Dr. Peter Ridd vs. James Cook University – Arguments Completed

Professor Peter Ridd writes:

We finally got home from Brisbane where the court hearing was held about 1200 km to the south, and it has been good to reflect on events. I am very hopeful and Judge Vasta seemed to indicate that he would try to hand down his judgement around Easter. So, until then we should wait and see.

As mentioned, the case delivered by Stuart Wood QC was brilliant. He did not focus on legal technicalities but instead concentrated on the concept of Intellectual Freedom. This was a very deliberate decision – if we are to win, it had to be on this point because in the end this was the root cause of the problem and the reason that there was wide public interest. Academics with controversial ideas on anything, including climate change and whether the damage to the Great Barrier Reef is being exaggerated, should be allowed to speak. In fact, they should be encouraged to speak. In addition, the focus on the wider problem might mean that the final judgement will have broader implications to the way our universities operate.

We contend that I had my Intellectual Freedom taken away under the context of a vague Code of Conduct. Stuart Wood QC argued how this was legally in error. He also demonstrated how this was totally contrary to the way a university should work. One of many highlights was when Wood QC used the JCU barristers’ own words that described my offending comments as “inappropriate” to show how the Code of Conduct could restrict any controversial comment. Who decides if my words are inappropriate – the university. “Inappropriate” sets a very low bar and a sensible academic knows that the best strategy is to either say nothing or make sure it is in agreement with the university administration – i.e. there is no freedom. By the Code of Conduct, a challenge as insignificant as a nasty look or a steely glare could be defined as a breach. And by JCU’s construction, the intellectual freedom clauses in our work contract are no protection.

Wood QC started with a discussion of the centrality of debate and disagreement in the rise of western civilisation and science. He quoted interesting examples of famous debates, which if they had occurred today at JCU and most other universities, would have resulted in both sides of the debate being fired for breaking what boils down to the Code-of-Politeness- Political-Correctness-and-What-the-University-Administration-Decides. 
I must get a full transcript of Wood’s address for more detail but he then narrowed down to the specifics of my misdemeanours. These boiled down to 9 main categories and Wood took his time on each one. He gave the background and context, he looked at the detailed evidence (generally email trails from JCU’s search-for-dirt), and then demonstrated how in every case the University had broken its obligation to intellectual Freedom. 

Wood QC finally considered the confidentiality directions that JCU used to try to keep everything secret and considered the clause in my work contract that was there to protect me against JCU releasing my information without my consent. This was completely opposite to JCU’s interpretation which was that it ALWAYS gave them the power to ALWAYs keep matters secret. One has to wonder why they are so ashamed that they needed to keep it secret. 

The way the legal team worked was remarkable. Wood QC is by general agreement the top Industrial Relations lawyer in Australia and he had two barristers and two solicitors backing him up and feeding him the documents as he talked. He spoke non-stop for 4 hours in the final afternoon and it was like watching the reloading and firing of a 15 inch naval gun at the JCU ship. It was withering, relentless, and merciless. I wish there was a video of it. In my opinion, and let’s hope the Judge agrees, by the time he had finished JCU’s position was a sinking hulk. I felt sorry for their barristers (but maybe they will have the last laugh)

In the final analysis this case will be decided on whether the Code of Conduct trumps Intellectual Freedom or vice-versa. If JCU is correct, then it can no longer be considered to be a proper university and the government will have to do something about the way universities are governed and funded. If we are right, we will have to then look at how similar work contracts are likely being misused in most other Australian universities, and I suspect, around the western world.

John Roskam explains why Dr Peter Ridd deserves to continue his vital work at JCU and what JCU are costing themselves and Australia with their actions. WATCH:

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March 29, 2019 8:37 am

Excellent! The issue is not the content of speech, the issue is freedom of speech. Ditto -the issue is not with the content of science – it is with the freedom to pursue science wherever it takes us. That is all that matters.

Clearly this legal action is an attempt to squelch both free speech and free science – mind control via speech and science control. All very Orwellian!

Way to go, professor. Now let us hope that the trial judge understands the stakes.

