Dr. Peter Ridd on the Free Speech Crisis At Universities

Marine Geophysicist, Dr Peter Ridd, has said his experience with James Cook University, and the slow take up by universities to the free speech model code proposed by former High Court chief justice Robert French, demonstrates there is a crisis of free speech at Australian universities in an interview with the Institute of Public Affairs’ Looking Forward Podcast, released today.

Dr Peter Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for misconduct for questioning in the IPA’s publication Climate Change: The Facts 2017 the climate change science around the Great Barrier Reef and for public statements made on the Jones & Co Sky News program. He recently won his battle against JCU in the Federal Circuit Court.

Peter Ridd said that his experience “demonstrates there actually is a crisis, and the way you can tell there’s a crisis is; the reaction of the universities [to the French Review].”

Dr Peter Ridd questioned whether his case would actually have an impact on academics ability to stand up for freedom of speech.

“For every Peter Ridd, there’s another few hundred people who would dearly love to have said something but they’re just not.”

“Because they’re actually going to say, ‘Well, I would need to get $260,000 worth of other people’s money and go through that’. So they are not going to, they [academics] will see my case as not being an indication that academic freedom exists. It’s actually that academic freedom definitely does not exist is the lesson that should be learnt from that and the reaction to universities of French’s [Review] is another example of that.”

Dr Ridd said that universities fundamentally do not believe in free speech. “It doesn’t matter how much damage it does to the reputation, because JCU’s reputation, especially in North Queensland, has taken a heck of a beating. And even that, they don’t believe in intellectual freedom… they believe that they are on the side of the angels.”

IPA Director of Policy, Gideon Rozner, said, “Dr Ridd’s frank assessment of the state of free speech on campus should be sobering for all of us. It is great that the Federal Circuit Court has upheld Peter’s contractual right to academic freedom, but we must ask how many other academics are being muzzled and are not coming forward.”

“Every university in Australia must follow the lead of the University of Western Australia and implement the model free speech code recommended by the French Review. Australian taxpayers pay billions each year to support universities as public squares of higher learning and intellectual inquiry. They should be places where all ideas can be aired and fiercely debated,” said Mr Rozner.

Download the media release here.

Download the transcript for the latest episode of Looking Forward podcast with Dr Peter Ridd here.

Looking Forward is a weekly Podcast of debate and discussion about politics and ideas, produced by the IPA with co-hosts RMIT Senior Fellow, Dr Chris Berg and Editor of the IPA Review, Scott Hargreaves and each week joined by two other guest panellists.

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Tom Halla
June 20, 2019 6:47 pm

What Peter Ridd argued should be totally uncontroversial, as what he wanted was quality assurance on the papers published. As the Australian funding agency would not fund any studies to replicate existing work, the internal rules were not following the purported rules for good science. Pointing out the emperor has what looks like a melanoma on his butt does not make one popular, when one is dedicated to praising the emperor’s good taste in clothing.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 21, 2019 4:14 am

Agreed totally Tom.

Add to that Universities are supposed to promote the contest of ideas so the students can make up there own minds which is right. There can be controversial and perhaps even stupid ideas put up but students are supposed to be able to quickly work out what is wrong with them. I think this harks back to universities are supposed to be a place of learning not parroting out the latest doctrine of the day.

Pat Frank
Reply to  LdB
June 21, 2019 9:56 am

Universities should not be allowed to use public money to fund, promote, or teach advocacy politics.

Universities that insist on promoting political views should have all — all — their public monies withdrawn.

Reply to  Pat Frank
June 21, 2019 11:36 am

Actually that would be a good idea, I can’t see any downside to that and might stop some of the junk happening in the sector.

June 20, 2019 7:08 pm

There is no such thing as government education. Prevent the forced transfer of money for the indoctrination the gullible, and this problem would disappear instantaneously.

J Cuttance
Reply to  damp
June 21, 2019 2:47 am

Sound. Are you a Rothbardian? Publicly financed science is – always and everywhere – advocacy for further brutal state extraction of the fruits of voluntary labour.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  J Cuttance
June 21, 2019 9:35 am

I like it. Sounds like I am a Rothbardian!

