Doomed Planet

The Stoic Endurance of Peter Ridd

Recently, my wife and I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr Peter Ridd and his wife, Cheryl, herself a highly qualified academic.  Quadrant readers will be aware of Dr Ridd and his date with destiny at the High Court in June.

I had been told that Peter has always thought of himself as a traditional leftist academic but, if so, he must be a master of disguise, because he sounds pretty sound to me.  Of course, the reality is that, just as with Warren Mundine and Mark Latham, the traditional Left has left him behind.  The things that the Left used to worry about – free speech, equality of opportunity, Australian jobs, academic freedom, and so on – are so passe,  and the current fashionable tropes are as much a mystery to Peter Ridd as they are to me.  The word ‘crazy’ pops up frequently in his conversation.

Being a mere essayist, I had felt somewhat intimidated at meeting such an eminent and, more importantly, courageous research scientist, however he immediately put me at ease. 

Peter is a down to earth figure with an easy sense of humour who shows no visible sign of the extreme stress he must have suffered during the course of the past few years.  He told me that losing the appeal against the initial and sweeping ruling in his favour by Judge Salvatore Vasta’s came as a great shock because, as far as he is concerned, that academic freedom should trump a university’s code of conduct is a ‘no-brainer’.  And that, in essence, is what this case is about.  It is not about climate science per se.  Peter’s concern is wider than that.  He is on a mission to resurrect a commitment to quality in scientific research across the board and has a vision to establish a centre to further this aim. His area of operations, to appropriate a military term, is not confined to Australia but is global.

He is hopeful the High Court will reinstitute Judge Vasta’s ruling, but is not over-confident.  He told me that it was touch-and-go at the hearing of his application for special leave to appeal.  The feeling of his legal team was that, at the start of the hearing, the panel was inclined two-to-one against him but that they managed to turn that around to two-to-one in favour.

As far as the Reef and marine science are concerned, Peter is scathing about supposed confreres, saying many actually know very little about their subject.   That might simply be down to the tendency of increasing specialisation, such as worrying about the effects of increased levels of CO2 exposure on fish behaviour.   Serendipitously, Peter’s alma mater, James Cook University,CU, is currently under fire for alleged academic malfeasance in this area, as The Australian reported:

An international scandal has erupted over claims of scientific fraud involving 22 papers linked to James Cook University’s prestigious Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The Australian Research Council, the US National Science Foundation and JCU have been asked to investigate the allegations detailed in an article published in Science magazine on Friday.

The article, which was supported by the international Science Fund for Investigative Reporting, is the culmination of years of ­research and contested claims over how fish behaviour is changed by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans.

A team of researchers claim to have evidence of manipulation in publicly available raw data files for two papers, one published in ­Science, the other in Nature ­Climate Change, combined with remarkably large and “statistically impossible” effects from CO2 reported in many of the other papers.

Good news for Dr Ridd, you might have thought, given that this particular scandal – symptomatic of the general malaise that concerns him – should be sheeted home to his institutional adversaryIt is worth noting that it was the the Centre for Excellence that brought the original charge against Ridd for his assertion that its output was untrustworthy due to an unsatisfactory quality assurance regime.  But as he points out, it is quite possible that their Honours, who will hear his case, may well not have heard of this scandal, it being reported only in The Australian.  And that, given the modern propensity of the woke – among whom we can confidently include any number of judges – to simply ignore inconvenient truths, it may not carry the weight it should. Let’s hope he is being unduly pessimistic on this.

During our discussion on the state of the Reef, I mentioned seeing a documentary on a project to seed the Wistari Reef with coral spawn.  This intrigued me because Wistrari Reef is at the southern end of the GBR and, I would have thought, at least risk of damage due to warming.  I had dived on Heron Reef, which is adjacent to Wistari, in September last year, and noted that it is in magnificent shape, as good or better than I had ever seen it.  I wondered why that site would have been chosen.  Peter laughed and replied that there is so much genetic coral material swirling around the tropical ocean that this effort would make not an iota of difference.  But, he added, this project was far from being the most pointless or ludicrous, citing proposals to construct reinforcing structures around endangered reefs or create clouds above the Reef by spraying salt-water mist into the atmosphere. The question of how they would manage to maintain the clouds in some form of geostationary orbit has apparently yet to be resolved.  It was in this part of our conversation that the word ‘crazy’ got a good workout.

