Australian marine geophysicist loses battle for academic freedom of speech

Peter Ridd, a marine geophysicist and Great Barrier Reef (GBR) expert, has lost his appeal to the High Court of Australia. The High Court of Australia has ruled that the dismissal from James Cook University (JCU) is not an infringement of the right to intellectual freedom.

Lid was fired in 2018 after questioning a colleague’s quality and reliability assurance process in a coral study and “unreliable” the Australian Institute of Marine Science and other GBR scientific institutions in an interview with the media. I called it.

Unlike many peers, Lid does not believe that GBR is at risk of disappearing due to climate change, and coral ecosystems are one of the most adaptable ecosystems in the world to rising temperatures. I said it was one.

The legal struggle was seen as a test of Australian academic freedom and the ability of scholars to freely criticize and question those and institutions they disagree with.

“It’s from the bottom of my heart that we’ve lost our appeal in the High Court,” writes Lid. Post to Facebook.. “In my opinion, the JCU employment contract I was employed in effectively invalidated academic freedom and was lost because the contract was effectively a law.”

“Therefore, JCU’s actions were technically legal. But in my opinion, it was never right, right, decent, not moral, and in line with the public’s expectations of how the university should behave. It wasn’t. “

Great Barrier Reef
On October 25, 2019, a variety of coral reef fish swim over colonies of Staghorn coral growing on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

In April 2019, Lid won the first proceeding and was awarded $ 1.2 million (US $ 800,000) in compensation. This decision was overturned by the Australian Federal Court and was upheld today by the Australian Supreme Court, the High Court.

Despite his work, career, and comments at the expense of more than $ 300,000 ($ 220,000) in attorneys’ fees, Lid said it was “worth the fight,” more important than the results. He believes.

“This is just a small battle in a much bigger war. It was a battle we had to do, and in retrospect we lost,” Lid said. “Decent people and government can see the immense problems we have. Universities are not our friends. Public pressure forces a solution only when the problem is recognized. To do.”

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) said it was disappointed with the High Court’s ruling.

“This decision proves that Australian universities are at stake and that the culture of censorship is overtaking Australia,” said John Roscombe, managing director of IPA. “Our institutions want more and more control over what Australians are allowed to say and what they can read and hear.”

Mr Lid said the failure of the proceedings indicated that more legislation was needed to ensure that the university “behaved properly,” especially under public funding.

“The federal government introduced good legislation in Parliament earlier this year, partly in response to our proceedings, to strengthen academic freedom,” Lid said in a powerfully enforced French law. Mentioned the model code. Implemented in all Australian universities To strengthen the protection of freedom of speech.

“It’s a great step in the right direction,” Lid said.

Rebecca Chu