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James Cook Univer­sity slapdown of Great Barrier Reef science critic heads to court

November 22, 2017

By Paul Homewood


Yet another Australian scientist is being hounded for daring to criticise the climate consensus:


Outspoken James Cook Univer­sity professor Peter Ridd has taken Federal Court action claiming conflict of interest, apprehended bias and actual bias against vice-chancellor Sandra Harding.

Professor Ridd wants JCU to drop a misconduct investigation launched following his interview with Alan Jones on Sky News on August 1 in which he criticised the quality of Great Barrier Reef science.

In the interview, he said research findings by major institutions could not be trusted. “We can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“The science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated, and this is a great shame.”

JCU responded in late August by launching a formal investigation for misconduct which could result in Professor Ridd’s employment being terminated.

Professor Ridd engaged legal counsel, with new accusations being made by JCU and Federal Court action being lodged by him.

JCU has said Professor Ridd’s comments were “not in the collegial and academic spirit of the search for knowledge, understanding and truth”. It said his comments had denigrated AIMS and the ARC Centre and were “not respectful and courteous”.

In letters lodged with the court, JCU said Professor Ridd’s comments could damage the reputation of AIMS and the university’s relationship with it.

In a letter to JCU on September 7, Professor Ridd’s legal team, ­Mahoneys, called on JCU to drop the case. They said the university suffered a conflict of interest in its investigation.

“The vice-chancellor is a council member (akin to a director) of the Australian Institute of Marine Science,” Mahoneys said. “The vice-chancellor is in a position of conflict between her duties and ­office to the AIMS and to bringing an impartial mind to a decision on the allegations (against Professor Ridd).”


JCU responded on September 19 that it was “not satisfied that there has been no serious misconduct or that the allegations are unsubstantiated”. It said Professor Ridd “must not disclose or discuss these matters with the media or in any other public forum”.

Mahoneys responded on September 27, repeating concerns about conflict of interest: “There are only two conclusions our ­client can reach as to why the complaint is continuing to be prosecuted: incompetence or act­ual bias, neither of which is satisfactory or tolerable to our client.”

In the Jones interview, Professor Ridd said: “I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff — they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef; I just don’t think they’re very objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally ­attached to their subject.”


Many of us will recall the shameful sacking of Dr Murry Salby from Macquarie University in 2013 because he was critical of AGW theory, and the blackballing of the late Dr Robert Carter for the same reason.

What is it about Australian universities that makes them think they have the right to trample all over academic freedom of speech?

If Professor Ridd is saying anything outlandish, it should be extremely easy for the “experts” to prove him wrong. Instead they act as if they have something to hide. 

  1. juliabarrett permalink
    November 22, 2017 7:13 pm

    Man, I miss Dr. Bob Carter!

    • Scott permalink
      November 23, 2017 9:52 am


    • November 23, 2017 6:41 pm

      When you hear Bob speak it’s head and shoulders above the style of alarmist guys.

  2. November 22, 2017 7:44 pm

    Excellent piece. The JCU asserts Prof Ridd was “not courteous”. What could be more discourteous than threatening, without a systematic inquiry, to fire a man simply for stating an opinion?

    • C. Paul Barreira permalink
      November 24, 2017 6:26 pm

      Opinion is worthless. The question is scholarship. What importance does the university give to its foundations, not least truth? The humanities died long ago, largely on account of spurious (but successful) endeavours to rid themselves of truth and truthfulness. The sciences appear to have followed suit—and university administrations today find that most satisfactory. They are totalitarian (per Voegelin) in their prohibition of questioning, their prejudices (Gadamer) cast in concrete.

  3. Rasa permalink
    November 22, 2017 7:45 pm

    The fraudster Professor Ridd refers to is Professor Terry Hughes. Terry epitomises those who ride the taxpayer funded Gravey Train and do/say/publish anything that keeps their seat on the said Gravey Train.
    All this wasted taxpayer funding to JCU is at the expense of worthwhile community needs.
    Keep up the good fight Professor Ridd.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle permalink
    November 22, 2017 8:28 pm

    The Reef is in no danger according to AIMS results. AIMS is located in Townsville just down the road from JCU.

    How the reef became blue again

    In the Keppels in 2006, Berkelmans and his team noticed that the dominant strain of zooxanthellae changed from light and heat-sensitive type C2, to more robust types D and C1. This, he believes, equipped the corals to face water temperatures up to 1.5 degrees higher than their usual tolerance.

    Also corals adapt rapidly due to having vast numbers of progeny, as the “super corals” of New Caledonia show.

    Unfortunately these people don’t want to hear that there is no problem, even though it’s obvious since the Reef has been through many cycles of higher temperatures.

  5. November 22, 2017 9:05 pm

    Have they ever heard of Michael Mann? Right now he is suing Mark Steyn for criticizing his lack of science. He just lost in Canada to Professor Ball.

    Where do they find these silly chicks to administer institutions of higher learning? Guess we have given up on the idea of “free speech” in academia.