Despite his good spirits, it is obvious that Peter is deeply concerned about the future of academic freedom – although he noted a recent encouraging development at Cambridge University which saw the dons vote in support of academic freedom and free speech – and he is clearly determined to keep up the fight regardless of the outcome in the High Court.

I am sure that  readers will join me in wishing Peter and Cheryl a crushing victory in Canberra in June.

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here 

17 comments
  • ChrisPer

    I join you in wishing Peter and Cheryl a crushing victory in Canberra in June.
    But surely your pious hope that judges are aware of facts reported in particular newspapers is out of bounds. Judges (hypothetically) deal with the issues that are in the scope of the particular case or appeal, on grounds argued by advocates, supported by evidence of witnesses. The reputational failings of the institution that is a party to this action, must be brought to the court by his lawyers at the right time, and while I hope they win, I had thought that part of the proceedings was past.

  • Harry Lee

    This article is an excellent note in support of Ridd.
    Ridd’s ordeal is one glaring consequence of the wider assault on the underpinnings of Western Civ.
    This assault is being conducted in the universities -and beyond, in the rest of the education systems, in the mainstream media, in the legal system, and throughout the public servcies.
    To say the obvious, this assault is well-advanced throughout the entire apparatus of the marxist-inspired campaign to destroy Western Civ.
    Some observers regard this leftist campaign as merely an entertaining feature of our relatively open society.
    But no -it is actually destructive to all the necessary ingredients of the Western system that has produced boons and benefits for all the peoples of the Earth.
    Fact is, contrary to the cherished views of the simply ignorant, the intellectually indolent, and the naively idealistic, the marxist/Big Statist forces now control almost all decisions about the use of resources in our society, decisions about the dismantling of protections against infiltration of our civil order by anti-Westernist agents, and decisions about which freedoms are permitted to which sub-groups of the populace.
    That is, the marxist/Big Statist forces, whose expressed ideology appeals to the superstitions and indolence of the majority of the populace, have already won, actually.
    So, the big question is:
    Will the New System, this anti-Westernist system, the one birthed by the people of marxist-inspired anti-Westernist forces, provide all the solutions to all the problems the marxists reckon are the problems that must be fixed along anti-empirical/marxist/Big Statist lines?
    That is the question.
    Must address questions posed by Actual Reality, if one wishes to do one’s best in Life-on-Earth, as unpleasant as it all might be.

  • en passant

    As the JCU Chancellor would have said if [insert pronoun] had though of it “Who will Ridd me of this honest scientist who tells the truth when we are seeking new research grants?”

  • Michael

    Coral reefs have been around for many tens of millions of years, including epochs when the Earth’s temperature and its atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than now. Many of the most vibrant and biodiverse reef are in warmer, tropical waters nearer to the equator than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The idea that relatively small increases in CO2 or temperature are an existential threat to the GBR is inherently implausible.

  • Harry Lee

    The Ridd case is very important. But look at today’s ruling by a leftist-greenist judge of the Federal Court. It finds in favour of a BS-greenist petition by a group of teenagers who are being orchestrated by a leftist-greenist group of lawyers. This Federal Court ruling endorses total BS-greenist dominance of the future of the generation of electricity, the mining of coal and other fossil fuels, and the mining of minerals more generally.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    ‘……… academic freedom should trump a university’s code of conduct is a ‘no-brainer’.’
    Whatever the outcome of this test case, good will come of it.
    Were the High Court reject the appeal it would give grounds that make clear the issues of the case and the reason for its determination.
    Were it to find that JCU acted within its powers in the employment contract, despite the conditions it held in its ‘mission statement’, this would clarify that JCU had acted contrary to its mission and ethos as it was promulgated.
    The court could find that the preamble did not actually bind JCU, even if an ordinary person, reading it, would believe JCU would honor their ethos.
    My own non legal feeling is that if this were the case, the High Court could simply annul the employment contract.
    We have seen a lot about the employment conditions for staff in Federal Ministerial offices and their need for further review.
    If the manner in which JCU handled the employment contract was found to be satisfactory, this should lead to a drastic review by the federal Government into the most recent changes in University employment contracts, which fail to reach the Cambridge Standard.
    Otherwise there will be more test cases and more ministers targeted over time, who advocate and fund open, Enlightened, universities.

