The Institute of Public Affairs has expressed its dismay at the High Court of Australia’s judgment in the case of Ridd v James Cook University which found that the termination of Dr Peter Ridd’s employment by JCU was not a violation of Dr Ridd’s right to intellectual freedom.
“This decision proves Australia’s universities are in crisis and a culture of censorship is overtaking Australia,” said John Roskam, Executive Director of the IPA.
“Our institutions increasingly want to control what Australians are allowed to say and what they can read and hear.”
In a unanimous decision the Court concluded that Dr Ridd’s right to intellectual freedom was not protected under the terms of his employment agreement. The university had charged Dr Ridd with serious misconduct and then dismissed him after he publicly questioned the scientific evidence upon which rested claims that the Great Barrier Reef was being damaged by climate change. Dr Ridd had written in Climate Change: The Facts 2017 published by the Institute of Public Affairs that given ‘the serious problems with quality assurance in many areas of science, and possibly more so for Great Barrier Reef policy science’ that ‘we can be sceptical of claims the Great Barrier Reef is in peril.’
Today’s decision is the conclusion of more than two and half years of litigation. In April 2019 Dr Ridd won his initial case in the Federal Circuit of Australia and was awarded $1.2 million in damages and penalties. That decision was then overturned in a 2-1 decision of the Federal Court of Australia. Dr Ridd’s legal costs were funded by himself and his wife and from more than 5,600 individual voluntary donations totalling over $1.4 million raised from a crowdfunding appeal on the GoFundMe website.
“Dr Ridd’s battle for integrity in science will not end today. The IPA is pleased to announce that Dr Ridd will become a Fellow of the IPA to lead a new research program at the IPA entitled the Project for Real Science.”
“Dr Ridd will donate his time to the IPA as Fellow without salary to work to improve quality assurance in science, making documentary and educational films, and ensuring that no academic speaking out for integrity in science will endure the ordeal Peter suffered,” said Mr Roskam.
The IPA has today launched an appeal to raise $300,000 for the Project for Real Science. Tax deductible donations to support the research of the Project for Real Science led by Dr Peter Ridd can be made at www.ipa.org.au/realscience.
John Roskam is Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs (ipa.org.au)
Photo: Cameron Laird