June 20, 2019 7:17 pm

For those unfamiliar with the Australian issues here, the Ridd dismissal and his re-instatement by the Federal Circuit Court plus former Chief Justice French’s model for Freedom of Speech on campuses has given rise to a full blown debate nationally on academic freedom and free speech at Universities.
The Australian newspaper has had lead stories and editorials ( “Solve Free Speech and get on with real issues”,18/6) on the controversy.
Vice Chancellors (roughly equivalent to CEOs) are considering the French model but claim there are already some 100 guidelines at campuses to regulate barriers to free speech. They cite also the need to “protect university autonomy”.
In recent days there has been an apparent split by the Chancellors of Universities ( roughly equivalent to Chairmen of the Board and ‘overlords’ of the Vice Chancellors) who have voted for an early adoption of the French model.
That model would elevate freedom of expression, allow students to engage in intellectual debate in the lecture theatre and in written assignments, without blowback from their teachers etc.
As with Peter Ridd’s sacking for querying the lack of quality assurance in climate change papers at JCU, freedom of speech on campus should be a no-brainer but it is under real constraint in Australia.
The pivotal issue is outlined in Jonathan Haidt’s co-authored “ The Coddling of the American Mind”:
Is the purpose of University to engage in the pursuit of truth or to advance the quest for social justice?

Mike Jonas(@egrey1)
Reply to  Herbert
June 20, 2019 10:03 pm

Is the purpose of University to engage in the pursuit of truth or to advance the quest for social justice?“. Nowadays, the purpose of University is to make money by printing degree certificates.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 21, 2019 4:16 am

Sad but true

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 21, 2019 4:40 am

Mike Jonas, I personally think your statement needs this inclusion, to wit:

Nowadays, the purpose of Public Schools, Colleges and University is to make money by printing degree certificates.”

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
June 21, 2019 7:19 am

Now that’s just silly. Anyone who looks into how Colleges and Universities make all their money would immediately realize that the granting of diplomas is little more then a side job… maybe even a hobby.

Between Sports programs and Government Grants for ‘Science’, the money made from actual students is a pittance.

Why, if it weren’t for the necessity of brainwashing future generations into loyal Leftist Voters to keep the gravy train rolling, they probably would have dropped the whole ‘education’ angle long ago to focus on their core profitability.


Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 21, 2019 7:03 am

They also churn out studies saying whatever the sponsors want said.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 21, 2019 9:38 am

…in meaningless “areas of study” like…”social justice.”

Which, ironically, is about people who want to cram THEIR idea of “justice” down the throats of everyone else.

Bill T
Reply to  Herbert
June 21, 2019 4:24 am

“ The Coddling of the American Mind” a book everyone should read. It actually should be a pamphlet but authors often get paid by the word, so who can begrudge them.

William Astley
Reply to  Bill T
June 21, 2019 12:56 pm

This a link to a review of The Coddling of the American Mind. Interesting examples provided from the book.

It is politically incorrect in universities to say, America is the land of opportunity and to selecting the best qualified person for a job. I wonder where, when, and how this will end.


Tom Abbott
Reply to  Herbert
June 21, 2019 5:33 am

“freedom of speech on campus should be a no-brainer but it is under real constraint in Australia.”

I think this is true for all Western democracies. It is certainly true for the United States.

The political Left has taken over the school systems of the Western democracies and are actively trying to stifle free speech. And they are doing a pretty good job of it. It is a major threat to all our personal freedoms. If they can take away your freedom of speech, then they can take all your freedoms away.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 21, 2019 9:41 am

If they can take away your right to keep and bear arms, they can take all of your rights away.

That’s why they keep trying to hammer away at that one.

William Astley
Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 21, 2019 2:05 pm

It is not just freedom of speech.

The left is taking/has taken away thoughtful/deep speech, thoughtful news programs, speech and published papers that is critical of things that do not work or that is scientifically incorrect.

Policy without reason is chaos. They are spreading dangerous chaos that is not bound in reality. AOC’s new climate deal. AOC as a phenomena.

They are taking away ‘freedom’ of speech because what they propose does not work and is scientifically not defendable.

Paul Rossiter
June 20, 2019 7:31 pm

Is that the University of Western Australia mentioned in the post that reneged on its appointment of Bjorn Lomberg because of pro-climate alarmist student protests and in 2018 cancelled a talk by transgender sceptic Quentin Van Meter, also following protests from students?

I sincerely hope that their change of mind is genuine and not just opportunistic virtue signalling.

Reply to  Paul Rossiter
June 21, 2019 4:30 am

UWA had a quite backlash and changes since then. I think it alarmed many within their ranks that what was basically a social sciences facility was riding shotgun.

Even late last year there was actually a formal investigation in the cancelling of a session by Dr Quentin van Meter who basically has a view there is no such thing as transgender. You can imagine a few snowflakes had an issue with that as a discussion and it got cancelled due to protests. It raises similar issues of suppression of one side of a debate. So they have formed a working group for security arrangements and student bylaw changes to allow controversial speakers to appear.

