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Peter Ridd Seeks High Court Appeal: Universities Face Govt Review Of Threat To Academic Freedom

July 28, 2020

By Paul Homewood



A week after the Federal Circuit Court overturned an earlier court decision awarding him $1.2m, the marine physicist has confirmed the next front in his legal battle that has already cost more than $1m. Professor Ridd, who has personally spent $300,000 in his fight, has rallied his supporters in a fresh fundraising bid ai

med at amassing $630,000 to bankroll his appeal to the highest court.

The Federal Circuit Court found the Townsville-based university had not acted unlawfully when it sacked their employee of 30 years in 2018 for breaching its code of conduct with his criticism and by breaking a confidentiality direction in discussing the ensuing disciplinary process.

The court ruled that the code of conduct trumped the intellectual freedom provisions in the university’s enterprise agreement.

Professor Ridd told The Australian on Tuesday he had already spent $1.15m on his legal campaign, $860,000 of which came from donations.

For the scientist, 59, the fight is about more than the loss of potential earnings from a stalled academic career. “This is about principle,” Professor Ridd told The Australian. “We’ve got to have it that academics can speak.

“The fact is that because it was justified to fire me, any academic who wants to speak out about the Great Barrier Reef or any controversial issue will know it’s not worth the risk.”

Professor Ridd said his lawyers had convinced him of “numerous strong grounds for appeal”, which he had weighed against the exhaustive mental toll wrought by two years of legal action.

“I don’t take the decision to ­appeal lightly,” he said in a notice to be ­uploaded to his GoFundMe page, which has been the basis of his fundraising effort.

“The financial and emotional costs are high and legal action is fraught with uncertainties.” First, Professor Ridd would have to convince the High Court the case involved “a question of law of public importance”, to be granted special leave to appeal the Federal Circuit Court decision.

The court’s verdict has been praised by the university representative group, the Australian Higher Education Industrial ­Association, which said the verdict “upholds the university’s right to set appropriate behavioural standards in the exercise of those rights” and rejected the premise that the sacking was an intellectual freedom issue. Professor Ridd said the criticism of colleagues was integral to his argument that the university’s climate change science relating to the reef was untrustworthy, driven by emotion and lacking rigorous scrutiny.

“I was fired for being critical of my colleagues … for an academic comment I made about quality assurance in science,” he said.

Professor Ridd said he was “quite encouraged” by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan’s commitment last week to review the new university model code, developed by former High Court chief justice Robert French, aimed at protecting freedom of speech on university campuses.

“Anything he (Tehan) does has to be put into the (enterprise) agreement,” Professor Ridd said.

“As soon as there is any doubt, the university will win because the academic knows they can’t afford the legal battle.”

Full story ($)

Peter’s Fund Raising page is here.

  1. Harry Davidson permalink
    July 28, 2020 4:49 pm

    I doubt that it would pan differently in the UK. In fact, I strongly suspect that most tenure in UK universities isn’t worth the paper it isn’t written on.

  2. July 28, 2020 5:51 pm

    There are several issues here not only the fundamental right to free speech, to challenge the claims of other scientific practitioners. What he did was his job, to question anything which did not fit the data. That is what a scientist is supposed to do and he would not be doing his job if he failed to do that. The proposal of a thesis is only the beginning of a long process which can be quite brutal and taxing. Claims made as part of a thesis are wide open to challenge once published (That is in any other area of research except the climate farrago it seems). A thesis has to be shown to survive any challenges made against it before it can be considered to hold water.
    More seriously from a potentially criminal point of view is that those he criticised could have received public money under false pretences. This would make a VERY interesting case if it were ever to come to court. I noticed that the “impartial” BBC gave an open platform to those whose research was questioned by Dr Ridd ( oh what a surprise) accepting and publishing everything they said without question. Interesting they have NEVER challenged the voracity of his claim or the technical basis for it in the normal way. Does that have a familiar ring? Consider also the case of Dr Susan Crockford? Notice how it is the University not those who’s work he called into question who went for him and there is a good reason for that. Universities including the one in question are receiving massive funding for climate research including into the great money spinner of all time, the Great Barrier Reef. The more doom laden each published piece of work can get, the easier the next installment of the easy money can be it seems. The case for them to continue receiving that funding would be seriously in question were Dr Ridd’s challenge have been originally accepted and then the earlier court decision upheld. Easy public money and power are at stake here on the side of the accused and the perversion is that they used more public money to go after him. To me there is a very simple way to settle this and that is for the court to look at the facts which support his challenge but the University and those he challenged would never want that now would they! How more perverse can this climate farrago get?

    • Duker permalink
      July 29, 2020 1:03 am

      Its not any way ‘criminal’ for anyone
      receiving public under under false pretences is just a made up nonsense.

  3. July 28, 2020 6:10 pm

    Peter should take heart from the Cardinal Pell case, the High Court UNANIMOUSLY quashed his conviction, after he lost in the appeals court. The excellent Sky News Australia on youtube is probably the only reliable source of information on the Pell witch hunt.

  4. Broadlands permalink
    July 28, 2020 7:09 pm

    Alternatively, the Lilliput cartoon shows Gulliver as the Earth’s climate trying to be tied down. And the lilliputians are those who believe they can mitigate and control it with CO2.

  5. johnbillscott permalink
    July 28, 2020 7:39 pm

    I found this today and it is, in a way, something which the green blob should read. The denial of history shows how corrupt the science is

    • July 28, 2020 9:50 pm

      Excellent! I can add…. grapes were grown in Yorkshire in England during the Medieval period and Vikings harvested grain crops in Greenland. In the Roman warm period dates or figs ( I forget which ) were grown around Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

    • Geoff B permalink
      July 28, 2020 9:51 pm

      Interesting he makes some good points, knowledge of the past shows CO2 concentration FOLLOWS temperature. Warm is good….Cold is bad.

  6. Phillip Bratby permalink
    July 28, 2020 7:53 pm

    $140k raised already

  7. H Davis permalink
    July 28, 2020 7:57 pm

    Just a reminder to donate. Ridd needs a lot of money for his appeal. The GoFundMe link is at the end of the article. And tell your friends to donate too.

  8. July 28, 2020 8:47 pm

    Good news. Thank you. Hope he wins.

  9. July 28, 2020 9:27 pm

    I note a comment by Dan Tehan ““Our government recognises that universities are autonomous institutions but we are also strongly committed to protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom at our universities,” he said”.
    I take issue with that statement because they are funded by the tax payer so their autonomy must be limited by that…unless of course JC et al wish to forego the pleasure of all those millions and look for funding for themselves out in the big bad world of reality.

  10. Duker permalink
    July 29, 2020 12:59 am

    The story has a detail wrong
    “A week after the Federal Circuit Court overturned an earlier court decision awarding him $1.2m”
    The Federal [Employment] Court overturned the Circuit Court decision. The Circuit court used to be known as Magistrates Court

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 29, 2020 8:08 pm

    I wish Peter Ridd well in his endeavours. We all benefit if he wins. A worthy cause.

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