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Peter Ridd and James Cook University: the Federal Court delivers a devastating blow against free speech

July 23, 2020

By Paul Homewood


The Federal Court has devastating blow against mainstream Australians, against freedom of speech and against freedom of speech on climate change by overturning the earlier decision in the Federal Circuit Court which held that Dr Peter Ridd was unlawfully dismissed by James Cook University.

Alarmingly, this decision shows that contractual provisions guaranteeing intellectual freedom do not protect academics against censorship by university administrators. The time has come for the Morrison Government to intervene.

This has been Australia’s David vs Goliath battle, with Peter Ridd on one side, backed by thousands of ordinary Australians, and JCU on the other side who secured some of the most expensive legal representation in the country in Bret Walker SC to stifle the free speech of one of its own staff.

Dr Ridd, a professor of physics at JCU, was sacked by the university for misconduct for questioning in the IPA’s publication Climate Change: The Facts 2017 the climate change science around the Great Barrier Reef and for public statements made on the Jones & Co Sky News program.

He is now apparently considering his legal options in relation to a challenge in the High Court of Australia. If he does decide to take up that fight, the Institute of Public Affairs – as well as thousands on mainstream Australians – will continue to support his fight for freedom of speech on climate change.

JCU has engaged some of the most expensive legal representation in the country to stifle the free speech of one of its own staff, despite crying poor about university funding in the wake of coronavirus. It creates a massive chilling effect for any academic engaging in public debate in Australia.

The University’s shameful actions prove without doubt there is a crisis of free speech at Australian universities. Many academics are censured, but few are prepared to speak out and risk their career, particularly if faced with the prospect of legal battles and possible bankruptcy.

The case has identified a culture of censorship when it comes to challenging claims surrounding climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. JCU to this date has never attempted to disprove claims made by Dr Ridd about the Great Barrier Reef.


That last sentence says it all.




Peter Ridd has issued this statement:


Dear All,
Very bad news. JCU succeeded on appeal. We need to read the details but for the moment I would like to say the following.
Universities are different from other workplaces because it is expected that, on occasions, there will be vigorous debates on important and controversial issues. It is essential that academics can engage in these debates without fearing that a wrong word could end their career.
Among my crimes was saying that universities in general were “Orwellian” because they only pretended to value free speech. I also said, based upon years of evidence, that another institution’s work was untrustworthy because of systemic deficiencies in their quality assurance processes. I “satirised” the university’s disciplinary processes against me by implying it was “amusing”.
If universities can crush any robust debate by deciding there is a lack of respect or collegiality, where does this leave an academic who might want to say something of which the administration might disapprove? Better to remain silent.
This case is not an isolated incidence of a university acting to stifle debate. Universities claim that Academic Freedom is “in their DNA” but their actions indicate otherwise. And yet both State and Commonwealth governments continue to fund the universities and fail to insist on traditional standards of decency, academic freedom, and freedom of speech. This is a failure of government as much as a failure of a university.
While JCU had its knee on the neck of free speech – our governments looked on and did nothing.
Fundamental concepts such as academic freedom of speech should not be decided by a few words in a work contract of a malignant university. Higher protection is necessary.
This has always been a battle between the little people and the establishment. I was fired for calling for better quality assurance of science of the GBR and climate change. This science has been used to make government regulations causing major economic damage to Farmers and many other workers of the industries in North Queensland.
I was supported by donations from thousands of people. I thank them all. Also, thanks to my legal team.
I am very sorry that your donation has so far not resulted in a better outcome.
I respect the decision of the Court. I will be seeking legal advice as to my next steps.

  1. John Palmer permalink
    July 23, 2020 11:21 am

    So nice to see a University – a place of ‘advanced learning’ (???) so keen on freedom of thought, speech and opinion that they’ll waste $$$M’s on preventing it!

    • July 23, 2020 9:05 pm

      John, James Cook want to keep the easy tax payer millions rolling in. What use to them is it if someone dares and says the Emperor has no clothes? There has been a concerted attack on the Enlightenment particularly by the Climate Industry. Let us be frank, it is shocking how shoddy supposed research funded by the tax payer is and shocking that it never has a problem getting published. It is also shocking how little of anything the Climate Industry have in their shop window after 35 or more years except for scaremongering and doom laden predictions which never materialize. The University does not give a monkeys chuff about science, they just want the money…. just look at the VCs salary!

  2. bobn permalink
    July 23, 2020 11:26 am

    Reading the comments of the appeal court’s decision its all ‘newspeak’ woke gibberish. Australia is in big trouble and rapid cultural decline (like UK, USA, NZ EU etc).The Appeals court did not use logic or reason in their decision, it appeared to be that peter Ridd was wrong because he hurt the university’s feelings! The Appeal court comments are straight out of ‘1984’.
    Time for a new political party in Aus (and everywhere else). Perhaps name it ‘Common sense party’.

  3. cajwbroomhill permalink
    July 23, 2020 11:32 am

    A terrrible indictment of what scientific truth-seeking and universities are all about.

    Whether or not the ultimate result, if any, vindicates either side, honesty has been violated.

