'Universities lost their way'

Leeser calls for campus antisemitism judicial inquiry

Addressing the congregation at Sydney's Central Synagogue last Friday night, Leeser told of making a conscious choice when he entered politics to "always be a proud public Jew".

Julian Leeser.
Julian Leeser.

Federal Member for Berowra Julian Leeser has called for an independent judicial inquiry into antisemitism on university campuses.

Addressing the congregation at Sydney’s Central Synagogue last Friday night, Leeser told of making a conscious choice when he entered politics to “always be a proud public Jew”.

“Today we are required to stand up and speak up and be public Jews. For me, ground zero in Australia is our campuses. The idea that young Jewish Australians do not feel safe getting an education is an anathema to me,” he said.

“It is clear to me that what we are witnessing on campuses represents a failure in propagating our Australian values, a failure in enforcing the law, and a failure in leadership amongst most of Australia’s vice-chancellors – who are more concerned about adorning their own necks with AOs and ACs than ensuring the students in their care can get their own start in life.”

Leeser said it is also time for federal Education Minister Jason Clare “to step up”.

“The time has come for action. Frankly, I think the government is hamstrung by Labor’s Corbynite left and its fear of the Greens and teals,” he said.

“In the coming May parliamentary sittings I will be moving a Private Member’s Bill to establish an independent judicial inquiry into antisemitism on Australia’s campuses.

“I want a judicial inquiry by a judicial leader that is widely respected and for that inquiry to have the necessary powers and protections that will give Jewish students and staff the confidence to come forward.

“This moment profoundly matters for our entire country – because if any Australian student cannot feel safe on an Australian campus because of the religion they hold, then our universities are failing the principle test of character.”

Leeser acknowledged that universities have a long tradition of protests and are the “places where the young question and indeed challenge authority”.

But these protests, he said, were not against authority, but against the presence of other students

and staff.

“The conflict in Gaza is the thin veneer for the excuse to protest the presence of Jewish students and staff … these protests are not about Gaza, they are about making young Jewish Australians feel unwelcome on Australian campuses,” he said. “It is pure antisemitism.”

He had a strong word for Australia’s vice-chancellors: “Australians are watching. Those who donate to and fund your institutions are watching. And international university rankings will be watching too – because if Australian students cannot feel safe at the university they are attending, then frankly, that university does not deserve any place in any legitimate international rankings list,” he said.

“Our universities have lost their way. Most lost confidence in the West’s shared liberal democratic values some time ago, and we are now seeing the consequences of that as freedom of religion and freedom from fear are under challenge on too many campuses.”

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