Southern Cross University lecturer Aidan Ricketts has hit back at attacks from the big end of town on courses such as the one he teaches on activism and constitutional rights.
On Wednesday The Australian published an article titled ‘Degrees in activism put brake on growth’, in which Murdoch staffers Sarah-Jane Tasker and Paul Garvey questioned the heads of some of Australia’s largest fossil fuel companies about the courses.
They included representatives from Shell, Rio Tinto and even Whitehaven Coal, which has been the subject of an ICAC investigation and whose Maules Creek coal mine is one of the most controversial in the country.
Unsurprisingly, the businessmen were unimpressed by the existence of the courses, with Shell chairman Andrew Smith describing the graduates as ‘university students with degrees in activism’.
‘Challenging decisions will face more effective campaigns of public outrage, some of it based on confected outrage whipped up by university graduates armed with degrees in activism,’ Mr Smith told the newspaper. ‘But we cannot allow these dynamics to halt Australian progress.’
It’s not the first time Mr Ricketts has come under attack for running the public interest advocacy course. A gas lobby group launched a similar broadside against him back in 2012. But he believes the reaction by big business only highlights the value of the course.
‘It is certainly passing the screen test if Shell thinks there’s an outbreak of democracy in Australia,’ he told Echonetdaily
‘Large multinationals like Shell benefit greatly by employing university graduates as professional lobbyists that stalk the halls of all the parliaments in Australia and they have millions of dollars to donate to both major political parties,’ he added.
‘It seems extraordinary that they should have all that disproportionate power and then object to ordinary citizens being able to access information about the constitution, the legal system and how they can achieve greater transparency in government and corporate decision-making.’