Mickey Reno
March 29, 2019 9:05 am

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Prof. Ridd. Thanks also to your legal team, Jennifer Marohasy, all the contributors. If you win using these arguments, I can’t help but think Michael Mann will be getting real nervous about the chances of his defamation suit against Mark Steyn.

Reply to  Mickey Reno
March 29, 2019 10:44 am

A decision in an Aussie court, which ever way it goes, will have ZERO relevance in Washington.

Kudos to Peter Ridd for having the determination to see this all the way. A massive move to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech from illiberal “progressives” purveyors of scientific orthodoxy.

Thanks also of course to all those who have supported him and made this possible. $260k to play this game of legal poker would not have been possible without wide public support.

Good on ya , mate !

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Greg
March 29, 2019 3:22 pm

Greg, I believe you are wrong a win for Ridd would have no effect in other sovereign jurisdictions. British Court decisions for example have been cited in some US courts, IIRC. Any lawyers reading this?

Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 29, 2019 5:13 pm

US court precedents are used all the time here in Australia. All it takes if for someone to use them because the judge in another country either won’t know or care, but they do have an impact. I may not be a slithering lawyer but I use them too.

Reply to  Greg
March 29, 2019 6:21 pm

” … from illiberal “progressives” purveyors of scientific orthodoxy. …”

Except it’s not even that.

March 29, 2019 9:07 am

Good on ya mate. Let freedom be your shield and truth be your spear.

March 29, 2019 9:15 am

I want to thank Dr Ridd for his perseverence in taking this case to trial.

Having been a defendant in a civil trial, I know all too well the pressures to settle. The lawyers are expensive. The possibility of losing the case and having to pay a judgement or suffer a disastrous set of orders fills one with a grinding anxiety. Sleep is hard. One feels like one is in jail. The worst fear is that despite the justice on one’s cause, the lies and misrepresentations of one’s opponents will be accepted as truth not only by the court, but by one’s social and professional circle. The anxiety and fear is exarcebated by the slow process of going to trial; with pretrial orders that impose horrible costs, the intrusive discovery requests that put your life under a hostile microscope.

It’s no wonder that most people choose to pay to make the problem go away, even when their opponents’ case is utterly lacking in merit and the whole operation is nothing but a legally sanctioned form of extortion.

This case is critical in establishing a precedent that the modern governmental-academic complex cannot impose a Lysenkoist regime where only state-approved theories can be propounded. It is also vital for protecting the integrity of the scientific process. In order to ensure good research is what is widely accepted and trusted, a process must be in place wherein bad research can be identified and its lack of quality broadcast to the wider scientific community. The process of science becomes utterly unworkable when such broadcasts are muzzled.

In considering Dr Ridd’s plight and battle, I am reminded of an exchange in the Lord of the Rings that has given me great strength during periods where I was tried or tested:

“I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.” [Frodo said]

“So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”

Thank you Dr Ridd for not surrendering, but persisting to utter the truth.

March 29, 2019 9:17 am

In the final analysis this case will be decided on whether the Code of Conduct trumps Intellectual Freedom or vice-versa.

Specifically, if Dr. Ridd’s contract containing language about intellectual freedom takes precedence over the Code of Conduct policy language. Most judges not wishing to be overturned on appeal would go with the stronger legal document.

Sceptical lefty
Reply to  Gary
March 29, 2019 2:20 pm

Your last sentence pretty well sums the matter up. If Dr Rudd’s contract stipulates compliance with the Code of Conduct there may be an awkward legal knot that will require careful unravelling.

Apart from the strict legal issues there are broad ones like ‘natural justice’ and ‘basic rights’ that have a nasty way of needing to be defined by the highest court in the land. The judgement will be interesting, but there’s a good chance that it won’t be final.

GREG in Houston
March 29, 2019 9:17 am

From Houston, Texas, Peter, I wish you good luck!

Mike in Florida
Reply to  GREG in Houston
March 29, 2019 10:04 am

From Florida, Peter – I wish you good luck.

