Will this be a shot heard around the world?
From Benny Peiser at the Global Warming Policy Forum picking up a feed from The Australian.
A Federal Court judge has ruled that James Cook University acted unlawfully when it sacked professor Peter Ridd after he publicly criticised the institution and one of its star scientists over claims about the impact global warming had on the Great Barrier Reef. Handing down his decision today, judge Salvatore Vasta said that the 17 findings used by the university to justify the sacking were unlawful. –The Australian, 16 April 2019
James Cook University may have already spent over $1 million in legal fees attempting to silence Peter Ridd. They have assumed that sooner or later he would run out of money and courage. But not Peter, with his legal team and support of people like Spectator Australia readers has kept going. Taking this fight to the Federal Court would not have been possible were it not for Peter deciding to take a stand in defence of the truth, to not back down regardless of the consequences. –Jennifer Marohasy, Spectator Australia, 16 April 2019
Some of the backstory.
In 2016 Professor Ridd informed a journalist that Australian Institute of Marine Science at James Cook University was feeding the media with misleading images of the reef to claim that it was suffering severe damage. He alleged that one of his colleagues Professor Terry Hughes was evasive when asked to explain what was going on. Hughes is one of many marine scientist getting major grants to produce research that purports of depict the reef in decline.
This earned Ridd a censure from the University for violating the corporate code of conduct. He repeated the claims on Sky News and earned a second censure. After a third violation, possibly related to email messages to friends, he was sacked in April 2018.
Jo Nova has a piece with many links to get the full story.
With any luck this will generate a wide-ranging and protracted public discussion of the way the universities and research institutes are doing business, especially in relation to climate science and other topics where political correctness is killing scholarship and public debate.
The ABC report.
In a statement, JCU Provost Professor Chris Cocklin disagreed with the judge and said the university was “considering its options”.
“[We] are also troubled by the fact that he fails to refer to any legal precedent or case law in Australia to support his interpretation of our enterprise agreement, or academic freedom in Australian employment law,” the statement said.
Provost Professor Cocklin maintained in the statement that Dr Ridd was not sacked because of his “scientific views”.
“Peter Ridd was never gagged or silenced,” the statement said.
“We maintain we have not taken issue with Dr Ridd’s, nor any other employee’s, rights to academic freedom.
A lot of comments on Watts Up With That.
Taking up a point from RobK’s comment drawing off the full text of the judgement.
Media reports have considered that this trial was about silencing persons with controversial or unpopular views. 2. 3. Though many of those issues were canvased and discussed throughout the hearing of this matter, this trial was about none of the above. Rather, this trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an Enterprise Agreement. Whilst the Court acknowledges that there may be consequences that touch upon these other issues because of the Court’s construction of that clause, none of those consequences can play any part in the determination of the proper construction of that clause.
The clause in question is cl.14 of the James Cook University Enterprise Agreement. It is headed “Intellectual Freedom”. It, and it alone, is the focus of this judgement. Even though in this application, the Applicant is asking for the Court to make declarations that the Respondent breached the Enterprise Agreement and therefore contravened s.50 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“the FW Act”), the parties have asked me to simply rule whether certain findings and directions were lawful.
If it is possible to write enterprise agreements that restrict freedom of speech in a way that stands up in court, this changes the game to challenging the framework of law or conventions that allows such enterprise agreements to exist. This applies in the Folau case as well.