    • hivemind permalink
      November 23, 2017 4:18 am

      “He just lost in Canada to Professor Ball”

      Could you clarify this, please. Is there news that I haven’t heard yet?

      • HotScot permalink
        November 23, 2017 8:16 am


        I believe Mann refused to produce the data required by the court and was judged to be in contempt.

      • Old Englander permalink
        November 23, 2017 10:04 am

        Hmm. I’ve said this before, but if there is a determination by a court of law the judgment should be in the public domain. And I believe the BC courts have internet scans available. I’m waiting for the links.

      • November 23, 2017 6:43 pm

        No Ball’s friend got a bit carried away in speaking.

  6. L. Douglas permalink
    November 22, 2017 9:10 pm

    “Instead they act as if they have something to hide.”

    They do. Which is why I hope Professor Ridd has a pitbull lawyer who will push this as hard as possible!  

  7. duker permalink
    November 22, 2017 10:21 pm

    Who is is JCU “president” and VC Sandra Harding ?
    “Professor Harding has extensive academic and academic leadership experience. An economic sociologist by training, her areas of enduring academic interest include work, organisation and markets and how they work.”
    There doesnt seem to be a board or committee she hasnt been on. Research ? , maybe not

    • Metoak permalink
      November 23, 2017 6:48 pm

      You can add Hayhoe in USA, Texas Tech and the errant feminazi at UCSD…University of California at San Diego to the list…
      The agenda, as the posts herein have also stated is a quid pro quo of federal funding for political agenda, not science.

  8. Eliza permalink
    November 23, 2017 5:36 am

    Most Australian Universities went down the drain through Paul Keatings Fault (Dawkings policy around 1988 if I recall correctly.

  9. Geoff Sherrington permalink
    November 23, 2017 9:57 am

    The year after the University College of Townsville was founded (it later became James Cook University) I joined the first class in its second year. Therefore, I follow events about JCU with more attachment than most.
    I am deeply ashamed by the events reported here and earlier. Good science progresses irrespective of the emotions of others, especially such weak emotional garbage and ignorance as shown by words like “not in the collegial and academic spirit of the search for knowledge, understanding and truth”. There is no place for such mismanagement by senior people at any University. They should know that there is no truth in Science, only successive approximations towards it.
    In my days there, for the most part, Men were men and Women were for the kitchen. Both genders had to work hard to survive, even enjoy. It was a tough place, isolated, at many times hot, dusty, little airconditioning, flooding rains from cyclones, guinea grass, nut grass, mosquitos and flies, with few outlets for the enjoyment of creative and intellectual pursuits. Even the most popular movie theatres were out of doors, pre Drive-ins. Think “frontier”.
    Prof Ridd, you have my best wishes in the present conflict. Please play it hard and continue to strive for intellectual honesty in the face of girl-boy attacks on the way to conduct science with integrity.
    If it helps, I devised and managed a corporate law suit in the 1980s that took the Federal Environment Minister to the Courts, up to the Full Bench of the High Court; and delayed the proclamation of a United Nations World Heritage area for valid reasons stated in that case. Fundamentally, that also was a conflict between hard realism and the softness of emotional belief that the left seems to exhibit. Geoff.

    • Metoak permalink
      November 23, 2017 6:50 pm

      Thank you, we need this sort of action in many countries around the globe…

    • John Gorter permalink
      November 24, 2017 1:09 pm

      Well said Geoff, I see this rubbish from my own alma mater, along with request for donations.



  10. Gerry, England permalink
    November 23, 2017 1:50 pm

    The irony was when the Great Barrier Reef tourism group and diving companies finally complained of all the fake science destroying their industry. Who wanted to come to see the apparently dead reef? And who would know more about its health than those who dive it daily? A bit like ignoring the Inuit when considering polar bears – see Landscapes and Cycles for the full story.

    • Metoak permalink
      November 23, 2017 6:51 pm


  11. John Fuller permalink
    November 23, 2017 5:31 pm

    It’s sad when an academic institute can’t defend its work out of court. One wonders what they are hiding? My best wishes to Prof Ridd.

  12. Alan Curtis permalink
    November 23, 2017 9:34 pm

    Best wishes to Prof Ridd. Disgust to JCU.

  13. November 24, 2017 12:42 am

    Very relevant is this World Service prog
    Is the Knowledge Factory Broken?
    “Academic research stands accused of turning a blind eye to dodgy data, failing to reconcile contradictory findings and valuing money over knowledge.
    We examine the criticisms, which go the very heart of our pursuit of knowledge.”

    Part III “You can’t say that” is a few minutes about modern censorship by Uni bosses paranoid about protecting University’s brand, over publishing honest research and opinions.

  14. graham dunton permalink
    November 24, 2017 9:24 pm

    And of course not forgetting how they crucified the late Bob Carter. I think the time has certainly come to challenge, some of the bizarre excuses for sloppy science and good luck to professor Peter Ridd, many will support his action.

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