March 29, 2019 9:17 am

It’s not a stretch to suspect their next ploy would be to jump from labeling such speech as “inappropriate” to calling it “hate speech”. There’s a chill in the air. I pray that this judge has a soul and a conscience.

March 29, 2019 9:23 am

I hope the judge rules that being ‘collegial’ does not mean, and must not mean, that one must agree with the potentially deficient science of a colleague. If tbe topic is subject matter, it clearly falls within the scope of academic freedom.

March 29, 2019 9:28 am

In the final analysis this case will be decided on whether the Code of Conduct trumps Intellectual Freedom or vice-versa.

Again, I think the final analysis goes deeper than this. It’s NOT a matter of … Code of Conduct vs Intellectual Freedom …

Rather, it’s a matter of Intellectual Freedom’s being embedded in the Code of Conduct itself.

By trying to control intellectual freedom within the context of this code, James Cook University is itself violating its own code of ethics.

Here, take a look:

James Cook University Australia Code of Conduct

Its [James Cook University Code of Conduct] aim is to help us to aspire to the highest standards of ethical conduct.

Aspiring to the highest standards of ethical conduct encompasses allowing reputable scientists arriving at different conclusions to state these conclusions and point out the conflicts between such conclusions, even to the point of questioning conclusions or suggesting lack of diligence in arriving at such conclusions.

Forbidding the free discussion of these matters conflicts with the “aim” of “highest standards of ethical conduct.” This standard must allow for professional contention and criticism to clarify the truth.

In our professional actions, and in dealing with other staff, students and the community, we will be guided by the University’s Statement of Strategic Intent, the University Plan, the University’s policies and other documents contained within the Policy Library, and the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld) (hereafter referred to as the Act).

The Act outlines four fundamental ethical principles which are fundamental to good public administration:

integrity and impartiality,

promoting the public good,

commitment to the system of government, and

accountability and transparency.

These ethical principles form the basis of the obligations outlined in this Code of Conduct and the associated Explanatory Statement.

Let’s look at those four “ethical principles” again:

(1) integrity and impartiality
Allowing open, highly competent criticism of research tests the integrity of such research, and allowing two or more highly competent conclusions to be brought into question shows impartiality and openness to discovering the truth.

(2) promoting the public good
Questioning scientific conclusions in a highly competent way tests these conclusions to determine whether acting on them IS in the “public good”, while denying such questioning risks prematurely acting on the wrong conclusion that would NOT BE in the “public good”.

(3) commitment to the system of government
The system of government allows for criticism and questioning to determine whether scientific conclusions are true and in the public good.

(4) accountability and transparency
Researchers have great accountability for their conclusions, when such conclusions are acted upon in the public good, and if these conclusions are wrong and upheld without transparent consideration of competing conclusions, then these conclusions could lead to the wrong policy decisions or actions.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
March 29, 2019 9:57 am

Exposing biased work by others is promoting the public good. It is obvious that the GBR is not “90% dead” and other such claims I have seen in print.

Good on ya Dr Ridd.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
March 29, 2019 10:20 am

And by attempting to perpetuate biased work as truth, and by attempting to silence someone trying to expose such biased work as falsehood, JCU uses its Code of Conduct to squash intellectual freedom that works in favor of the public good. JCU acts in such a way that disfavors the public good, thus violating its own code of ethics.

bit chilly
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
March 30, 2019 3:49 am

Great post by Robert Kernodle.Those are the issues and defining them in their true sense as opposed to University grandees bastardised version where words can mean what they want them to mean to suit their purposes should see a successful result in Peter’s favour.

March 29, 2019 9:30 am

Am curious as to why this went before a judge rather than a jury?

Reply to  icisil
March 29, 2019 10:46 am

It’s an unfair dismissal hearing , not a homicide.

Reply to  icisil
March 29, 2019 12:49 pm

Australian court system vs. USA court system.

bit chilly
Reply to  Jeff Taylor
March 30, 2019 3:54 am

Very rare for any criminal case ever to reach a jury in America.Over 95% of cases are decided by plea bargain.Easy to do when people are threatened with long sentences should they have the temerity to go to trial and lose.
Got to keep that free/cheap labour pool topped up for big business or the campaign money dries up.

