Elite Universities Loathe Us

Written by:
30 November 2023
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Originally Appeared In

In this article, Brianna McKee contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Australian university campuses, conducted as part of the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program.

The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program was established in 2011 to defend and extend Australians’ understanding of the influential, historical role of the West in establishing many of the liberties enjoyed by members of our society.

Our centres of higher learning can’t stand mainstream Australian values

The Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne identifies its purpose as considering how Australia’s founding as a settler colony informs our capacity to engage with the central challenges of our time.

The opening salvo of the Centre’s November conference declared, ‘Global failure to understand and engage with the colonial roots of the impending climate catastrophe both constrains our collective capacities to untangle this wicked problem and simultaneously works to secure settler futurity and white supremacy.’

The academics heading up the Centre have affirmed their desire to tear down the political, legal and social framework of our nation to make way for a new, vaguely defined utopia. It is important to remember that what is discussed by the elites on university campuses today has a strange way of becoming government policy, generated by the political ruling class, tomorrow.

The Voice to parliament was one such Trojan horse, celebrated by universities and pushed by government. It sought to dismantle the constitution – the ultimate expression of ‘settler futurity and white supremacy’ – and rebuild it by means of a provision which would have divided Australians permanently on the basis of race. This was a clear attack on equality and our egalitarian way of life.

Next on the agenda is the Bill currently before parliament to amend the Climate Change Act 2022. The Bill significantly undermines Australia’s energy security and economic competitiveness and is a clear attack on the free market.

The title of the conference, ‘A Profound Reorganising of Things’, encapsulates what those on the centre right are up against: a narrative positing that the liberal-democratic system of government is fundamentally broken due to its colonial roots and is the primary cause of most of the world’s problems. Replete with a ‘welcome to country’, ‘smoking ceremony’ and ‘dance performance’, the conference flaunted its woke credentials through classic virtue-signalling.

The program brochure links a myriad of inequities and injustices to colonialism. The incarceration of indigenous people, the divide between rich and poor, the alleged mistreatment of refugees, and poor health outcomes are all traced back to ‘corrupt’ colonial land relations. For the academics at the Australian Centre, this is a moral problem. This is made abundantly clear by the use of words like ‘wicked’, ‘violent’ and ‘unjust’. Elite institutions and their globalist allies are waging a holy war against an evil system. The Marxist trappings of this agenda are plainly evident.

This leads to perhaps the most radical claim in the program brochure, ‘The incarceration of Indigenous peoples in so-called Australia is deeply implicated in the warming of the planet, is deeply implicated in the offshore detention of asylum seekers, and so on.’ What the links are between these apparently disconnected issues remains a mystery. Perhaps the conference proceedings enlightened attendees as to the connection. However, the statement lacks the academic rigour you would expect from an institution of Melbourne University’s standing.

Tertiary discourse should raise the intellectual culture of the nation. Yet this latest chapter appears to be nothing more than sloganeering, paid for with the taxpayers’ credit card.

Universities exist to impart knowledge, hone young minds and produce research that benefits society. They should not make wild speculations, unsupported by coherent argument, about highly political and ideological issues.

The Australian Centre’s latest initiative demonstrates just how out of touch universities are with the very real problems faced by mainstream Australians today. Those facing cost-of-living pressures, interest rate rises, soaring utility bills and record rental and housing prices should not be subsidising the mindless activism of cosseted academics.

According to a forthcoming survey commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs, lowering the cost of living is twice as important to Australians aged 16 to 25 than any other issue. In contrast, fewer than one in ten young Australians think reducing emissions should be a government priority.

As Australians’ financial circumstances deteriorate, it appears that such elite issues as climate catastrophism and colonialism are resonating less and less with the broader population. This is despite the narrative being shaped and promoted by our universities for decades. And the problem is not limited to universities, although it may start there. This is a sector-wide issue, with schools enthusiastically promoting a radical green agenda.

Just like the national curriculum, university teaching degrees focus on activism around highly political issues, such as sustainability, at the expense of core literacy and numeracy skills.

Recently released IPA research found that nearly one third of all teaching subjects relate to ideological issues, while fewer than one in ten teaching subjects focus on the core skills of literacy and numeracy.

If you need further proof of the politicisation of schools, look no further than the recent climate rallies staged by students across Australia. Schoolchildren skipped class to protest alleged government inaction on climate change. Tens of thousands of students attended these events after being encouraged to use a ‘climate doctor’s certificate’ and take a sick day from school.

Highlighting the strong link between education and public policy, the Bill to amend the Climate Change Act 2022 would impose a statutory duty on decision-makers to consider the wellbeing of children when making ‘significant decisions’ in relation to the exploration and extraction of coal, oil and gas.

IPA research concludes such an amendment would provide clear grounds for activists to engage in green lawfare aimed at delaying and cancelling vital resources projects, further compromising energy security and undermining Australia’s economic competitiveness.

One might have been able to laugh off the wild and wacky ideas coming out of universities in the past, but there is nothing funny about such ideas being adopted and imposed as government policy. Such ideas then become costly and destructive. Taxpayers are entitled to expect governments to hold universities to account and to direct funding towards research that does not deliberately undermine Australian prosperity and our way of life.

The Australian Centre was right about one thing. A ‘profound reorganising of things’ is required. However, it is the universities – not our political system – that need a makeover.

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