Peter Ridd versus Prestige, and Clown Fish Beyond that Mudflat

May 30, 2020 By jennifer 4 Comments ShareTweetShare

To be truly curious we must confess our ignorance. The person who knows everything would have no reason to question, no need to experiment. If they went in search of evidence, it could only be to confirm what they already knew to be true. Knowledge then would be something that conferred prestige, rather than something to be built upon.

It was because of Peter Ridd that I had to know if all the coral reefs off Bowen were dead, or not. I went looking for mud flats with a Gloucester Island backdrop after the first judgement was handed down, that was back last April 2019.

Of course, Peter was cleared by Judge Vasta in the Federal Court of all the misconduct charges that had resulted in his sacking. Yet the University appealed, and that appeal was heard this last week.

Peter Ridd with Jennifer Marohasy at the mudflats that fringe Bramston reef, just to the south of Bowen.

The university appealed because the modern Australian university can’t let a comprehensive win by a dissident professor go unchallenged. The modern university is all about prestige, and they probably thought that eventually Peter would run out of money, the money needed to defend himself in the courts. But they don’t know Peter, or the team backing him.

Yesterday Peter thanked both the Union and also the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) for their support.

Peter also wrote:

The Federal Court appeal hearing is over, and the lawyers have done their work. We now wait, possibly for some months, for the three judges to make the decision. In essence the appeal was about defining the limits of academic freedom, and what a university scientist can say, and how he or she might be allowed to say it.

For example, was I allowed to say that due to systemic lack of quality assurance, scientific results from Great Barrier Reef science institutions was untrustworthy?

JCU said I was not, [not] even if I believed it to be true.
I am certainly not ashamed of anything I said, how I said it, or of my motivation.

Irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, I can now focus on other matters.

First, I will work tirelessly to raise the problem of hopeless quality assurance of the science of the GBR, including the effect of climate change on the reef. I am hoping that the Senate Inquiry will come out of Covid hibernation soon. I will also be pushing AIMS to release their missing 15 years of coral growth data, and JCU to release its buried report on possible fraud at its coral reef centre. It is shameful the contempt with which these institutions treat the people of the region.

Second, I will work with those agricultural organisations that show a determination to fight, which is sadly far from all of them, to demonstrate that the recent unfair regulations on Queensland farmers are based on shoddy science.

Third: I will work to encourage governments at both state and federal level to force universities to behave like genuine universities and not the glossy public relations companies that they have become. Governments must mandate the introduction of genuine and enforceable guidelines on academic freedom such as those outlined in the Commonwealth governments (unimplemented) review by ex-High Court judge, Robert French.

My IPA colleague Gideon Rozner has an important article in today’s The Australian newspaper that provides much more context. The piece includes comment that:

The Ridd case has resonated around Australia — and has attracted significant attention worldwide — for good reason. It confirms what many people have suspected for a long time: Australia’s universities are no longer institutions encouraging the rigorous exercise of intellectual freedom and the scientific method in pursuit of truth. Instead, they are now corporatist bureaucracies that rigidly enforce an unquestioning orthodoxy and are capable of hounding out anyone who strays outside their rigid groupthink.

JCU is attempting to severely limit the intellectual freedom of a professor working at the university to question the quality of scientific research conducted by other academics at the institution. In other words, JCU is trying to curtail a critical function that goes to the core mission of universities: to engage in free intellectual inquiry via free and open, if often robust, debate. It is an absurd but inevitable consequence of universities seeking taxpayer-funded research grants, not truth.

Worse still, it is taxpayers who are funding JCU’s court case. Following a Freedom of Information request by the Institute of Public Affairs, the university was forced to reveal that up until July last year, it had already spent $630,000 in legal fees. It would be safe to assume that university’s legal costs would have at least doubled since that time. The barrister who JCU employed in the Federal Court this week was Bret Walker SC, one of Australia’s most eminent lawyers. Barristers of his standing can command fees of $20,000 to $30,000 a day. And all of this is happening at the same time as the vice-chancellor of the university, Sandra Harding — who earns at least $975,000 a year — complains about the impact of government funding cuts.

