The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has expressed its dismay at the judgement in the case of James Cook University (JCU) v Peter Ridd, in which the Federal Court of Australia overturned the earlier decision in the Federal Circuit Court, which held that Dr Peter Ridd was unlawfully dismissed by JCU.
“This judgement is a devastating blow against mainstream Australians, against freedom of speech and against freedom of speech on climate change,” said the IPA’s Gideon Rozner.
“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. Dr 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 Peter 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 and Co. Sky News program.
“We understand that Dr Ridd is now 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 IPA – as well as thousands on mainstream Australians – will continue to support his fight for freedom of speech on climate change,” said Mr Rozner.
“James Cook University 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.
“James Cook 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,” said Mr Rozner.
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