  4. calnorth permalink
    July 23, 2020 11:39 am

    In my experience of QA systems and matters technical/scientific covered by it were never shut down by a court. It was always of great alarm to any organisation my company inspected when we plucked out their QA system….much protest! Wonder who inspects the JCU QA system or does it ever get inspected, particularly independently inspected?

    I await Mr Rudds closer examination of the “verdict”

  5. Brian Jackson permalink
    July 23, 2020 11:41 am

    I will donate to Peters legal costs in the final appeal to the High Court, if there is one.
    I am sure many many more will do the same.
    This matter is too important for us to sit idly by.
    Brian j in UK.

  6. David Calder permalink
    July 23, 2020 12:11 pm

    Post a donation link: I’ll help too…

  7. fuee77 permalink
    July 23, 2020 12:17 pm

    Bristol University did the same thing when Michael Mann visited, Lewandowsky only took questions from prearranged guests, ignoring from the guy who was on the front row 4 feet away from him with his hand up.

  8. July 23, 2020 12:44 pm

    The recent Cardinal Pell story in Australia should give hope to Peter Ridd, Pell was convicted, lost an appeal, then was cleared by the High Court. The MSM continues its war against him.

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 23, 2020 12:57 pm

    We are told the UK suffered a major cyber attack from China. Yet we also gave the censorship of Google of publications it chooses not to list in search queries, and this. It’s Fahrenheit 451, not 1984. An attempt to destroy knowledge. Let us not permit this burning of the library of Alexandria.

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:03 pm

    Does Aus legal process go all the way to the UK’s Supreme Court, or stop at the High Court?

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      July 23, 2020 8:37 pm

      stops at the High Court.

  11. July 23, 2020 1:12 pm

    This must not stand. Let us know where to send the money.

    First they came for the truth tellers.

  12. July 23, 2020 1:18 pm

    So unbelievable!
    What has happened to Western Civilization? There was a time when western civilization knew the difference between intellectual freedom and misconduct. Now they have sunk down to the China level.

    Maybe Professor Ridd will be offered a job in New Zealand where Professor Paul Kench teaches.

    • layor nala permalink
      July 23, 2020 7:32 pm

      Don’t get carried away – NZ universities are the same. Put your head above the parapet and your funding will disappear.

    • July 23, 2020 9:12 pm

      The Enlightenment which made the world we have today is directly under threat from some very bad people aided and abetted by lots of paid useful idiots (paid with tax payer money). This is all very clever. If you have a problem with someone actually doing science rather than making it up then they show the clear way to shut such people up, not the correct way which would be to challenge his empirical evidence but to attack him as a person. I have been reading the Gulag Archipelago for the second time. I cannot decide if the university model their processes on Smersh or the NKVD….. a difficult choice.

      • July 23, 2020 10:58 pm

        Thank you for this insight.

      • Gas Geezer permalink
        July 27, 2020 9:06 pm

        Yes if you think you’ve got it tough , just read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and you’ll soon be counting your blessings . That is unless you’re an Extinction Rebellion activist of course .

  13. Athelstan. permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:22 pm

    The Australian federal court, don’t do science do they?

    One might also ponder on, so poor is this court, are they, at reasoning, defining and realizing the truth……… bodes ill for all Australians.

    The arbiters have gone ‘walkabout’.

  14. David Allan permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:29 pm

    Disgraceful. However, it is not just James Cook Uni that we should be condemning. Freedom of speech is being stifled much closer to home as universities bow to woke and snowflake views about what can and cannot be said. These institutions bring shame on centuries of academic progress and discourse.

  15. Kelland Stephen Hutchence permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:34 pm

    I understand Peter Rudd has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. I hope very much that he will do so and I would be delighted to contribute to his fighting fund. Don’t let the bar stewards grind you down Peter!

  16. Is it just me? permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:53 pm

    I think it’s about time we re-evaluated universities charters? If they are operating in a biased & unlawful way – they should be unable to apply for funding. As it is – more young people are turning away from them (and not all due to not having rich parents). I run my own business – and i’d probably employ apprentices over graduates. I’m not alone either….

  17. fretslider permalink
    July 23, 2020 1:58 pm

    The courts are about as woke as things get.

    All institutions are leaning the same way, no matter what the factual evidence shows.

    It is political, science was always the fig leaf.

  18. Derek W Wood permalink
    July 23, 2020 2:14 pm

    A massive disconnect between Justice and The Law. How is this even possible, and will Australians generally now shrug and look the other way? It’s time for the silent majority to start making some noise!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      July 23, 2020 2:37 pm

      I went to law once (seriously), expecting Justice: I got LAW. (I lost).

      • jack broughton permalink
        July 23, 2020 5:23 pm

        The courts are the playground of criminals, cheats and the rich. My company has been sued by companies that were struggling to survive, so got a stay of execution by claiming liabilities that did not exist. In one case after 3 years delay and fiddling we won the case but got lumbered with the costs because the claimants went bust immediately they lost: the lawyers advising us disappeared rapidly.

        Mr. Bumble was so right!