While Australian taxpayers are funding the university’s efforts to shut down freedom of speech, Ridd’s legal costs are paid for by him, his wife and voluntary donations from the public. As yet, neither the federal nor the Queensland Education Minister has publicly commented on whether JCU is appropriately spending taxpayers’ money and, so far, both have refused to intervene in the case.

Gideon Rozner is tireless, and has also put together a fascinating 3-part podcast providing background into Peter Ridd’s fight for academic freedom. He interviewed me for this series.

The saga will continue for the next few years, whatever the judges decide. As will my interest in all things to do with the Great Barrier Reef.

I intend to be back SCUBA diving as soon as the restrictions on travel have lifted and I have finished editing a really important new book Climate Change: The Facts 2020. I’m so privileged, as part of this, to be working with some great scientists. Peter Ridd has a chapter in the book on tropical convection as the heat engine for atmospheric circulation. There are also chapters by Roy Spencer, Richard Lindzen, Valentina Zharkova, and quite a few others. There will be 22 chapters, as there were in the last book in this series.

After the book launch later this year, perhaps by then it will be next year, I hope to launch a full-length documentary film about the coral reefs beyond the mud flats. The Ribbon reefs are right out on the edge of Australia’s continental shelf. I spent a week diving with a very talented and experienced underwater photographer back in January 2020. I learnt so much, especially about coral bleaching and also clown anemone fish. I got to swim with sharks. We have footage of hungry sharks and red bass fish (Lutjanus bohar) chasing about one night at a coral garden.

So much to do, so much to finish. Thank you for your patience. And thank you for your continuing support including for Peter Ridd against prestige. And, also, so that we can all keep asking the important questions. I still have so much to find out about the corals and fish at the Great Barrier Reef.

Clown anemone fish on the top of a towering coral bombie that I got to explore in January 2020.

****

The feature image at the top of this post shows me, underwater, with some clown anemone fish back in January at the Ribbons. We found eight different species in a range of habitat types including on an exposed underwater cliff that dropped 2,000 metres to the sea floor.

51 thoughts on “Peter Ridd versus Prestige, and Clown Fish Beyond that Mudflat

  1. “The modern university is all about prestige” No it is not i,o, it is about profit, about bonus’s for its senior executuves and about their CV’s for when they move on up the gravy (*) train to the next place. They have absorbed the ‘greed is good’ Wall St culture, the culture recently exposed in Australian financial institutions by the Royal Commission into their behaviour, and run a ‘tight ship’ in terms of marketing and propaganda in the same way the CCP does.
    * I mis-typed “graby” as I drafted this – was that truly a mistake or was my subconscious being creative?

    • Prestige is the tool that lets the President command the big salary. The president of one of the local universities paid close attention to the hiring of tenure track positions. He jealously guarded the school’s world class status by making sure it got the most prestigious faculty available.

    • Komrade Kuma – May 30, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      “The modern university is all about prestige” No it is not, it is about profit, about bonus’s for its senior executuves and about their CV’s for when they move on up the gravy (*) train to the next place.

      And ….. “No it is not” ……. limited to the modern university and/or college, ….. but it also includes most every government funded Public School in the United States.

      Administrators and Teachers keep getting better salaries and entitlements and the graduating students keep getting dumber.

  2. The ‘corporatist’ culture that Gideon Rozner refer to is another way of characterising that of the CCP or North Korea. It is a completely self referenced, subjective ideology interested in its own survival and profiteering, be that by whatever rubric it is slave to, and is utterly controlling. It is in essence no different to the thugocracies, aristocracies, dictatorships and all the other variants of unrepresentative, power hungry, control freak regimes humanity and much of the animal kingdom have been cursed with since we got chucked out of Eden I suppose.

    We obviously have not developed herd immunity from this virus.

    • From Herodotus.

      https://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/History/hakhamaneshian/herod_democ.htm

      Darius the Persian speaks:

      ‘Again, in a democracy, it is impossible but that there will be malpractices: these malpractices, however, do not lead to enmities, but to close friendships, which are formed among those engaged in them, who must hold well together to carry on their villainies.’

