A Loss in the Federal Court By Ian Wilson LL. B

     Unfortunately, there has been a loss in the Peter Ridd Case in the Federal Court:

“James Cook University has won a bid to overturn a court decision last year awarding $1.2m to outspoken professor Peter Ridd over his sacking for criticising climate science and fellow academics at the Townsville-based institution. The full bench of the Federal Circuit Court on Wednesday found JCU was within its rights to sack Professor Ridd for “serious misconduct” in 2018 after he publicly disparaged his colleagues and claimed the university’s Great Barrier Reef global warming science was misleading and sensationalist. Defending his actions, the marine physicist said it was within his right to intellectual freedom but the full court ruled that liberty was constrained by the behavioural standards of the university’s code of conduct. Professor Ridd confirmed to The Australian on Wednesday that he had sought legal advice about challenging the verdict in the High Court. The university stalwart was given an initial warning in April 2016 after he emailed a journalist and criticised his colleague Professor Terry Hughes, the head of JCU’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, for using “misleading” images portraying “broad scale decline” in the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The university found he had breached the code of conduct because he had not acted collegiately.”

     Well, that is how it goes today. A High Court challenge would be interesting, but may not occur given the associated legal costs. So, what is the lesson here? As James Reed has argued, the universities are corporate entities today, and have no real choice but to go fully commercial, and protect their interests, given that the government does not adequately fund them and the government wants Asian students as migrant’s, for its Asianisation program. Hence, the present financial problems many universities face, with the lack of Chinese full fee-paying students. These are real tough times for the universities. Thus, there is much merit in public intellectuals existing outside of the academy to maximise freedom of criticism. I would not want to be at university, even if they paid me; I value freedom of expression too highly. Why, almost all Australia universities have an internet censoring program, which knocks out sites that local public library and high school computers can get. Go figure.



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Thursday, 13 August 2020
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