So I guess you give UWA points for at least understanding what is at stake, whether they can get the right policies in place is yet to be seen.

Paul Rossiter
June 20, 2019 7:38 pm

Apologies for the wrong spelling of Bjorn’s surname, it should be Lomborg.

Reply to  Paul Rossiter
June 21, 2019 3:51 am

Well, you mispelt the first name as well, as it is Bjørn – but be forgiven, it’s everyone doing that even now when the UTF character set is ubiquitous. 🙂


Lawrence Ayres
June 20, 2019 7:42 pm

The leftists in universities only survive because taxpayers keep giving them money. Those responsible for making grants need to be held to account and if they cannot be then grant monies need to be reduced. As Peter found out much research is second rate and designed to achieve a predetermined outcome rather than simply reporting what is found. There seems to be no grants for those who want to challenge research results, no quality assurance and certainly no funding for those who see that factors other than CO2 are at work.

The way to make universities do the right thing is to take away their funding until they do.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Lawrence Ayres
June 20, 2019 8:32 pm

I am an Australian taxpayer and I am never asked if my tax dollars can be given to universities. It’s taken at source before I have had a chance to even see it. No requests, no questions.

Reply to  Lawrence Ayres
June 21, 2019 4:47 am

I think the Ridd case was more than that it brings out that there are some subjects that were out of bounds in the university setting. As you note some of those making claims were of questionable academic background and/or rigor and yet one can not question what they have done. If you do so you are simply labelled a denier as a way of denigrating and slapped with arbitrary judgements about being “non collegiate”.

I congratulate Peter for having the courage to go through that ordeal but like many on here I felt the moment it went into the court system he would win.

June 20, 2019 7:56 pm

Hypothesis: Radical Greens are the Great Killers of Our Age



Radical greens have subverted climate science as a means of stampeding the uneducated and the gullible. Every one of their scary predictions has failed to happen. They have perfectly negative scientific credibility. No rational person should believe them.

The scientific reality is that increasing atmospheric CO2 will cause increased plant and crop yields, and possibly some minor, beneficial global warming. There will be no catastrophic warming and no significant increase in chaotic weather resulting from rising CO2 concentrations.

Another important observation is the corruption of institutions. The green movement has been taken over by radicals, as described in 1994 by Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace. That takeover by radical greens has now extended to universities, scientific associations, professional societies, media and governments.

June 20, 2019 8:04 pm

Ir’s not limited to Australian colleges, it’s all over the world. Ideology has been the driving force behind colleges for over a century. Progressives drove the ideology and Conservatives let it happen.

June 20, 2019 8:21 pm

So universities are dedicated to ‘free-if-agree’ speech. Any idea that might challenge is too risky and turbulent to contemplate. The tranquillity attained through group-think, the peacefulness of monoclastic unity, the green scum on the stagnant pools – isn’t placid acquiescence marvellous!

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Richard
June 20, 2019 10:08 pm

One of the songs in my playlist have the lyrics “I’ll fight for peace and unity”.

They don’t seem to understand that if you have to fight someone to enforce your “peace and unity”, then peace and unity you do not have. and will not ever have. It’s inbuilt in them that they can’t grasp the simple fact that if you leave people alone, you have peace; and unity is irrelevant.

Reply to  Richard
June 21, 2019 3:17 am

Rugby Australia sacked Israel Folau recently (a truly gifted international Rugby player) for posting his sincerely held Christian beliefs on Instagram: “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators – Hell awaits you.”

I believe the offensive term was “homosexuals”.

Reply to  HotScot
June 21, 2019 4:57 am

That is a little different, his contract stipulated he could not make public views that were at odds with the stated goal of Rugby of inclusion and tolerance. The key word is public, he can believe whatever he likes and if he was overheard talking to some mates it would not be an issue. The problem was he launched it on social media on his main feed. So basically it comes down to can you contract such a thing, which currently under Australian law the standing is you can.

Now he has appealed the case and if he wins he will overturn that and so you can not contract suppression of personal view. If successful it opens up all sorts of problem in that companies will not be able to contract staff not to be racist, sexist etc. So the best legal guess at the moment is he will lose because of the common sense aspect.

From a rugby perspective Israel Folau can have whatever views he wants he just can not express views contrary to his contract in public. If he doesn’t like that idea or can not stay inside the contract then he should not have signed up originally.

