Dr. Ridd: James Cook University wins unlawful sacking decision
The grounds for the university's actions were contemptible. He was sacked for disagreeing with his colleagues. If academics cannot disagree with one-another, where does that leave the search for truth?
He was not even abusive in what he said. He just said that their conclusions needed more validation -- a scientific comment if ever there was one.
This needs to go to appeal but funding may be a barrier to that
The reason for the furore is that the JCU scientists said that the reef was damaged by global warming. Dr. Ridd demurred
The Federal Court has allowed an appeal of a decision which found James Cook University acted unlawfully in its 2018 sacking of Peter Ridd, after the professor questioned colleagues' research on the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef.
Dr Ridd was awarded $1.2 million in damages by the Federal Circuit Court in September, which had earlier found JCU sacked the physics professor unlawfully.
The case attracted intense focus due to Dr Ridd's scepticism of climate change science and the broader debate about free speech at Australian universities.
The university reiterated last year it would launch the appeal, and has maintained its sacking of the professor was based on his treatment of colleagues rather than the expression of his scientific views.
Dr Ridd had originally sought reinstatement to his position but later abandoned this in favour of compensation.
In a judgment published on Wednesday, the Federal Court set aside that compensation decision and allowed the university to appeal the earlier ruling it had acted unlawfully.
Justices John Griffiths and Roger Derrington found Dr Ridd's enterprise agreement did not give him "untrammelled right" to express his professional opinions beyond the standards imposed by the university's code of conduct.
The termination of his employment did therefore not breach the Fair Work Act, they said.
Outlining his final declarations and penalties last year in September, Federal Circuit Court Judge Salvatore Vasta suggested the university's conduct had bordered on "paranoia and hysteria fuelled by systemic vindictiveness".
"In this case, Professor Ridd has endured over three years of unfair treatment by JCU – an academic institution that failed to respect the rights to intellectual freedom that Professor Ridd had as per [his enterprise agreement]," the judge decided.
Conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs described the new Federal Court judgment on Wednesday as a "devastating blow" to freedom of speech.
"Alarmingly, this decision shows that contractual provisions guaranteeing intellectual freedom do not protect academics against censorship by university administrators," IPA director of policy Gideon Rozner said. "The time has come for the Morrison government to intervene."
He added that Dr Ridd was now considering his legal options around a High Court challenge.