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Extremist Boffins ‘Risk' to Uni Repute

Education Minister Christopher Pyne warned higher-education institutions against ideological self-indulgence that could sabot...

Education Minister Christopher Pyne warned higher-education institutions against ideological self-indulgence that could sabotage the sector Source: News Limited

ACADEMIC extremism risks damaging the standing of Australia's universities, says Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

His comments come in the wake of the controversy over the support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement by Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and The Australian's revelations this week that a Sydney University senior lecturer was part of a WikiLeaks Party delegation granted an audience with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, where they affirmed "the solidarity of the Australian people.

"The commonwealth government's highest priority in higher education is quality," Mr Pyne said in a carefully coded caution.

"Every vice-chancellor should always be reviewing whether their university is meeting high standards of quality in order to protect its reputation but also Australia's international reputation in education."

Mr Pyne hinted that Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence and bodies such as its senate, which had a string of left-leaning celebrity candidates including columnist Peter FitzSimons, ABC broadcaster Andrew West and former state minister Verity Firth recently elected to its ranks, should act.

"Each university is responsible for its own governance, but universities should avoid needless controversies that damage their reputation (and) also make Australia look less respectable to our potential international student market," he said.

Mr Pyne used diplomatic but firm language to warn higher-education institutions against ideological self-indulgence that could sabotage the sector.

"One of the most important things that the government can do is build revenue to universities by growing the international student market," he told The Weekend Australian.

"Universities should be partners in this goal and ensure that their reputations support rather than hinder that."

Sydney University acting vice-chancellor Tyrone Carlin declined to say whether he was concerned academic Tim Anderson's visit to Syria with the WikiLeaks group would damage the university's standing.

"The University of Sydney believes it is essential for academics to be able to able to express their views publicly on any matter within their area of expertise," Professor Carlin said.

He said he was satisfied with the recruitment practices of CPACS and the Department of Political Economy, where Dr Anderson works, and the scholarly credentials and academic rigour of both bodies.

Dr Anderson has backed calls by Jake Lynch, the CPACS chief, for Sydney University to sever its ties with Israeli institutions.

Associate Professor Lynch's support for the BDS movement, which explicitly equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, has been condemned by Mr Pyne and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who this week called the WikiLeaks delegation's endorsement of the Assad regime "extremely reckless".

Dr Anderson accused critics of "a cold war mentality" over Syria.

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Tuesday 31 October 2017

Eight people have been killed and at least 11 injured in an "act of terror" after a man drove a pick-up truck onto a path for cyclists in New York city.

The 29-year-old driver of the truck was shot by police in the abdomen and taken into custody after he crashed the truck into a school bus and fled his vehicle, according to New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill.

Speaking at a press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the attack was "a particularly cowardly act of terror". 

The mayor said: "It's a very painful day in our city. Horrible tragedy on the West Side.

"Let me be clear, based on the information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror. Aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.

"We at this moment based on the information we have, we know of eight innocent people who have lost their lives. And over a dozen more injured."

Mr O'Neill said the driver was armed with a paintball gun and a pellet gun.

The driver hit a school bus, injuring two children and two adults on board before exiting the pick-up truck.

The man was shot in the abdomen by a uniformed officer before being taken into custody.

The commissioner said a statement made by the suspect when he exited the vehicle was "consistent" with a terrorist attack.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence to suggest a wider plot or wider scheme.

US President Donald Trump said the attacker was "very sick" and a "deranged person".

British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "Appalled by this cowardly attack, my thoughts are with all affected. Together we will defeat the evil of terrorism. UK stands with #NYC."

A police spokesman posted a photo showing a white pick-up truck on the bike path with its front end mangled and the hood crumpled.

The rented truck had logos of the Home Depot hardware store chain.

Mangled and flattened bicycles littered the bike path, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway on the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River.

One witness told reporters at the scene that he heard about five gunshots before seeing a large man being taken into custody.

"He seemed very calm," the witness said. "He was not putting up a fight."

A witness told ABC Channel 7 that he saw a white pick-up truck drive south on the bike path at full speed and hit several people.

A video apparently filmed at the scene and circulated online showed scattered bikes on the bike path and at least two people lying on the ground.