  • Ray Martin

    Harry Lee, the judge who found for the childen put up to this stunt was Mordachai Bromberg.
    Now where have we heard that name before?

  • Peter Marriott

    Good piece Peter and I certainly join you in wishing Peter and Cheryl a crushing victory in the High Court. I’ve read his book Reef Heresy and as I come from a pioneering family on the Home Hill side of the Burdekin, and having grown up and spent all my early years on our cane farm up river I recognise and can identify with all his facts and points, as well as his photographs. I’ve also sent a copy to my cousin there who I intend joining again in October to once more try our luck with the illusive barramundi, among the snags and snares in that most iconic, and spiritual river to me, who like my father grew up on it….the Burdekin.

  • call it out

    Thanks for the tip, Ray Martin. I googled Mordachai Bromberg.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    It is rather personal for me. Around 1962 I joined the first class to go through James Cook (in its second year) and later gained a B.Sc. there. One lecturer was Joe Baker, whom I met again around 1986 while I was giving evidence about uranium to a Senate Inquiry, Joe appeared as a big cheese for World Wildlife Fund, WWF. He was opposing nuclear. He was awarded an AO.
    In 1987, through my employer Peko-Wallsend Ltd, I conceived and managed a case in the Federal Court against the Fed Govt via the then Minister for Environment. We won, then lost, then ended up before the Full Bench the High Court, which essentially said that it had become too complicated for them and did not find for us. The issue was about declaring a World Heritage area over land in the Top End we had under lease or licence to explore and mine. The outcome was that we lost leases granted by the Fed Govt, when we had two likely new mine prospects and a lot of under-explored land.
    The theme I will raise here is that the New World Order that has become more visible in recent years was alive and working at high levels back to the 1960s. The United Nations World Heritage strategy used a new Director of Parks and Wildlife, parachuted into a top position with enormous powers. Much of his prior career had not even been in Australia. Some Judges for our case spoke reverentially about the obligation of Australia not to cause damage to international treaties of the UN, like the one enabling World Heritage. Then there was the above Joe Baker, so we met two of the shadowy heavies with ideologies that few of us knew at the time.
    Peter Ridd from James Cook uni is heading for the High Court in June over another World Heritage area, the GBR, where he might meet more of these dark forces. Until the 1990s colleagues and I had no idea about how far the tentacles stretched and how powerful were some of the people since unearthed. Judges are not excluded from membership other than by probity
    What more can I say than to wish Cheryl and Peter the best of outcomes. Peter, do not hold back. The truth needs to come out, no matter the discomfort it might seem to cause to those involved. Geoff S

  • ianl

    Geoff S

    Yes, but as noted in a slightly earlier thread, however, the values of scientific honesty are not at issue here. Rather, the much narrower grounds of “contracted” employment conditions are the battleground. I would wish this to be not true but like you, from experience in various court cases where science has impinged on law, I do expect it to be so. The Full Bench of the Federal Court certainly did.

    Peter Ridd is an extremely courageous man. One measure of that courage is the extensive effort being made by JCU to cancel him. A goodly proportion of the country’s population are watching with eagle eye here. One of the aspects of this situation that gave me hope, apart from Peter himself of course, was the rapidity with which crowd funding responded. I do believe that the JCU hierarchy were quite unexpectedly discombobulated by that … other Vice-Chancellors with somewhat disaffected employees certainly noted that.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    ianl,
    Re this court case, mostly I think in terms of employment contracts, but then I wonder why the High Court decided to take that on. It might be an indication that they are prepared to broaden the scope. Time alone will tell. GeoffS

  • Harry Lee

    Based on what we see in the domain of “climate science”, there is no reason to expect that the truth, the facts, the evidence will be decisive in matters of public opinion or government policy. The Left has succeeded in harnessing all factors pertaining, viz: “climate science” and its denizens, the dominant influential forces in the education, news/opinion, and legal systems, naive idealists in search of cost-less virtue, and well-moneyed people with guilt to assuage. This is a marxist campaign in pursuit of ultimate political power. The idea “that truth will win” is misguided, ill-informed and politically naive. And that is one of the main reasons why the marxist-greenist forces are winning this war. Too few professional people -good scientists, good engineers, good managers, good journalists/columnists/editors- are willing to see, let alone admit, that empiricism is no match for political might.

