Government could fund Peter Ridd’s fight against Greenie crooks at James Cook University
Quite aside from anything else the issue of legal costs is big here. JCU has already spent $630,00 on denying Dr Ridd justice and once they have to pay Ridd's legal costs that will rise to around one million. And that is cheap compared to what a High Court appeal would cost. But that is money that should have been used to fund research and teaching. It is a fundamentally unjust use of taxpayer funds. The government has a beef with JCU on those grounds alone.
And a High Court appeal would be sheer vindictiveness. Once they have lost their case in a lower court, the prospect of a win in the High Court is dim.
The government should impose financial penalties if an appeal goes ahead. It would be a misuse of funds that were allocated for research and teaching. JCU will probably claim that the money comes out of administrative funds but if such funds were so flush the surplus could still have been diverted into a research grant, which would have been much more in keeping with the purposes of the university.
And what was Dr Ridd's offence, that has brought down so much rage on his head? He made a cautious and scholarly comment about the validity of some measurements made by his colleagues. The normal response to such an observation would be to go back and check the validity concerned. That such a normal scholarly procedure was not folowed suggests that the measurements really were invalid and known to be invalid, implying that the damage to the Great Barrier Reef was being exaggerated
In my own research career I was very careful about the validity of my measurements and reported it if a measure did not survive a validity check (e.g. here). That's light years away from the practices at JCU so I congratulate Peter Ridd for raising the issue there
Attorney-General Christian Porter has told Coalition MPs that the Commonwealth could assist in supporting costs for sacked academic Peter Ridd to help him in his legal fight against James Cook University.
The Australian has been informed by multiple sources that Mr Porter left the door open for the Commonwealth to play a role in supporting Dr Ridd in today’s joint party room meeting and identified a scheme which could be used to assist the academic.
The internal discussion in the party room comes as JCU moves to appeal a Federal Court finding that the university’s sacking of the physics professor was unlawful, with several Coalition MPs voicing their concerns in today’s joint party room meeting at the appeal.
Sources told The Australian that Education Minister Dan Tehan told the joint party room meeting that he was concerned by the decision of JCU to appeal the April decision by judge Salvatore Vasta.
Dr Ridd is seeking financial compensation after he was sacked by JCU for publicly criticising the institution and one of its star scientists over claims about the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef.
Liberal MPs told The Australian that Mr Tehan said that he planned to meet with the JCU Vice Chancellor to raise his concerns directly and that Mr Porter viewed the appeal as significant and argued that it had the potential to change the landscape of academic freedom in a fundamental way.
In the party room meeting, Victorian Senator James Paterson asked Mr Porter whether the Commonwealth could do anything to contribute to Dr Ridd’s costs for the appeal, with the Attorney-General giving a loose commitment to see whether there was scope for the federal government to play a role.
This was confirmed by multiple Liberal MPs in the meeting. The Australian has contacted Mr Porter’s office for comment.
The Australian was also told that several Coalition MPs spoke to the issue including Sydney based MP Craig Kelly who initiated the discussion by saying he was concerned at how much money JCU would spend on the appeal.
The Australian has also been informed that George Christensen also said that, while JCU was important to his electorate of Dawson, he was increasingly concerned at the developments in relation to Dr Ridd.
Liberal sources said that North Queensland MP Warren Entsch raised concerns about the impact of the legal dispute on tourism and attitudes towards the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian was also informed that new Queensland Senator Paul Scarr also criticised the JCU press release on the judgment, describing it as outrageous.
In April, Justice Vasta ruled JCU had erred in its interpretation of a clause in its enterprise agreement and deprived Dr Ridd of his right to express his academic opinion. Within hours of the judgment being released in April, JCU published a statement on its website criticising the ruling.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General told The Australian that Mr Porter had undertaken “to get a brief from his department on whether these are matters relevant to the Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme.”
The spokesman said that this scheme provided “financial assistance for cases of public importance, that settle an uncertain area or question of Commonwealth law, or that resolve a question of Commonwealth law that affects the rights of a disadvantaged section of the public.”
“It is notable that there has been no application to this Scheme in relation to this matter,” he said.