Brett Keane
Reply to  LdB
June 21, 2019 10:52 am

LdB: lol

Except that was not his contract, and he was misquoted too. Brett Keane

Reply to  Brett Keane
June 21, 2019 11:52 am

You say he was misquoted but it’s an instagram post .. I suggest you read it. Unless you are claiming someone else wrote it on his account.

I can also say your bit about contract is misguided and wrong. I can’t remember which state he was under (sorry not my code) but lets go with the standard contract for NSWRL and over thetop of this is the international contract. So here is the standard contract signed by any player please take the time to read it

The key point is xii – 3 and then further down in section 5 a (iv).

You see the problem if he wrote the posts he is in clear breach. Australian law does not have a bill of rights you don’t have freedom of speech and a right to say whatever you like and especially when you are contracted to not do so.

I suspect he will have to go down the religious freedom path which is covered in Australian law but I have to tell you I don’t like his chances.

June 20, 2019 8:43 pm

During WW2 and the Cold War, we were indoctrinated with the idea that what made us special was our freedom. Freedom was our strength. As far as I can remember, nobody ever did a very good job of explaining why that was the case.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, it wasn’t necessary to contrast ourselves with a totalitarian regime. People quit talking about freedom. About that time the politically correct SJWs started going after our freedom of speech and almost nobody stood up to them.

The reason the SJWs think Jordan Peterson is the devil is that he does things like explaining why freedom of speech is necessary for the survival of society. link He talks about the necessity of being wrong, and the right to be wrong. We have the spectacle in Canada of a guy being drummed out of politics because of a remark he made about goat herder cultures while he was a law student. link Imagine that, your life is over because of one intemperate (or maybe not) remark.

Behind the Iron Curtain, you could never tell the truth because someone, maybe your own kids, would snitch on you and you’d be off to the Gulag. The SJWs are doing their level best to make that happen here.

Without freedom of speech, nobody can tell a painful truth. Society’s errors won’t be corrected, and the whole thing will collapse around our ears. The SJWs think that’s a good thing.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 10:12 pm

The one thing that the story of 1984 did right, was to point out the purpose of this PC culture. It’s got nothing to do with right or wrong, science or law. It has 100% to do with control of the populace.

Reply to  Greg Cavanagh
June 21, 2019 2:08 am

yeah, written as a warning and being used as a damn manual on how to control the sheeple

Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 10:17 pm

SJW? Secular Jehovahs Witnesses?Scandinavian Jewish Women?
Scandalized Judicial Wanderers?

Adam Gallon
Reply to  Richard
June 21, 2019 2:07 am

Social Justice Warriors

Reply to  Richard
June 21, 2019 2:58 am

Or even Social Justice Warriors, such as those at Melbourne University Sustainable Society Institute: https://sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/publications/research-papers/degrowth-from-below-the-role-of-urban-social-movements-in-a-post-capitalist-transition

“MSSI research can be found respectfully citing the Communist Manifesto and campaigning for “de-growth” , i.e. economic contraction. Indeed, it even advocates Cuba as a template for Australians to embrace growing their own food at home. MSSI people proudly let the cat out of the bag by acknowledging that “greening” our energy will drop living standards severely, thus putting themselves to the left of the Greens, who always say the economy will do just fine because of all the alleged new green jobs.”

Reply to  dennisambler
June 21, 2019 3:12 am

MSSI research can be found respectfully citing the Communist Manifesto …

Absolutely! I respect fire. I respect polar bears. I respect poisonous snakes. I respect Marx.

Reply to  commieBob
June 21, 2019 8:37 am

Groucho, Harpo, Chico or Zeppo? Frankly, I liked them all. Very funny men. That Karl guy though, not a worthwhile joke in the entire communist manifesto and Das Kapital is a complete snooze-fest.

Completely with you on respecting the space of vicious and venomous wildlife. I go to great pains not to tread on them or get in their way when they are hungry.

June 20, 2019 10:48 pm

“Peter Ridd said that his experience “demonstrates there actually is a crisis, and the way you can tell there’s a crisis is; the reaction of the universities [to the French Review].””
Ironically, Robert French said, in his response to the terms of reference of his review:
“There is no evidence, on the basis of recent events, which would answer the pejorative description of a ‘free speech crisis’ on campus.”

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 12:55 am

Where’s the irony?
Chris Berg put Robert French’s comment to Peter Ridd at 38:02 and Dr Ridd disagreed — based on his considerable experience.

