the security officers' agreement, had set out for the USU Clubs and Societies Office to get their permission in writing to erect a stall.

"I believe these are important details when one reflects on the increased and at times arbitrary and heavy-handed power that security personnel exercise on university campuses these days and which I myself have observed."

The victory was reported in the April 24-25 Sydney Morning Herald, the April 28 Central Sydney Mag, a local newspaper, and on Radio 2SER FM.