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 A mockery of justice for Peter Ridd

14.10.21.  James Cook University has just learned a terrible lesson: it might have won its fight against Peter Ridd but its reputation will never be the same. The High Court has found unanimously that this regional institution was wrong when it twice censured Ridd, a world-class academic, for making honest and lawful statements on matters within his expertise. Those findings are a mark of dishonour that will never be ­expunged. Potential students and academics will be able to see that this organisation was wrong to ­censure Ridd in 2016 for what it said was the tone and manner of his honestly held views.

Source: Chris Merritt, NCA

James Cook University bears eternal mark of dishonour in Peter Ridd case

They will see that the university was wrong to censure him for remarks on Sky News in 2017 in which he said it was no longer possible to trust research on the Great Barrier Reef from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
Future generations will see that the university was wrong to cite his remarks to Alan Jones and Peta Credlin on Sky News and tell him his intellectual freedom did not extend to criticising “key stakeholders of the university” in a manner that was not “respectful and courteous”.
According to the High Court: “In the absence of any assertion that his remarks amounted to harassment, vilification, bullying, or intimidation, or that they were defamatory or not honestly held, the remarks were protected by the intellectual freedom in” clause 14 of the university’s enterprise agreement.
Yet Ridd still lost because both sides chose to run their arguments on what the court described as an “all or nothing” basis.
He had urged the court to find that all of the university’s findings against him were unjustified.
That turned out to be a tactical error.
Ridd had some clear wins and persuaded the court that the university had no business trying to prevent him expressing honestly held beliefs on matters that were within his academic expertise.
But he lost the case because the university had 18 other grounds for dismissing him over statements that went beyond opinions that were legally ­protected by the enterprise ­agreement.
This case turned on the relationship between the university’s code of conduct – with its requirement to act collegially and respect the reputation of colleagues – and the guarantee in the enterprise agreement of the right to express unpopular or controversial views.
For the university, this is a Clayton’s victory.
After citing On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, the judges abandoned normal practice and declined to make an order that Ridd should pay the university’s legal costs.
That amounts to quite a penalty. Bret Walker SC, who ran the case for the university, is one of the nation’s greatest advocates. He is not cheap.
So who walks away from this case in better shape? Ridd is a modern martyr to freedom of speech. James Cook University is tainted.

Chris Merritt is vice-president of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Ian 14/10/2021, 6:16 am

    For all those people with a JCU degree, take it out of the frame and look at the back, can you see the Kellogg’s logo?

    We can.

    • John 14/10/2021, 6:35 am

      And what an oxymoron having JCU named after James Cook. Probably make him want to go and spear himself.

    • z 14/10/2021, 9:34 am

      Tick, Ian, and the same applies to UQ and MU (“Australia’s #1”) who have also trashed their brand. Go woke Go broke So true.

  • Lorraine 14/10/2021, 6:58 am

    Peter Ridd was not a beaten man when he appeared on Sky news, he was saddened he had not won for his supporters……But he said some one had to do it….I was a supporter for his fund, and he is a winner in my eyes, The University on the other hand used tax payer funds and a top Barrister to obtain a lose of face ……

    • Albert 14/10/2021, 7:08 am

      Well said, Lorraine.

  • Aktosplatz 14/10/2021, 7:17 am

    There was a time when scientists (in and outside of University) used their knowledge (working damn hard)for the benefit of human kind. Peter Ridd is one of those honourable scientists.

    But today, Universities are after the Money, and JCU with their false reporting about the GBR were just out to make money regardless of the truth of their reports. JCU is such a place, and they can spin all they like but all JCU are involved with today, is the Money Trail.

    When I was a student scientist in the 60s, it was marvelous working for such dedicated people ( and the pay wasn’t exorbitant). Today, I don’t tell anyone I was a scientist, I am too ashamed because of the greed and money grabbing around not only the GBR, but the lies of Climate Change, all just to make money and grab control.

    I think Peter Ridd has been outstanding, and he’s better off away from the garbage heap of the JCU.

  • Maryanne 14/10/2021, 7:30 am

    Stop funding universities.

  • Eliza 14/10/2021, 8:09 am

    Peter Ridd is a man of principle and Integrity and has a great deal of dignity in the face of this claptrap.

    • Disgruntled 14/10/2021, 11:59 am

      He sure is Eliza,
      Earlier this morning I heard a talk on 4sb (part of the Resonate Regional Radio networth) between Dobbo and Peter Ridd. It was a heart to heart talk as Dobbo always seems to do. As you say Elisa he is a very principled man and the talk certainly showed how principled he is.
      As we all know he doesn’t have a job now and Dobbo asked him about how he will survive as no university type of thing will have anything to do with him now. His research work actually supports the whole rural industry as well as mining etc. so it was put to him that he could easily get employment any where there.
      His reply was that he has already been accused of being in the pockets of “bad” industries and if he were to take pay the a-hole activests would have reason to use that against any research detail that he brings up. (that is a factual reality)
      He is now 60 odd now and is calling himself retired (for now) and he is going to stay doing what he does well and hope he can weather retirement expenses and he can give his views without all the stupid critical accusations that might come his way if he were “paid”. (a really decent bloke). I think he did say that it would be good to have a job, but he is NOT willing to tell porkies just to get paid.

      If anyone could find a copy of the talk I sure would like to get a link to it and it would well worthwile for everyone to hear.
      Please MM Ed. could you find it please as you are better at that than most; I sure would like to hear it again.

  • Bwana Neusi 14/10/2021, 12:01 pm

    Let the Minister direct that the taxpayer will not fund the JCU costs, by simply reducing the government funding equivalent to JCU – Ouch!!

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