Reply to  I_am_not_a_robot
June 21, 2019 1:07 am

“Where’s the irony?”
Ridd says the way you can tell there is a crisis is by the reaction (presumably, inadequate) of the Universities to the French Review. But the French Review says there is no evidence of crisis.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 2:13 am

Social Justice Warriors mate
aka the self titled pc control mobs and they are mobs and trolls who get their knockers in a twist over imagined “slights” to whatever is the de jour meme. they just gave some poor fashion designer hell for “appropriating” ?? colours/fabric prints in her recent range

doesnt matter what you do or where you are some self important dweeb can find something to start a twitter/fbk rant about it.
our primary schools are the start point and by uni theyre just utterly warped lil beings

Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 21, 2019 2:26 am

“find something to start a twitter/fbk rant about it”
So do they not have freedom of speech? People rant. They always did.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 21, 2019 6:12 am

Well Peter Ridd didn’t rant he said specific things and those got him sacked .. so clearly he didn’t have freedom of speech and the judge agreed.

You conflate in other issues, you say the French review sees no crisis and when Ridd talks about the reaction of the univeristity to the french review you offer back the French review says no evidence of crisis. So Peter Ridd is talking about the unversity response and you are dribbling on about what the French Review found at what point in time did the French Review become the university?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 2:15 am

yeah? maybe because no one else has the guts to speak up?
go along to get along gotta think of the job n the pension /super etc

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 4:17 am

> “People rant. They always did.”

Typical Stokes’ straw man.

Ridd was fired when he publicly insisted on non-existent quality control for grants-based research. This was declared “uncollegiate”.

The declaration of uncollegiality was a rant but Ridd was punished.

Stokes will now either ignore this or run another straw man. It’s what he has always done.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 5:01 am

Classic Stokes defense 🙂

Lets just say Ridd disagrees with you Nick and you don’t understand him because you are being willingly stupid.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 10:09 am

I’m not aware of the French Report having revealed any metric by which one might determine if there is or is not a crisis. In that sense, I suppose the good judge’s opinion is only as good as anyone else’s. In the slightly longer view, I suppose if there is only one lawsuit involving academic freedom one might reasonably conclude there is no crisis, but you might want to look at the other 9/10’s of that iceberg. Maybe anonymous reporting by others who have been sanctioned or otherwise threatened as Dr. Ridd was would be a good first step.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 21, 2019 10:44 am

” In that sense, I suppose the good judge’s opinion is only as good as anyone else’s.”
But it is the opinion being invoked here. Again just look at the tangled logic. Ridd says evidence of a crisis is that Universities are slow in implementing the findings of the French review. But one finding of that review, said several times, is that there is no evidence of a crisis.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 21, 2019 11:59 am

Nick you have made stuff up continually around the Ridd issue and it is wearing thin. You weren’t there and if you want to know what Peter meant then ask him instead of inventing things. What we are seeing is a pattern, you initially tried to tell us Peter was never going to win even though it was obvious he had a good case. Next you tried to tell us the Uni would appeal the decision even as we were pointing out just how hard that would be. Now you are interpreting things that happened and to which you have no inside knowledge.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 21, 2019 12:52 pm

“What we are seeing is a pattern, you initially tried to tell us Peter was never going to win even though it was obvious he had a good case. Next you tried to tell us the Uni would appeal the decision even as we were pointing out just how hard that would be. Now you are interpreting things that happened and to which you have no inside knowledge.”

No, you’re making stuff up. I did not say those things. Care to quote?

As for now, there is no issue of inside knowledge. I am just noting what is on the page here. Evidence of a crisis is that Uni’s are slow to follow the advice of the French report. But French said there is no evidence of a crisis. So, it is then said, who is French, and why should we care what he thinks?

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 21, 2019 6:08 pm

What waste time to find a quote you will then change the meaning of .. no thanks I don’t play troll games. I will for now concede you didn’t say it because I really can’t be bothered playing your stupid troll games.

The issue is Peter spoke about the university response and your answer is but French found no issue. All we are asking is when did French become the university? You can get pulled over by the police and get no ticket but I guarantee you it will have an effect. You can’t use the outcome as a measure of how it affected someone or something.

You can’t even deal with even that most basic statement with a straight bat you do a Stokes bend and Half Nelson on it and turn it into
” So, it is then said, who is French, and why should we care what he thinks?”

As stated you could simply ask Peter what was meant but that isn’t how a troll work is it. You don’t actually want to know the answer you just want to put an idea there is something wrong with Peter Ridd’s statement. It’s smear innuendo and not being honest which seems to be pervasive in Climate Science.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 1:41 am

Nick, yes it is a really important point. You don’t have to agree with all of what somebody says to agree with some of what somebody says. In fact it is good sense to find areas of common ground.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 3:46 am

There is no evidence, on the basis of recent events, which would answer the pejorative description of a ‘free speech crisis’ on campus.

