Free Speech

In the Trenches with Peter Ridd


I was in the High Court on Wednesday (June 23) to support Dr Peter Ridd and his fight for academic freedom. The decision is expected to be handed down in a couple of months, and there is no way of knowing which way it will go.  However, readers may be interested in my observations.

But first a caveat. While I speak Spanish reasonably fluently, albeit not idiomatically, I find it difficult to understand when attempting a native speaker.  I am able to pick up enough from time to time to get the general drift, and it was much the same with the language of the law in Court One on Wednesday.  So, my observations on how the hearing went should be taken as an interested observer, not those of a legal analyst. Nonetheless, readers may be interested to hear my impressions.

A panel of five justices heard the case – Chief Justice Keifel and Justices Keane, Gageler, Edelman, and Gordon.  Gordon and Edelman were the most active in posing questions, particularly in the early stages.  They grilled Stuart Wood QC, representing Dr Ridd, fairly comprehensively.  Wood appeared to be on top of his brief and was able to provide answers, convincing to my mind.

Brett Walker, representing James Cook University, was subject to fewer questions and, for much of his argument, struck me as spouting learned waffle. Following arguments by both sides, Wood was invited to respond, which he did very strongly.  Were this a boxing match, I would give it to Woods on points. But then I would say that.

Speaking after the proceedings, Peter Ridd told me his team went into the hearing cautiously optimistic and finished the day in much the same frame of mind.

The case turns on two points.  Firstly, did Dr Ridd breach clause 14 of the university’s code of conduct in exercising his right of academic freedom?  As I understand it, there was common ground that Ridd had not vilified, intimidated, bullied or harassed his colleagues (expressly forbidden under the code).  Therefore, he did not breach the code of conduct.  So, the question comes down to whether or not he disrespected of his colleagues and, in exercising his rights,  infringed their (unspecified) rights) in some indeterminate way.

As Ridd points out, how is it possible to tell someone their work is shoddy or fraudulent without them feeling offended, humiliated or whatever – no matter how politely you express it?  JCU objected to the fact that Dr Ridd made his accusations public, rather than doing so collegially, rather than keeping them within the confines of the university.  As an aside, it seems to me that if academic freedom is to mean anything it must include the freedom to go public with one’s findings. Publicly funded research belongs to the public that funds it.

The second major issue was that Dr Ridd breached confidentially provisions not reveal the details of disciplinary proceedings conducted against him.  As I understand it, this was a main, but secondary, reason for the dismissal — this non-disclosure requirement.  Stuart Wood strongly made the point that if the High Court found that he had not breached the code in respect of expressing his honestly held opinion, then any confidentiality provisions would then automatically become unviable, not least because they might be used to conceal wrongdoing.

At one stage, Brett Walker, made the point that the university had the right to protect its reputation and that staff are obliged to contribute to this aim.  I thought that point played more in favour of Ridd than JCU, particularly when Walker conceded that a good reputation must necessarily be deserved. 

Perhaps the most telling question came from Justice Edelman, who asked Walker if the logic of his case would lead to a chilling effect on academic debate.  Walker responded that ‘one person’s chilling effect may be another person’s reasonable restraint.’  To me that is the defining question.

I am sure all Quadrant readers will join me in hoping for the right result, not just for the sake of Peter Ridd, but for the future of two principal foundations of our Western society: academic freedom and the good sense of our courts and judges.

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15 thoughts on “In the Trenches with Peter Ridd

  • Harry Lee says:

    Yes, I join O’Brien in hoping for a good result for Ridd. But actually, I have learned that hope is not an effective weapon against evil enemies. Remember: Evil is the conscious and deliberate causing of harm to others. With the people who now dominate all of our institutions, we are not dealing with ignorance. We are not dealing with incompetence. We are dealing with people who seek to destroy the foundations of Western Civ. This includes the banning and ultimate destruction of the use of proper empiricism to guide decisions about the applications of resources and the management of criminality, including violence. And we are dealing with careerists whose interpretations and applications of law are driven by their desire for grand social position, desire to feel virtuous at zero personal cost, and desire for money. They are not driven by the desire to uphold the essential ingredients of Western Civ. So, know your enemy, and deal with the reality of your enemy -that is, if you want to win and save yourself, and your families, and your descendants from enslavement under the anti-Westernist marxist commissars who now dominate all of our institutions.

  • lbloveday says:

    “..Justice Edelman, who asked Walker if the logic of his case would lead to a chilling effect on academic debate. Wood responded..”
    Should that be Walker responded?

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Yes, sorry. ‘Walker responded’.

  • Michael says:

    If it is accepted that the university has the right to protect its reputation and that staff are obliged to contribute to this aim, then there is no academic freedom. Simple as that. Academic freedom must include saying things that damage the reputation of colleagues, the university, the discipline or the state.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    I also join with Peter O’Brien in hoping for a finding in Peter Ridd’s favour, not least because I come from the Burdekin and a sugar cane farm. We know how all the restrictions on fishermen and farmers affect their lives and livelihoods and we also know how the science has been politicised to suit extreme left Green Party ideology, always prejudiced against farmers, cattle stations, mills and miners and Peter Ridd has spoken out against this, or al least written about it and I thank him for that.