March 29, 2019 9:44 am

The academic freedom drum beat was silent after the firing. It still has a chance to weigh in before criticism starts there and in other countries. Failure to make a show of support will be noticed.

March 29, 2019 9:45 am

By the Code of Conduct, a challenge as insignificant as a nasty look or a steely glare could be defined as a breach.

It actually gets worse. The Canadian NDP federal caucus has removed one of its members for failing to heed nonverbal cues.

Announcing his ouster from caucus, Singh said Weir failed to read nonverbal cues in social settings, resulting in “significant negative impact to the complainants.” link

So, basically, I and many of my former students, being geeks and nerds, are now illegal because we don’t notice things like nonverbal cues. link Sorry, my SJW friends, but I can tell you exactly what will happen to civilization if you outlaw geeks and nerds. You will freeze to death in the dark if you don’t starve or die of dehydration first.

Rud Istvan
March 29, 2019 10:07 am

Sounds like my significant contribution to his defense fund was put to good use.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 29, 2019 10:58 am

That makes me feel a whole lot better.

March 29, 2019 10:18 am

From Science magazine, March 29, 2019 in an article concerning ancient fossil rocks:

“But when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, all known older rocks were barren of life. He called the lack of earlier forms “inexplicable” and wrote that it “may be truly urged as a valid argument” against evolution.”

Darwin pointed out a flaw in his own theory. Practicing today, he would sue anybody who dared do that. What on earth is going on at James Cook University or Penn State University (Mann) or the University of East Anglia, or so many others?

March 29, 2019 11:14 am

…..And by extension, Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act will have to be revisited too, because that is pretty much the same thing. It is a block on the Ordinary citizen’s freedom to criticize, discuss or express displeasure about aspects of race, gender, religion, etc. Instead of nebulous “Code of Conduct” interpretations, we have nebulous “giving Offence” interpretations curbing freedom of speech.

March 29, 2019 11:53 am

A contract is something that is agreed to and signed by both parties, making them both accountable to it.
A “Code of Conduct” is a document that is totally under the control of one party, and all other parties have no say in it whatsoever.
The idea that a “Code of Conduct” can be used to trump what is agreed to in a contract, makes the very concept of a contract meaningless.

March 29, 2019 12:25 pm

There is no doubt about climate science being flawed as represented. I was asked to co-present with Al Gore and had to refuse because his science is seriously flawed while the topic is real and immediate danger globally.

What do all the UN Members in the world have in common when it comes to global warming causing climate change? 100% of them are literally blind to the temperatures being discussed. Weather stations are important but they are not providing the causal evidence.

This professor would not argue this science.

My background is development, energy, emissions as it relates to Building Code, Electrical Code except we have a 40 year background seeing temperature. Hydrologists and forestry challenged us on accuracy, we were within 1/10 of a deg. C imaging moving stream water.

Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans used our pilot study as their standard for aerial detection of groundwater. Building development is supposed to blend in and NOT impose on the atmosphere. Here are 2 time-lapsed IR videos https://youtu.be/EA3py3us5VM

This was given to Prime Ministers in Canada for the UN Climate Change Conference, this email is specifically to our new Member of Parliament and Prime Minister Trudeau. They left the UN and Canada high and dry, did nothing as well as did not pass it on. http://thermoguy.com/wp-content/uploads/MP-Stephen-Fuhr-and-Prime-Minister-Trudeau-Regarding-Missing-Science-for-UN-Climate-Change-Conference-November-12-2015.pdf

Lewis P Buckingham
Reply to  Professor Curtis Bennett
March 30, 2019 12:57 am

Looking at the gist of the argument it is’If we insulate habitation against extremes of temperature then there will be an associated lowering of energy use and the emissions of CO2 so released will fall’.
I used think that.
It is not overall true for the poor.
The limiting factor for the energy poverished is the absolute cost of the quantum of energy they may actually afford.
When a poor family has their house retrofitted with insulation, draught excluders and so forth they still use the same amount of energy, they just bring the building temperature up or down to a more comfortable level.
This is best an argument for keeping power prices low so people may be more comfortable.
Solar panels and wind don’t cut it.
There is plenty more where this comes from.