If you restrict yourself to considering recent events and you’re not looking very hard, that’s a reasonable conclusion to reach.

On the other hand, if you’ve been the victim of politically correct censorship for a long time, you will find overwhelming evidence. link Just ask Lindsay Shepherd.

oriel kolnai
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 5:41 am

Nick Stokes
Isn’t Ridd permitted to draw his own conclusions based additionally on his own experience, and that of university reactions to the French report? No? Strange thing to claim.

Ridd tells us ‘universities fundamentally do not believe in free speech. “It doesn’t matter how much damage it does to the reputation, because JCU’s reputation, especially in North Queensland, has taken a heck of a beating. And even that, they don’t believe in intellectual freedom… they believe that they are on the side of the angels.”

Don’t the implications of this terrify you? Your own claims to statistical truth are motivated by the desire to correct what you sincerely believe to be false – a noble aim! Yet you apparently seem to defend the indefensible, viz. places of learning in flagrant disobedience of their very purpose, closing the minds of their unfortunate customers.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 21, 2019 7:11 am

Dr. Ridd was talking about the response to the French review, and you want to highlight a portion of the French review.
I thought even you should be able to pick out the disconnect between those two positions.
Well, as someone else said, it’s hard to make someone see the truth, when their paycheck depends on their not seeing the truth.

Reply to  MarkW
June 21, 2019 12:06 pm

I am glad I was not the only one struggling with the logic of Nicks answer, which in a case of irony was about logic. He definitely seems to have issues with Peter and he seems to struggle with objectivity on him.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 23, 2019 5:53 pm

You have a point in your quote from the French Report about there not being a ‘free speech crisis’
But only up to a point.
Robert French in his report highlighted codes of conduct prohibiting public commentary that damaged the university’s reputation, failed to be collegial or risked the “safety” and “well being” of staff.
He said codes with such sweeping terms were rife on campus and a potential threat to free expression.
Today, the secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union said,
“We would like to see stronger provisions (in enterprise agreements). Universities are seeking to reduce or remove them.Something as important as this, it shouldn’t be a matter of trust.The rubber hits the road when somebody loses their job, as we’ve seen in the Peter Ridd case,”Mr. McGowan said.
At least 10 universities in the current round of bargaining with the union have tried to weaken or remove academic freedom provisions found in enterprise agreements, arguing that protections in codes and policies were sufficient and the proper place for a governance issue.
Source: The Australian newspaper: “Write Uni free speech into law, demands Union.” Monday, June 24.

June 21, 2019 1:25 am

Science progresses by sceptical people having the courage to disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy.

If people start fearing to speak out and be sceptical of the current orthodoxy, then science will stagnate and eventually die.

June 21, 2019 2:57 am

The reason Universities have traditionally remained free of legal action for a host of infringements from copyright law to poor quality “advice” to outright slander, is that they needed to have freedom to discuss difficult ideas without being bound by the normal straight jacket of the law.

However, once academics stop free and open debate and instead become just a political campaigning group as many have become, there is no social reason to give them any different legal treatment to any other group.

Indeed, the way things are going with Universities increasingly saying “there is only one right way … and it’s our way”, anyone who follows that advice – as academics are instructing them to do – and then suffers as a consequence can obviously sue the socks off the idiots claiming they are omniscient.

Any young lawyer looking for an expanding area to work in, would be well advised to look at legal actions against academics which is going to be a goldmine for the legal profession in the coming years.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
June 21, 2019 10:10 am

Exactly right, Mike. University academics have systematically violated the tenure agreement more and more blatantly over the last 4 decades. They now openly teach adherence to the most horrid political ideas.

The tenure agreement rests upon the idea that academics can study and discuss their apolitical professional thoughts and findings without fear of politically-based retribution.

They have consciously violated their part of the agreement. They should face the consequences of the other half of it: no more tenure protection.

Also, no more public money. Here in CA, virtually the entire budget of the UC system should be impounded, given the officially sanctioned political partisanship of campus teaching academics.

Dr Anne Rouse
June 21, 2019 4:12 am

Just read through this (I’m an Australian academic) and discovered that the union traded away free speech when they renegotiated the James Cook Uni enterprise bargaining agreement (ie current employment agreement for all academics at that university) after the one that protected Professor Ridd.

