Private Bill

Committee to weigh up Senate inquiry into antisemitism on campus

'A judicial inquiry into antisemitism in Australian universities is needed now'

Senator Sarah Henderson.
Senator Sarah Henderson.

A Coalition bill to establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism at Australian universities will be examined by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee .

A private member’s bill to establish a judicial inquiry was first introduced by Member for Berowra Julian Leeser into the House of Representatives on June 3 this year before Shadow Minister for Education Senator Sarah Henderson introduced a similar private senator’s bill on Monday.

“The Coalition is determined to do whatever it takes to stamp out antisemitism, in all its ugly forms, on Australian university campuses, just as we are determined to combat antisemitism across our nation,” Senator Henderson said.

“A senate inquiry will shine a light on the alarming increase in antisemitism at university campuses and demonstrate why a judicial inquiry is so important.

“This includes holding universities and the Albanese Government to account for failing to keep students and staff safe from hate and incitement, including infiltration by extremist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahir.”

Senator Henderson said the government’s racism study, to be undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission, “is woefully inadequate”.

Leeser said a Senate inquiry will affirm what we already know – “That a judicial inquiry into antisemitism in Australian universities is needed now.

“A judicial inquiry is the only way we can begin to tackle the scourge of antisemitism that has been plaguing our universities for years,” Leeser said.

“A judicial inquiry is the only way witnesses can give evidence about their experiences, free from reprisals. It’s the only way that university chancellors and vice-chancellors can be cross-examined and held to account for their failure to act at universities.

“This is so important because universities are the places where the next generation of leaders are formed. What is said and done in universities today creates the culture of Australia tomorrow.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) welcomed the development.

“We congratulate Shadow Minister for Education Sarah Henderson for this excellent initiative and thank Member for Berowra Julian Leeser for his support,” AIJAC said.

“The multitude of reports of antisemitism on campuses, especially at those that experienced anti-Israel encampments, and the failure of many university administrations to respond adequately, have been very concerning and disturbing. Every student has the right to feel safe on campus, including Jewish students.

“We hope the Committee’s deliberations will lead to the establishment of a judicial inquiry, that in the shorter term, the questioning of university administrators by the Committee will contribute to an improvement in their campus management, and that these steps will result in Jewish students once again feeling safe at their universities.”

The committee will report back by October 4.

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