These consequences will be difficult to reverse.
Ridd was sacked by JCU in 2018 for criticising the work of a colleague studying the Great Barrier Reef. In an email to a journalist, he said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority “is grossly misusing some scientific ‘data’ to make the case that the Great [B]arrier Reef is greatly damaged”.
He also said that scientific organisations were “quite happy to spin a story for their own purposes, in this case to demonstrate that there is massive damage to the [Great Barrier Reef]”.
Data ‘unequivocally’ shows Great Barrier Reef is in ‘extremely good condition’
In Climate Change: The Facts, published by the Institute for Public Affairs in 2017 (disclosure: the IPA also published my book, Die Laughing, this year), Ridd said 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.”
Ridd also said on Sky News that the Australian Institute of Marine Science “could no longer be trusted”.
Today’s High Court case did not hinge on the veracity of these statements.
Rather, it was confined to whether Ridd had broken the conditions of his employment contract.
JCU sacked Ridd in 2018.
UN only picking on Australia’s reefs because ‘they don’t like our climate policy’
He contested that sacking in the Federal Circuit of Australia and was awarded $1.2 million in damages and penalties.
JCU appealed to the Federal Court, which handed down a 2-1 decision for JCU. Ridd appealed to the High Court, raising $1.4 million for the case through donors.
The key line from today’s judgment is this: “The problem with his [Ridd’s] submission is that it treats the intellectual freedom as though it were a freedom of speech generally.”
‘Academic freedom on the line’ as Dr Ridd appeals unfair dismissal with High Court
The concerns Ridd raised regarding the quality of research being conducted at one of our leading universities should alarm every Australian.
As commentator Graham Young wrote in The Spectator Australia in July: “If Ridd is correct that significant portions of the research on the Great Barrier Reef done by James Cook University researchers is sloppy, and not objective, then JCU is playing a central role in efforts by UNESCO, and perhaps even the Chinese government, to destroy the reputation of the reef by listing it as endangered.
“If UNESCO lists the reef as endangered, we can expect the North Queensland region to suffer. While academics will continue to receive significant research grants (the Great Barrier Reef Foundation alone has half a billion to distribute), and the university board will bask in the glory, anyone in tourism, or connected to it, will lose.”
Farmers hurt by ‘sham research’ driving false ‘reef saving’ legislation
How do we know that other research institutions are not immune to similar accusations? The answer is, we don’t.
The evidence, however, is compelling.
Hardly a day goes by these days when there isn’t a story about a university liberal arts degree teaching gullible kids about “indigenous queer studies” and the fertile intellectual crossover between art, race, sexuality, climate change and colonialism.
These revelations are not made by insiders, but by investigators shining lights on the questionable courses being conducted on campus.
The tertiary sector has had a shaky relationship with free speech since it became largely financially reliant on students, particularly from China.
Protesters against the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong in 2019, many of them Chinese themselves, were met with violence and threats from compatriots about repercussions for family back home.
Professor Peter Ridd says universities no longer value the truth
In other research areas, the practice of peer review and the new reverence for “the science” in left-wing media have instilled a culture that sees itself as impervious to criticism.
After today, any researcher who tries to blow the whistle on such allegations in our publicly funded research institutions – and there is enormous reason to believe that such misbehaviour exists – has been warned: don’t even think about it.
You will lose your job for doing so.

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