This is a wake up call for all Australian academics as it means you too may find that NTEU trades away the protection given to Professor Ridd by the court.

For those thinking of taking up a professorship in Australia, as we don’t have tenure in contrast to the US or UK, without this protection you too could lose your job for expressing challenging, non-mainstream observations. That’s a very scary prospect.

June 21, 2019 5:29 am

Yeah, look at what just happened to Oberlin College here in the US. Not quite the same scenario but a good start.

June 21, 2019 6:11 am

Commie Bob. One could say that the “Cold War”” never really ended.
It just transferred to the new thing “The environment””. The new war is

Re. Universities. People must remember how they started. They were
places to train Priests, so there was no need to question anything.

Of ours there were discussions, lire hoe many Angles can dance on
the head of a pin ?


Reply to  Michael
June 21, 2019 7:14 am

Coincidentally, many of the people who backed the Soviet Union in the first cold war, transferred to the Green movement when the Soviet Union fell.

June 21, 2019 6:45 am

CBC In Our Backyard strikes again… https://www.cbc.ca/news/the-national-climate-change-courts-1.5182876
This time they ask:

Why environmentalists are taking their climate fight to Canadian courtrooms. Lawsuits against governments and oil companies are being used as tools to drive action

The answer is simple: 3.5% Federal election result for the Greens! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Results_of_the_2015_Canadian_federal_election

So Big Green subverts the democratic institutions i.e. the vast majority of voters who do not give them a mandate to govern.
But that will never make the CBC headlines or their heavily censored comment section.

June 21, 2019 7:00 am

Liberals are fully committed to free speech. But only so long as you don’t say anything they disagree with.

Geoff Sherrington(@sherro1)
June 21, 2019 7:02 am

Thank you for this unemotional discussion of the clear and present danger that major freedoms face at universities, institutions like CSIRO and BOM and learned societies. Which is pretty much Australia’s academic community.
I joined the first class to go through JCU, then University College of Townsville, in its second year, with prior credits from elsewhere for a B.Sc. I was very naive about University matters overall and did not partake of any undergrad activism. In later post-grad years, after some time in CSIRO, then owning a private lab, then work in mineral exploration, exposure to controversies about uranium started to reveal some academic problems that became more serious over the later years, say the early 1980s. For example, I mixed with high level scientists at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission at the critical time when its main scientific research was being gutted, away from a nuclear future for Australia and towards trivial matters of importance to uncredentialled NGOs like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
I saw the replacement of top managers, at AAEC and elsewhere, by political stooges on missions. CSIRO fell this way. The stooges are named in its history. Nick Stokes seems to have found the process of replacement of scientific management by political to be normal and defensible, while I think it detrimental.
Peters, in your video you allude to two different classes of senior people in academia now, those with scientific knowledge but without power to exercise it and those with administrative power who dominate. The main questions that arise for me are whether this structure can be examined, for there could be a better one; which structure can best protect freedom of expression; and which will lead to the conduct of our best science and its best use by society. Geoff

Kevin kilty
June 21, 2019 7:38 am

Universities throughout the Western world are most assuredly in trouble. If that constitutes a crisis, then by golly their is a crisis. It goes beyond replicability, or quality assurance. Peter alluded to it, but did not flesh out the problem. It is that the entire power structure in education has changed, and the worst part is that the structural change has destroyed accountability.

Few people enjoy being held accountable for sure, but the sort of people who have a genetic tendency toward political correctness, and probably left-wing politics too since these are correlated tendencies, have a visceral hatred of accountability and work like the devil to undermine it. These are also the same people attracted to the administrative and managerial jobs in education. The common phrase “Those seeking power are the very people who should not be allowed to wield it” comes from this sort of circumstance.

Peter said that the professoriate no longer have any power. How did they loose it? Gross incompetence, pursuit of self interest, and cowardice I suspect. So how would the transfer of power back to them help? I am totally unconvinced that a solution to any problem at universities would be solved by a transfer of power back.

I spent most of my career working in industry and teaching only as an adjunct in the local college or university. I learned only a little about university operation and politics. When an opportunity came to make a move full-time to academia I was very surprised, not favorably, by much of what I observed. Gross incompetence, cowardice, and self-interest ruled. At one small college in particular, there was the expected creative handling of money and assignment of rewards, but beyond that there was also abuse, bullying, and the erosion of principles through constant and obvious lying.