  • guilfoyle

    I have a comment to make about the comments: I too, value the Ridd case, as I am dismayed by the degradation in scholarship that we have seen in our universities, something that has been present and growing since I was attending university in the 1980’s. As a parent of a university student I find the brainwashing, marking down according to ideology etc a concern which had to be actively managed ( by not choosing those flaky subjects or subjects by which history or facts could be distorted – a severe narrowing of the range of possibilities). However, the comments here evidence a failure to grasp an opportunity by conservatives to tackle the issues at stake. The High Court’s finding against a mining company on grounds made possible by a UN treaty does not necessarily result from adherence to the same mindset that is prevailing in the case of silencing genuine objective academic research or expression of differing views. As all the commenters recognise, we are experiencing the illiberal effects of a totalitarian mindset, where annihilation (at the moment merely by employment but, we have all witnessed history) is justified for ‘the greater good’. The problem with conflating the refusal of a mining lease with the cancelling of voices against the narrative is that it plays into the narrative itself. It also reveals the inherent weakness in the conservative movement- if ‘conservative’ is representative of big business, where economic benefit is the sole test, where the ‘conservative ‘ husbandry of the environment is seen as Marxist – then there is a vacuum in the conservative policy that can be immediately filled by Labor, Greens or others who realise that there are many people who do value the environment, who do not like to see destruction of bushland, beautiful buildings in the name of ‘progress ‘ or ‘economy’; who do care about wildlife and the conditions of animals. These people do not agree with the Greens agenda – but may be persuaded to support them because they see a soulless pursuit of money by big business with no restraint as the alternative. The Greens have, in analysis, very little truly practical environmental aspect to their policy. In fact, the environment is really a vehicle for their Marxist weird takeover of society. The very fact that they are politically astute enough to recognise the ‘branding’ value of environmental care shows something, especially when this aspect alone gets a very mediocre party votes that it doesn’t deserve. How do the conservative parties miss this? The Labor party got into power on the Dams case in 1983 and then abandoned true care for the environment in favour of fake ‘care’ in the guise of ‘climate change’. The Liberals have persisted in characterising care for the environment or truly ‘conservative ‘ policies as ‘anti-business’, choosing to embrace either ‘woke’ (Turnbull) or ‘‘economy is all’. Conservatives have the opportunity to formulate a truly ‘conservative ‘ policy. In doing so, they would pick up a lot of Labor voters and could govern in a way that leaves a legacy rather than quick-profit greed (which seems to define Australia).

  • pmprociv

    Very astute and pertinent comment, Guilfoyle. I, too, have been dismayed by the way the Greens have drifted since the days of Bob Brown, becoming Marxists in tree-hugger’s clothes. But the problems at JCU are not new. About 30 years ago, I was interviewed there for a senior academic position, and became increasingly dismayed as the exercise progressed by the ideological, PC and “woke” (a term not yet invented then) attitude of the selection committee members, So many red flags popped up for me, that I expressed my growing irritation and, of course, failed the test — to my (and my wife’s) great relief. (Interestingly, the person offered the job also then turned it down.) Subsequently, from friends and colleagues up there, I gather that little has changed — and, it seems from this case, the overall situation might have actually deteriorated. Sadly, while JCU might be an egregious example, I suspect a similar drift in most, if not all, our universities. Things don’t sound any better overseas, so it’s critical that Ridd’s case eventually succeeds.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    ‘But the problems at JCU are not new.’
    When going for a teachers college scholarship in the mid 60’s part of the process was to have a one to one interview.
    The questions ranged from ‘Why did I want to become a teacher’? to ‘What did I think of the Vietnam War?’
    My answer to the second was that I thought it was unwinnable.
    The bearded referee glowed with joy.
    I asked if he wanted to know why and he declined.
    I followed a career path less travelled and later saw him at a Fabian Society dinner while at uni.. Subsequently he showed up at our house to recruit one of my siblings, a teacher’s college student.
    My mother, having washing drying in the rumpus room, wryly remarked that we looked the part.
    Since then, the rise of the left in the teacher’s unions and the lack of rigorous teaching,has not been a surprise.

  • DUBBY

    It’s interesting how, every now and again someone like Ridd comes along. Society and truth needs these people. All is not lost.

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