Image for Andrew Nikolic: An attack on the long-standing principle of academic freedom ...

*Pic: Tony Abbott and Andrew Nikolic on the campaign trail for Bass at the last national poll.

To Tasmanian Times, Dear Editor,

As staff from the University of Tasmania, we wish to support our colleague, Dr Michael Powell, who wrote to the Examiner in December 2014 expressing concern about the proposed policy of the Federal Government to deregulate university fees and the likely effect of this policy on the University sector in general and our University in particular.

On publication of the letter, Mr Andrew Nikolic, Liberal member for Bass, contacted the University’s Vice-Chancellor questioning Dr Powell’s right to comment.

We, the undersigned, believe it is Mr Nikolic’s obligation as a parliamentarian to uphold the principle of free expression. Mr Nikolic using his privileged position to attempt to prevent Dr Powell from commenting is, we believe, an abuse of his parliamentary role.

Any parliamentarian should listen to their constituents, not “shoot the messenger”.

Mr Nikolic’s action also represents an attack on the long-standing principle of academic freedom. Academic staff are NOT public servants and have a right to engage in public controversy within their area of professional expertise without fear or favour.

We the undersigned write on our own behalf to express our profound concern with Mr Nikolic’s actions, and ask if he intends to email the Vice Chancellor to express his displeasure about us as well?

signed,

Dr. John Kenny and 112 other staff from the University of Tasmania, as below ...

Megan Alessandrini,  Dwight Assenheimer,  William Baker , Susan Bartie, Anthony Bill,  Paul Blacklow,  John Bowman, Karen Bradford, Kellie Brandenburg, Olivia Callahan, Deb Carnes,  James Chase, Ying Chen, David Coady, Steve Collette, Michael Corbett, Richard Corry, Diana Cossar-Burgess, Verity Croker, Vaughan Cruickshank, Aidan Davidson, Shaun Denehy, Tracey Douglas, Michele Dowlman, Richard Doyle, Robyn Fenton, Steven Fleming, Andrew Fluck, Fred Gale, Brendan Gogarty, Coby Gore, Wendy Green, Karen Hall, Jason Hammond, Yoji Hashimoto, Susan Henderson, Jane Higgins, Elise Histed, Edgar Ho, Amanda Hodder, Becky Hollis, Liam Honeychurch, Grant Hyland, John Ireson, DR J.F., Keith Jacobs, Tim Jarvis, Latha Jeyaraj, Danchi Jiang, Paula Johnson, Peter Jones, Greg Jordan, Glenn Kefford, James Kirkpatrick, Maria Kunda, Heidi LaPaglia, James Lade, Fiona Latimer, Trevor Lewis, Stewart Long, David Loveridge, SR Lowry, Peter Lucas, Gail Lugten, Kevin Lyall, Anna Lyth, Jeff Malpas, Kristy Mate, Thomas McCarroll-Chester, James McDonald, David McNeil, Kelvin Michael, Ian Miller, James Montgomery, Ian Munday, Hannah Murphy-Gregory, Mary O’Dowd, Malgorzata O’Reilly, Anthony Page, Andrew Palmer, Corey Peterson, Morag Porteus, Jane Rienks, Millie Rooney, Kev Rothery, Olivia Rundle, Adam Russell, Naomi Sargent, Stuart Schonell, Ulf Schriever, Megan Short, Steve Simpson Jr, Jenny Smith, Robert Smith, Michael Stokes, Janine Tarr, Matthew Taylor, Sonam Thakchoe, Roie Thomas, Russell Thomson, Peter Tranent, Stephen Tristram, Paul Turnbull, Darren Turner, Maggie Walter, Steve Webber, Steven Weston, Rob White, Stewart Williams, Grant Williamson, Stephen Wright, Stephanie Zank.

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times ...

Mr Nikolic MP, Dr Powell and freedom of expression ... includes links to earlier articles ...

• Tim Thorne, in Comments: Oh dear!  Oh dear!  Oh dear!  Do the signatories really believe that such quaint concepts as “academic freedom” and “free expression” have any place in today’s Australia? If so, they are grossly out of touch with contemporary political thinking.  Freedom of speech is something our Attorney General believes is the prerogative of bigots, but criticism of the government and its policies does not belong in the ranks of Team Australia.  We must all pull together to ensure that nothing stands in the way of greed, and the commodification of education is clearly an important step on the way towards success. Captain Abbott has recently appointed Andrew Nikolic as assistant to the lad who brings out the oranges at three-quarter time (or whatever the equivalent is in the game of hardball) and we in Bass should be grateful for this vicarious taste of power. I am sure I heard a rumour once that Mr Nikolic had come back from being killed in action in the service of Team Australia in order to represent the people of Bass.  It may be a slight exaggeration, but it shows the spirit and determination of the man, in great contrast to a bunch of academic wusses bleating about principles.  Principles are so out of date.

• Ben Quin, in Comments: I consider the comments from Tim Thorne and others to be unfair and they should be withdrawn. On the one hand, the commentators on TT generally applauded Senator Lambie for pushing to achieve a pay-rise for Defence staff, because “they put their lives at risk to defend the nation”.  On the other, we advertise a cheap shot by Tim Thorne at Nikolic for his service in the Defence Force. I know Nikolic well.  I don’t agree with everything he says and does.  He has a hot temper and does not like to back down.  He is a true conservative in his political beliefs. However, he was elected in an open ballot by the electors of Bass and is doing the job he was elected to do. He is not deserving of the derision that is being whipped up in this forum.  In relation to his “attack” on Dr. Powell, let him have it, but keep it to the point.

• Tim Thorne, in Comments: Ben Quinn (#6), you seem to be either forgetting or ignoring Andrew Nikolic’s track record in opposing freedom of expression.  I am not sure which of my comments you wish me to withdraw, but I genuinely believe that in following what you call a “true conservative” agenda he is consistent and sincere. It is just that I completely oppose what he stands for.  I strongly disapprove of anyone using their military record as a vote-catcher.  I shall continue to mock and deride those who use their position in politics, however modest, to attempt the silencing of those who do not agree with them. You draw. a very long bow in trying to link Senator Lambie’s campaign on behalf of ADF personnel (on which I have never offered an opinion) with the need to show respect to a former career military officer who, since changing jobs, has shown very little reason to deserve it. If a “true conservative” is someone who supports the commodification of education, a lack of economic equity and a very limited concept of free speech, then I shall continue to use all legally permissible weapons (including humour and sarcasm) against such a person.