      Candace Owens speaks on the website Londonreal to call what Darius describes as ‘hold well together to carry on their villainies’, not a conspiracy but simply monopolies making decisions that limit competition. Be these monopolies of business, bureaucracy, judicial, knowledge, power or religion.

    • Well said !

      The shenanigans of the University of Queensland in the persecution of a ‘dissident’ student, Mr Drew Pavlou, whose crime was to shine a light on the capture of the vacuous university administration by the CCP, lends strong support to the utter failure of Australian ‘prestige’ universities to support freedom expression and association.

      Australian universities have failed the basics of Business 101 … doubling their reliance on big fee paying foreign student to nearly 50% of their gross revenues. They now cry for federal government support for the consequences of their “completely self referenced, subjective ideology interested in its own survival and profiteering”.

      They can go to hell but they should not get a red penny of taxpayer’s money.

  3. I was waiting for a comparison of university officials to the clown fish, and it never came in the article. (^_^)

    I guess that would have been an unforgivable insult …………………………………………………………… to the fish.

  4. Well done, Brava! Thank you, Jennifer, for preparing this and for keeping on top of it. Also, thank you, Charles, for cross posting it here at WUWT.

    Stay safe and healthy, all.
    Bob

  5. For those who are interested in a very readable and comprehensive account of the GBR scare, based on Peter Ridd’s work, you cannot go past ‘Will The Great Barrier Reef Survive’ by David Mason-Jones available at http://www.journalist.com.au. David has extensively interviewed Pete Ridd and examines both the science and political aspects of this infamous affair. I urge anyone interested to pick up a copy.

  6. “Sandra Harding — who earns at least $975,000 a year…”

    Earns? I don’t think that is the correct word to use in her case.

      • Yes it would be factual to say, “is paid” or “takes home”, not “earns”.

        When customers ask me how many people work at my factory I reply, “About half.”

        In reality I count on 6 fully productive hours per person per day. Plan for that and don’t be disappointed.

        For University Heads, there is no way it reaches 6 hrs, because some demands are very unproductive PR requirements to be endured.

        • Maybe the Pareto Principle applies here, where 20% of the people achieve 80% of the results.

          As regards the high pay of the University principals, there seem to have been similar occurrences in the UK, and all over the public sector. Eventually these pay levels attract attention and there is the occasional scapegoat sacrificed to appease the public.
          But what I would love to know is how on earth these people get onto the gravy train in the first place?
          They all seem to be of a similar mind-set and it has been on mooted that the Common Purpose training organisation has something to do with it.
          Also there is the principle that people tend to appoint new recruits in their own image, never clever recruits who could show up their own shortcomings.

      • But she is worth every cent.

        How many others can tie down 12 jobs at once?

        “Current roles include: Project Convener, State of the Tropics project; Councillor, Queensland Futures Institute; Member, Trade and Investment Policy Advisory Committee (advising Minister Robb); Member, the Australia-China Council Board; Co-Vice Chair, the New Colombo Plan Reference Group; Director, Regional Australia Institute; Council Member, the Australian Institute of Marine Science; Director, North Queensland Cowboys NRL club; Director of Townsville Enterprise and of Advance Cairns (regional economic development bodies); and a Governor of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). She has recently been appointed a member of the Australian Government’s Research Policy and Funding Working Group (assisting Dr Ian Watt AO).”

        And she is ” an economic sociologist by training”.

    • Patrick
      It certainly doesn’t seem to be justified for a bureaucrat that does essentially the same kind of work as many others who get paid far less. And, this one has demonstrated that she is incompetent, having lost the case she was pressing. It is time for a change.

      • I have always wondered why those people who go down to clear the sewers and other mucky jobs get paid less than those bureaucrats who tell them to do it.

    • Admittedly she “loses” 48% above AU$180,000 in tax, but 52% of ~AU$700,000 in ya bank isn’t anything to cry about, esp if other people are paying for it! My heart bleeds for you Sandra.

