Australia

Sydney Professor Barry Spurr takes New Matilda to court over emails

Barry Spurr Image copyright University of Sydney
Image caption Mr Spurr worked as an adviser on the national curriculum

An Australian poetry professor has taken a news website to court after it published several emails of his that contained sexist and racist comments.

Barry Spurr was suspended by University of Sydney officials last week over allegations of "offensive emails".

Obtained by New Matilda, the emails reveal that he referred to Muslims as "Mussies" and Asians as "Chinky-poos".

Mr Spurr's lawyers won an injunction on Tuesday to stop further emails being published until a hearing on Thursday.

The emails, sent by the academic to friends and colleagues over a two-year period, contain several derogatory remarks.

In one, he refers to the university's chancellor Belinda Hutchinson as an "appalling minx".

In another, he calls Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott an "Abo-lover" - using an offensive term for Aborigines.

Prof Spurr had recently worked as a consultant on a review of the national English curriculum, calling on schools to teach less Aboriginal literature.

His lawyer, Arthur Moses, said the publication of the emails was a clear breach of the academic's privacy.

Chris Graham, New Matilda's owner and editor, insisted the site had broken no laws and that the publication of the emails was in the public interest.

'Linguistic game'

The academic does not deny sending the emails but told New Matilda that they were part of a "whimsical linguistic game".

He said the comments were not a reflection of his views, but were "repartee, mocking, in fact, that very kind of extreme language".

He insisted that he had always treated all of his students with "equity and dignity".

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the emails were a matter for Prof Spurr but called them "repugnant".

"The minister utterly rejects and finds repugnant the denigration of any minority on the basis of their sex, race, sexual orientation or beliefs," his statement read.

Mr Pyne added that the professor had been brought in as a consultant on the curriculum by the heads of the review, not the government.

In a statement last week, the University of Sydney said: "Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney."

It has suspended Prof Spurr but the BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney said students are calling for him to be sacked.

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