Peter Ridd’s victory over James Cook University was great personal victory but sadly it will not usher in a new era of academic freedom and debate.
We can see that already from the response by the university. Far from showing any contrition it instead challenged the judgment signalling a likely appeal.
Rather than accept the judge’s reasoning on academic freedom one suspects most universities will be running to their legal teams in order to double down on their Enterprise Agreements and redefine all clauses pertaining to academic freedom to ensure any future “Ridd” cases cannot happen again.
That will be the short-term solution nipping free thinkers in the bud. Longer term natural attrition will take care of the problem. The sad reality is that there are few Peter Ridd’s left in Australian universities with most dissenters or conservatives having been purged in the long march through our academic institutions.
Ridd is typical of most scientists that break ranks with the climate establishment. They tend to be older professionals, tenured and close to retirement meaning they don’t have as much to lose by speaking out.
Importantly, they were appointed and received tenure in very different times. When Peter Ridd retires (assuming he is reinstated) his vacancy will not be filled by someone with published science casting doubt on the groupthink that climate change is destroying The Great Barrier Reef. His position will be filled by a conformist and true believer.
Over time natural attrition will solve the Ridd problem for Australian universities. The Coalition has been asleep at the wheel as institution after institution fell into progressive hands. Even when it was half awake to the problem it was too scared to do anything. Three to six years of a Shorten government and the problem of academic freedom will be solved. Everyone will be of like mind with academic debate reduced to heated agreement. Baa baa baa.