  19. Harry Davidson permalink
    July 23, 2020 2:16 pm

    I am completely un-familiar with the Australian Courts, but if this was the UK I would see it as a standard ‘bounce it up to the next level’. Contracting the decision of the lower court at each level is always part of that. It goes on until one side gives up, or it gets to the top court, or leave to appeal is refused.

    • dave permalink
      July 24, 2020 11:21 am

      ‘…bounce it up…’

      One of Parkinson’s Laws states that as you go up through the levels of any ancient institution for a decision you will be successively told,

      ” ‘Definitely, Yes,’
      ‘Definitely, No,’
      ‘Most emphatically, Yes,’
      ‘Not a chance,’
      ‘I just have to ask my Boss to sign off on it,’

  20. Broadlands permalink
    July 23, 2020 2:17 pm

    It seems apparent to some, that this absurd legal decision underscores an acceptance of the current global warming and climate change “settled science”. That narrative is seen by courts populated by non-scientists. Like many laymen, these attorneys see what influence someone like little St. Greta can have. They believe it?

  21. Philip permalink
    July 23, 2020 4:44 pm

    It’s not just Peter Ridd or even JCU. Other casualties of the cancel culture include Carter, Salby, and most recently 1000frolly.

    The disgraceful behaviour reflects a universal descent of Australian education into the intellectual abyss. Without freedom to question, there can be no intelligent discourse. And without that there is no enlightenment. The established pattern makes clear that education in Australia has been reduced to indoctrination.

    The truly appalling side of this disgraceful behaviour is its endorsement by Australian courts, the very institutions responsible for protecting society against such behaviour and in disregard of laws that were enacted to do so.

    Through their support, the ultimate loser is the Australian public – by undermining its future.

  22. CheshireRed permalink
    July 23, 2020 6:26 pm

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Left! ‘Agree with me or get sacked’ seems to be their vile mantra. This nonsense must be appealed and these imperiously arrogant clowns must be put in their place.

  23. Robin Lambert permalink
    July 23, 2020 6:41 pm

    Terrible decision As Someone noted its Same in Commonwealth Universities Canada,USA, and increasingly in UK, if You Prove Climate Change,Warming is Wrong they Wont let you have a Platform,backed up by a Globalist media CNN,Sky,BBC,ITV,Ch4 ..I was bullied to Sign A petition by UK Green Party, ”Saying Global Climate Change” Is Most Important subject in uk 2019 UK GElection i Declined..

  24. Duker permalink
    July 24, 2020 6:04 am

    the Judgement is here

    Have to remember its not a Civil court but an Employment division operating under the Fair Work Act and others.

    It seems to me that the Judges have decided that the conflicts between what the Code of Conduct says ( under which he was dismissed and was like a list of high school rules) and the Enterprise agreement ( between JCU and the 5 unions amoung many other items covers intellectual freedom) should be interpreted not narrowly on what it does say , but on what it should say. By doing so the the judges protect JCU from the consequences of their actions of bad decisions and failure to check the consequences of the drafting of the Enterprise Agreement.
    Interesting other nuggets, in as JCU considers the Code of Conduct doesnt cover itself only the staff, except in some minor instances.
    Also the Court seemed to think the areas covering intellectual freedom were more inline with expectations rather than obligations.
    In another istance wheter JCU could impose confidentially on its employee in spite of the agreement requiring confidentiality to ‘be respected’, the University instead claimed it was a common law right to give its employees reasonable directions. ( although this wasnt a major issue in contention)

    When the facts and law are against JCU they try to claim its not the agreements its signed but common law which prevails.
    Im sure the Universitys lawyers had an unlimited budget to cover every angle in this appeal

    • dave permalink
      July 24, 2020 3:36 pm

      I cannot be bothered to read the judgement, but – based on what you write – the Court has deliberately driven a horse and cart through one of THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL rules in Contract Law – that a Contract is construed strictly only against the one who wrote it, as he is usually the more powerful, in every sense.

      • Duker permalink
        July 25, 2020 12:40 am

        Employment courts have their own precedents, mostly but not always slanted to the employers who have the best lawyers to argue their cases.
        Union lawyers having a more threadbare existence.
        Australia doesnt have over riding freedom of speech laws for government bodies to follow. In many legal ways its the worlds biggest banana republic.

        So far the facts seemed to favour Ridd at the first court who was over ruled by the next step up based on precedent.
        Not till you get to a higher level can a new precedent of intellectual freedom be established surely based on the enterprise agreement signed by the University and this is a case that requires to be done.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      July 24, 2020 5:50 pm

      Worth noting that in the first judgement, the presiding judge found JCU wrong on 17 out of 17 points. I believe he was scathing of them and awarded $1.2m in compensation. I hope there is leave to take this higher and overturn this decision.

  25. Gerry, England permalink
    July 28, 2020 3:30 pm

    Dr Ridd to APPEAL the decision in the High Court and has reopened his funding page. His legal team believe there are good grounds to appeal and Dr Ridd believes good will come even if he loses as it puts this issue in the public eye and is likely to bring change. A particular point for the appeal is that 8 JCU research papers that were replicated all failed to reach the JCU results which proves his point about poor quality control.

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