  7. A lot of people need to be reminded, on both sides of the debate, that science isn’t about debunking the brainfart but finding fault with what seems to be perfectly sensible reasoning.

  8. Peter Ridd is up against entrenched and powerful forces with very deep pockets- ours. Free speech is in grave danger at Australian universities. Just this week 20 year old student Drew Pavlou was suspended for 2 years from the University of Queensland for daring to question, amongst other things, UQ’s relationships with Communist China.

    • Don’t know a huge amount about Drew, but I would hazard a guess and say his real problem was that he is studying under HECS.

      (Higher Education Contributing Scheme… or whatever they call it now. Otherwise known as “Study Now, Moan about the crippling debt your Art Degree does not allow you to pay off later”)

      Not much of a problem in normal situations by Drew has also been holding protests to raise attention to some international issues and some of his fellow campus friends disagree with the conclusions he has been publicly making.

      And while Drew seems to be a HECS kid, these people who disagree with him on campus are studying in a more cash up front type environment. And are part of a collective block.

      Some of these students may or may not have come from a country that isn’t Australia.

      So I don’t really think Drew was suspended for questioning UQ. I think Drew was suspended because a ‘student block’ that brings in a mass of money to UQ found him offensive.

      Drew may or may not be a well meaning public voice. I don’t know, I haven’t really read that deeply. My gut feeling is he is just another one of those Student Activist types with a massive sense of entitlement who would normally go through his 20s being loud, annoying and instantly forgettable. His problem is that in real terms he means very little to UQ, while his opponents – or at least the real owners of his opponents who may or may not come from a country that isn’t Australia – mean large amounts of money.

      Higher Education is a business. All about the money.

      • In fact, Craig, I read that Drew is from a conservative Greek Cypriot family of modest beginning. He is quite a brilliant student and has been awarded recognition for academic achievement with only a few months to go to graduation. Also, an elected member to the university senate.

        Seems that the said aggrieved students from another country are merely puppets of the regime … who have been known to be very violent at said campus … with no corresponding university sanction.

        Not quite your garden variety ‘activista’ from ER.

  9. In the Climate field there is no real science happening.

    Real science requires solidifying hypotheses by earnestly and cleverly attempting to find the best ways to falsify your main assertions (hypotheses). Not one single bit of that is being done in the Climate field. Instead, funds are handed out by the corrupt decision makers…and all of the funds are doled out to any group that can come up with any oblique angle of inquiry that would seem to support the Climate Crisis hypothesis.

    That is the very opposite of proper scientific inquiry.

    It is pure political advocacy paid for by the very people the political advocacy is meant to enslave. Don’t worry if they catch on to you and sue…they also get to pay for your legal defence.

    There is firmly established corruption at least three layers deep in Climate Land:

    • Premise.
    • Promotion.
    • Defense.

    And the victims get to finance the whole thing…but get no seat at the table.

  10. The phony climate scare was never about the climate.

    HYPOTHESIS: RADICAL GREENS ARE THE GREAT KILLERS OF OUR AGE
    By Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., April 14, 2019
    wattsupwiththat.com/2019/04/14/hypothesis-radical-greens-are-the-great-killers-of-our-age/

    SCIENCE’S UNTOLD SCANDAL: THE LOCKSTEP MARCH OF PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES TO PROMOTE CLIMATE CHANGE
    By Tom Harris and Dr. Jay Lehr, May 24, 2019
    wattsupwiththat.com/2019/05/25/sciences-untold-scandal-the-lockstep-march-of-professional-societies-to-promote-the-climate-change-scare/

    CO2, GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE AND ENERGY
    by Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., June 15, 2019
    wattsupwiththat.com/2019/06/15/co2-global-warming-climate-and-energy-2/
    Excel: wattsupwiththat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Rev_CO2-Global-Warming-Climate-and-Energy-June2019-FINAL.xlsx

    THE COST TO SOCIETY OF RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM
    By Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., July 4, 2019
    wattsupwiththat.com/2019/07/04/the-cost-to-society-of-radical-environmentalism/