  • NFriar says:

    Thank you Peter O’Brien for supporting Peter Ridd – the fight for all Australians for free speech.

  • en passant says:

    Having read an article on how Lysenko had a fellow biologist executed for exposing his academic fraud, I think this case is on a knife edge, not because of the substance of the issues, but because wrong thinking and facts might derail the gravy train – and all of academia has to oppose that or Departments of the Dark Arts might be defunded – throwing thousands of totally useless Peter Pan academics on to the scrap heap.
    I note that the ‘Education’ Ministers have supported ‘Professor’ Pascoe’s fabulism, so can it be much longer before alchemy. astrology and witch-finding are back on the curriculum?

  • ianl says:

    Peter O’Brien

    Thanks for your notes here.

    Given your comment on which Justices were most active in questioning Peter Ridd’s barrister (that is, Gordon and Edelman), I was prompted to search their professional histories.

  • STD says:

    Yes ,global warming is Lysenko’s Constant……..

  • Stephen Due says:

    I would have thought that the best way for any scientist to protect his or her reputation is to do good science and then defend it with logic and evidence. If JCU and the scientists who feel threatened by Peter Ridd’s opinions and publications were in an intellectually defensible position, they would not feel the need to resort to legal sanctions to silence him. The very fact that this matter has reached the High Court shows that the University has ceased to have any confidence in evidence and logic. Rather it wishes to enforce at any price the teaching of what is essentially a scientific pseudo-religion about the weather.

  • Peter C says:

    It appears logical that the High Court will come down in favour of Professor Peter Ridd.

    It is very easy to believe Professor Peter Ridd instead of the Lefty academics who have saturated the Universities – as have Lefties saturated the ABC & the main stream media – and are best not believed especially as they are also in the thrall of the hoax that is climate change

  • gareththomassport says:

    Good point Stephen Due.
    It applies equally to any of the left’s shibboleths. No ability to argue rationally, just insults.

  • Harry Lee says:

    Please consider these points:
    The marxist-greenist forces cannot be halted and certainly cannot be defeated by rationality, empiricism and considered debate.
    The marxist-greenist peoples are not that kind of enemy.
    Tha marxist-greenist people want to enslave the productive classes and control the details of the daily lives of the Ordinary People.
    Now observe the kinds of people who vote for the ALP and Greens.
    And put effort into assessing the capabilities and motives of the people who control the ALP and the Greens -from the shadows.
    Now ask what can be done about it all.
    And note again: Rationality, empiricism and considered debate are not effective weapons in this war.
    (And note that there is nothing in the Australian Constitution and the system of law derived from that Constitution that provides for protection of Australia against the utter evil of the marxist-greenist forces.)

  • STD says:

    “JCU objected to the way Dr Ridd made his accusation public”.
    So they didn’t like his manner, that’s not an illegal act, or even an improper act or a dishonest act ,even an inappropriate act in the statutes of the state. The state doesn’t disapprove of people being honest, surely , the Universities reputation is to be built on the foundation of the meaning in the word integrity- in a word honesty- and since a fair proportion of University funding is underwritten in the long term horizon by Law abiding taxpayers, it is then reasonable to assume that dishonesty or Academic fraud is akin to economic fraud and as such has every right to be exposed in the public domain for public consumption and interest ,to ensure that academic integrity has not been defrauded and is given its due.
    Honesty is a word that stands on its own- the Academic mob has betrayed the truth and has sort the removal of DR Ridd.
    If the intent of the University is honesty, why do they object to the traits of that honesty- is fraudulent integrity , honesty. If people like honesty they applaud honesty, the George Pell case comes to mind.
    How does the University define ‘reputation’ and does it embolden honest integrity or not.
    The very act of Academic enquiry when properly understood is an embolden act of good faith – this is Academic truth is it not.
    Empirical data that is not fraudulent and that has not been tampered with is an honest act or intervention, unlike Micheal Mann’s global warming hockey stick( stick to em).IF ITS POLITICAL IN NATURE IT IS DRIVEN BY EXPEDIENT ACTS- Dr Ridd was removed in the interests of /and because of politically motivated academic and economic convenience-EXPEDIENCE IS THE ARTFULLY COMPLIANT ACT OF LYING.
    What is at stake here is the whole edifice of the greatest inconvenient truth

  • pmprociv says:

    The rot started to set in with the “Dawkins Reforms”, consequent to which vice-chancellors commenced seeing universities as corporations, themselves as CEOs (with appropriate emoluments), and academics as their employees. Seeing they still live mainly off the public teat, they expanded their subservient administrative class (deputy VCs, proVCs etc.), whose functions remain a mystery to outsiders, but who seem to spend most of their time travelling, at meetings, and writing reports (most of which probably never find a reader). The academic class has shrunk hugely, and its jobs more precarious, It should come as no surprise that they are expected to toe the company line. And, to gain research funding, don’t challenge the status quo or rock the boat. Make sure your findings are such that everyone wants to hear . . .

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