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University Unlawfully Dismissed Controversial Climate Scientist

University unlawfully dismissed controversial climate scientist

James Cook University unlawfully dismissed a controversial climate scientist, the Federal Circuit Court has ruled.

The professor had criticised scientific research about the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

However, Judge Salvatore Vasta pointed out the case had nothing to do with the professor’s controversial views on climate change.

Instead, “the trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement”.

Still, that hasn’t stopped a number of right-wing media outlets incorrectly reporting the details of the case and the reasons for Judge Vasta’s decision.

They falsely claim the university sacked the professor for expressing an unpopular view about climate change.

University unlawfully dismissed scientist

Doctor Peter Ridd worked as head of the physics department at JCU from 2009 until 2016.

The university issued him with a number of warnings following comments he made about a lead coral researcher.

He also received a warning for telling media outlets that organisations like the Institute of Marine Science can “no longer be trusted”.

In an email, Ridd described his colleague as “not having any clue about the weather”, and that he “will give the normal doom science about the Great Barrier Reef”.

Ridd said in another email that JCU, along with other universities, are “Orwellian in nature”.

Regular on ‘conspiratorial’ Sky News After Dark

Judge Vasta noted that Ridd had received reprimands from university management for contacting a News Corp journalist.

He also attracted criticism for making appearances on the ultra-right-wing conspiratorial Sky News After Dark programming on Sky News.

According to Judge Vasta, Ridd had obviously spoken to journalists who wrote a number of media articles.

The university sacked Ridd last year for a number of code of conduct breaches.

Academic not sacked for climate views

Ridd took legal action, claiming unlawful dismissal, with Judge Vasta yesterday ruling the university made 17 unlawful findings against him.

For example:

  • two speech directions;
  • five confidentiality directions;
  • a no satire direction;
  • a censure;
  • the final censure; and
  • the termination of Ridd’s employment.

Judge Vasta found the university had failed to understand the concept of intellectual freedom.

“Some have thought that this trial was about freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. 

“Media reports have considered that this trial was about silencing persons with controversial or unpopular views.

“Rather, this trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement.”



University says judgement ‘not based on case law’

The university’s provost professor, Chris Cocklin, disagreed with the judgment, noting in a statement that it does not refer to any case law.

“[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.

“Peter Ridd was never gagged or silenced. We maintain we have not taken issue with Doctor Ridd’s, nor any other employee’s, rights to academic freedom.

“Doctor Ridd was not sacked because of his scientific views.

“What was in issue was how to he communicated about others, how he denigrated others, and how he breached confidentiality, which impacted not only on him, but on others.”

Cocklin confirmed the university is “considering its options”.




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