Luckily our code of conduct at that time protected the free speech of employees to weigh-in on matters of public importance. During an election I weighed in with a letter to the editor. This put me on a collision course with “the administration” and the board of trustees. The more I fought with them, the more I learned through confidential sources how the school actually operated and of suspect activities. It was guerrilla warfare. Finally corruption I could not stomach became known, and despite dozens and dozens of people knowing about it, no one would do a thing. My “principled ” academic colleagues would do no more than cheer me on from the brush. Don’t count on academics generally for principled action. Administrators turned a blind eye to it, or activity tried to hide it in various ways; some employees even aided and abetted it. I quit my job and ran for the board of trustees which was an elected position, and was obviously the only effect solution if a solution actually existed.

This is the only way to fight the decay. Take back the governing bodies, maintain a position on them, maintain accountability, monitor the organization faithfully, and most importantly, learn to be skeptical and maintain skepticism. I say maintain a position because though I helped reform the college to a degree, once I left the board, certain poisonous persons made their way into back into some critical administrative positions. This will always occur. Even in a mid-level position a very poisonous person can have a detrimental effect by the very example they set.

Skepticism, which made science possible in the first place, is fundamental to this battle. Administrators will undermine the governing board at every opportunity. They lie constantly. They will interfere with independence, especially with independent fact gathering. They will intimidate by bringing spurious charges of board member misconduct by citing violating “policy”, which are really charges of upsetting the cozy relationship they had once enjoyed with an uniformed and timid board.

Michael H Anderson
June 21, 2019 8:46 am

Are people in Aus being physically assaulted for setting up information booths about suppression of free speech on campus, or for inviting a speaker on the subject? Because that’s the state of affairs in the US now.

If Australians still retain some sense of what *irony* means and have yet to descend into wholesale cognitive dissonance, you may have a chance to reverse the tide. I think the USA is a lost cause personally, and that they ought to reconsider partition, if not outright Balkanization. Sorry my Yank friends; believe me, I take no pleasure in saying it.

Michael H Anderson
Reply to  Michael H Anderson
June 21, 2019 10:26 am

Just to clarify: I want it to be understood I don’t mean insult to anything the USA *ought to* represent, its great institutions and cultural and technical achievements. This is not on you or on anyone who acknowledges the harsh realities facing you.

That said, I think the previously mentioned Yuri Bezmenov had it exactly right when he talked about the relentless Soviet campaign of “demoralization” succeeding beyond expectations. I see a wholesale flight from reason and civility and toward mob rule and chaos. From where I sit it looks like nothing less than cultural suicide on a Roman-empire scale and, because it encompasses so much more than just the environmental movement, I cannot imagine there being any hope of recovery. No different here in Canuckistan, because we are and always have been in cultural lockstep, the mindless bleating of the CBC and other statist organs notwithstanding.

So…there it is. Alberta should go independent and I’d love to see like-minded American regions do likewise. Then close your borders so you aren’t flooded with economic refugees from the now leaderless and brainless regions. Nuff said.

June 21, 2019 6:25 pm

Some very interesting comments regarding the article.

So what is happening to Dr. Peter Ridd, is he going to return to JCU ?.
Or to be paid off.

If he returns I think that he will find lifer very difficult.


June 23, 2019 1:12 am

Many moons ago my brother, then about 6, came back from church one Sunday and announced that “ Mummy was the root of all evil”. We all giggled at the Meme.

Back in the 30s in Germany the Meme was: “ Jews are the root of all evil” We all now know the consequences of that Meme; or should do.

Today we have the Meme: “ CO2 is the root of all evil” and one must wonder what the consequences of that Meme will be. Alternatively the CO2 may now be replaced by “Capitalism “ as the situation has evolved, with CO2 being merely a means to the end.

The link between these statements/Memes, (apart from No 1) lies in the practices generated by them where the democratic processes are grossly undermined in brutal ways. Starting initially by curtailment of free speech and availability of valid information particularly in the educational system.
This inevitably escalates into a gross denial of individual rights and a concentration of political power into hands of people with little regard for ethics or norms of civilised behaviour.

We now live in dangerous times and one can but wonder upon the mindset of those genuine and ethical german citizens as they experienced the rise of the Nazi power base back in the 30s.
Ultimately it is the responsibility and duty of individuals to challenge these sorts of Memes before they get their grip on the mindset of the general population.
A very difficult and potentially dangerous task and who am I to tell others what they ought to do or how to do it? I salute Peter Ridd for taking this path and doubt that I myself would have had the bottle.

PS: I have deliberately avoided inclusion of the events in Russia due the communist/capitalism Meme back in the 1900s plus.; as a bit complex; but nonetheless of similar ilk.

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