March 29, 2019 12:55 pm

I get constantly irked with people who use the term science as a noun, or even a verb.

Its adjectival or adverbial.
As in, something done according to a type of method, process, and a handful of standards.

The last appear to be fundamentally lacking by a whole slew of people who have stolen the term.

Once, we had shit-carriers.
Then sewerage workers.
Sanitation engineers.
Now? Biodegradable recyclable resources scientist?

I know that although i use the scientific method on a daily basis, that does not make me a scientist.

I guess i should not be shocked to find the that calling myself a scientist (and even others calling themselves that too) does not in any way imply i give two flying farts (bovine produced toxic air pollution! GO VEGAN!) about a misogynistic, outmoded, Eurocentric, racist, and patriarchal method which has never ever produced anything extreme misery.

Show me your experiments, maths, methods, data, and you are 95% of the way to convincing me your hypothesis is sound.
Now show me your proposals, and i shall put on an engineering hat and find a way to make them happen. Several ways.
None which need aliens, magic wands, or giants.
Then i’ll put on a business hat and figure out if the cost/benefit is viable, and exactly what that means.
Then i’ll put on a programme hat, and get that done with the least impact on the people its going to harm, and the greatest benefit for those who it will help.

Fail at any one of your steps, all we have is just the proven (or, more correctly, the not-yet-disproved) theorem.
Instead, what we have in this case is an axiom, followed by a long series of assertions. And so on down the layers, ad nauseum.

It’s religious, not scientific in any way, fashion, or form.

William Astley
March 29, 2019 1:00 pm

Excellent article!

There was a time, before fake news and fake science when finding and speaking the truth has honourable. There has a time when universities helped solve problems, provided pro/cons without the political bias.

CAGW has become toxic politics.

There is in addition to administration pressure to conform, pressure from peer academics and non-technical academics who have become activists. Universities are tight communities.

Reply to  William Astley
March 31, 2019 4:03 pm

Hmm, people have always found ways to lie to others for their own ends, the term take news is a new name for an age-old problem, a well established human frailty

Reply to  Pumpsump
March 31, 2019 4:04 pm


March 29, 2019 4:06 pm

I donated to this cause, and it appears the money could not have been better spent. I particularly liked this:

” it was like watching the reloading and firing of a 15 inch naval gun at the JCU ship. It was withering, relentless, and merciless. I wish there was a video of it. In my opinion, and let’s hope the Judge agrees, by the time he had finished JCU’s position was a sinking hulk.”

Let us hope for the best.

March 29, 2019 6:58 pm

Thanks for fighting the fight Peter! If we don’t stand up and fight university censorship, no one else will…thank you for standing up and fighting.

March 29, 2019 7:29 pm

Maybe the management at JCU haven’t read this….


Bill in Oz
Reply to  GregK
March 29, 2019 10:09 pm

I wish Dr Ridd well.
And believe that Judge Vasta will hand down his judgement in favor of Dr Ridd soon.

But your comment is beside the point.

Wrong country ! The AAUP is for the USA not Australia.

March 29, 2019 9:11 pm

Prof Ridds words would have been ‘uncollegial’ ONLY if laced with ad hominem attacks on those with whom he disagreed. A difference of opinion, a disagreement over interpretation of facts, or an airing of logical flaws in colleagues arguments do not, in the slightest, constitute ‘uncolegiality’.

March 30, 2019 2:09 am

*“The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.” they claim “ Academic rigour, journalistic flair”*

Whilst there are some interesting articles eg:- https://theconversation.com/the-periodic-table-is-150-but-it-could-have-looked-very-different-106899

Here’s a flavour of climate coverage – (all heavily moderated to toe the consensus view)

the only reference to Academic Peter Ridd on The Conversation (Academic rigour, journalistic flair) is October 3, 2012 https://theconversation.com/the-decay-of-the-great-barrier-reef-calls-for-a-reckoning-9931 where they call him a “climate change and reef decline denier”

Ridd, if you are reading this… Thanks for standing firm, when you win, sue the bullying bastards for millions & use it to set up an independent research group.

