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House of Representatives

Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Education, the Honourable Dan Tehan MP)


The Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020 proposes to amend the Higher Education Support Act 2003 ( HESA ) to implement recommendations arising from the 2019 Report of the Independent Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers, undertaken by the Honourable Robert French AC, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia ( French Review ).

The proposed amendments insert a new, definition of 'academic freedom' into the HESA and replace the existing term 'free intellectual inquiry' in relevant provisions with the allied concepts of 'freedom of speech' and 'academic freedom'. These conceptual and definitional changes align the language of relevant provisions in the HESA with those reflected in the Model Code for the Protection of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom in Australian Higher Education Providers recommended by the Honourable Robert French AC ( French Model Code ).

The proposed amendments are one of three key elements of the Government's response to the French Review and are designed to strengthen protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech in Australian universities. In addition to the proposed amendments to the HESA, the Government is working with universities to support the adoption of the French Model Code. Consistently with the measures contained in the Bill and in recognition of the progressive adoption of the French Model Code by universities, the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (the Threshold Standards ) will also be amended to align the language of the instrument with that of the French Model Code.


There are no financial implications.

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