If you need crowd-funding just ask, there are a lot of angry people ready to support you.

March 30, 2019 3:18 am

Looks like JCU have done a back-flip since 2007 when a paper entitled “The myth of dangerous human-caused climate change” was published by JCU. Author was one Robert M Carter

March 30, 2019 3:21 am

bet ya glad to get home Dr Ridd.
feet up have a brew and job well done!
and may the verdict be in your favour
JCU behaviours been outrageously bad.

once this is over they may well find theyre also having some other challenges to their methods of practice from non climate, but ethics/teaching and board areas

Eamon Butler
March 30, 2019 4:54 pm

This is a crucial decision to make in the interest of free thought and speech. The big problem with only permitting certain opinions, is, one day it becomes your turn for that dog(ma) to bite you. You might think it’s clever to shut down dissenting views, until you become the victim.

Thank you. Eamon.

Alfred (Cairns)
March 30, 2019 5:14 pm

You are a brave man. Keep up the good work.

JCU is profiting from scare stories about the Great Barrier Reef – much to the detriment no only of academic freedom but of the whole economy of the Cairns region.

The GBR is a dynamic “animal”. It is adaptive. It has been here for 2 million years and will probably be still around in another 2 million years – unless the axis of the earth tilts or something similar happens.

March 30, 2019 5:20 pm

Well, … Australia is NOT a Republic!



The University did not offer any … “arguments’ ! Why? The University is an organ of IMPERIAL ORDER!

In difference to Dr. Ridd, the IMPERIAL ORDER OF AUSTRALIA will not request the immediate killing of Dr, Ridd by IMPERIAL ORDER! That will be … ordered … at … another time.

Sad but true … It’s AU. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCK9rjJmVYM


March 30, 2019 10:08 pm

congratulations for standing up to bullies who have no interest in the truth and no motivation at all to pursue – which should be the realm of all honest scientists.
these days what counts in reputation and livelihood – which are big – and have been keeping way too many dodgy scientists afloat and the mob mentality who must be perceived to take the moral high ground as they see it – but this time fingers crossed for Peter and those brave enough to stand up to the bullies – they’ll be a win for honesty in science rather than political spin

and then hopefully this will set a precedent – the mob is beginning to become educated – mostly thanks to the American media – from an embarrassed to be an Aussie Scientist and teacher who deals with sort of climate political righteousness all too often.

March 31, 2019 3:14 pm

Whats next when you lose freedom of speech ? Good approach .
When did science become the art of shutting down other views and evidence ?

March 31, 2019 9:39 pm

A further aspect of this issue has not been addressed, possibly because it would involve criminal law and this proceeding was a civil matter. This entails the existence of legislation making it an obligation to report a crime if one is a knowing witness as well as other legislation protecting whistle blowers if they expose dangerous, damaging or otherwise improper circumstance or activity.

In the current matter Peter Ridd had become aware that various research claims about declining environmental conditions on the GBR were not just doubtful or even provably incorrect but in at least one important instance was grossly misleading in a circumstance which appeared could only be deliberate.

He had both an obligation to bring attention to what he had good evidence to believe was a deliberate research fraud as well as to expose an ongoing practice of dubious research claims being presented as sound science which was then being relied upon as a basis for government policy. This is imposing significant costs on both the regional economy and particularly on the livelihood of many people in the region.

Johann Wundersamer
April 2, 2019 4:47 am

The American constitution is based on the UK “bill of rights” with Cromwell resisting former Monarchie’s sole representation demands.

Why should someone think the voice of an commonwealth https://www.google.com/search?client=ms-android-samsung&ei=XkujXM6yLYKAk74PuvG32AI&q=QC+law+KC+law+acronym+&oq=QC+law+KC+law+acronym+&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-serp. is not heard in the anglo-saxon world.

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