    WHAT THE GREEN NEW DEAL IS REALLY ABOUT — AND IT’S NOT THE CLIMATE
    By Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., July 19, 2019
    wattsupwiththat.com/2019/07/20/what-the-green-new-deal-is-really-about-and-its-not-the-climate/

  11. Winning isn’t enough
    He has to sue for defamation and damages to character and his good name

    $100 million would be a good starting negotiation point

    Some how the people perpetrating things like this need to be made to pay

    I would be willing to support peter financially, do my share.
    People need to start contemplating jail time in order for this to change
    As noted legal costs are paid by the taxpayer

    So individuals need to start paying a personal cost

  12. About 20 to 25 years ago there was a great scam where one could buy an advanced degree from self promoted degree mills. I was offered a doctorate for a fee (about $1500) from one of these on the basis of my post graduate experience with a full fictitious diploma from an alleged institution in the UK. I was also told that if I wished, I could also submit a thesis and convert this to real degree. Alas it seems that the real universities have morphed into the fictitious universities of the late 1990s where degrees can be bought essentially for fees and patience i.e. good attendance.

    Indeed I had direct experience of this when I was tutoring at a University and was asked to examine a Masters Degree thesis. This had been clearly written by a non-english speaker and the language was hardly even English. After I had deciphered the language, it was clear that the author had no idea of his subject and his thesis had not demonstrated what it was purported to demonstrate. I returned the document to the university supervisor with comments and after a delay some of the matters that I had raised were corrected but the language was just as bad. I sent it back again saying that I could approve this as it would become a public document to be held in the University library and after a further delay it was returned rewritten in generally reasonable English. By whom it was rewritten, I do not know but suspect it may have been the supervisor of the thesis. It seems that this may have been a case like I mentioned above of “you pays your money and does your time and you gets your degree” whether it is worthwhile or not.

    • Tmatsci overseas students is big business here in Australia. They pay full fees, and they don’t need to speak English. All they need is a group representative to translate for them. Of course the reality is that it’s mostly a scam, little in the way of studies are being done but simply being a student in Australia means that they can legally be here and living in Australia. I met and spoke to an overseas ‘student’ who said she had been studying in Australia for nine years. Lucrative businesses are run here under the radar that do not raise taxes here in Australian and profits go back to the nation of the origin of the ‘students’. They ultimately apply for residency and then citizenship as a result of ‘qualifications’ earned here. That’s not to say that there are no genuine ‘students’.

  13. Universities lost it for me over 30 years ago when I started and ran a part time Applied Geology course at a less than prestigious university then applied for the permanent job when they decided to make it full time. I was a practical engineering geologist who had learned my craft over more than 15 years of applying myself in the real world in mining and with a geotech engineering company. They gave the job to a young geologist with a Phd who had no practical experience but fitted the academic bill. My honours Geology degree didnt cut it with the academics. Needless to say, I have never since applied for an academic job and console myself making good money as a consultant and now environmental auditor. Another thing that turned me off was marking exam papers and finding that a student obviously had not either read the question or didnt know the answer so put in a lot of rubbish on a different topic (which was obviously learned by rote). Ipointed this out to the Professor and wanted to give him a zero mark – but the prof overrode me and gave him 50%. I lost all respect for academia at that point and it remains a sign post as to why we get rubbish research.

  14. PS – I visited the Barrier Reef late last year and went on a dive trip – looked fine to me and got some great photos of live coral and fish!

  15. Peter Ridd challenged his sacking in the Federal Circuit Court on the basis that the university’s enterprise agreement (which determined his employment conditions) specifically guaranteed his right to “pursue critical and open inquiry” “express unpopular or controversial views” and “express opinions about the operations of JCU and higher education policy more generally.”

    In September 2019 Peter Ridd won his case as the court found he had been unlawfully sacked and he was awarded $1.2m in damages and compensation for lost earnings. The case in the Federal Court this week was an appeal by JCU against that decision. At issue was whether the intellectual freedom clauses in the enterprise agreement covering JCU staff protected his criticism of quality assurance issues in reef science at the university. The university alleges that in going public with his concerns that organisations such as the ARC Centre “cannot be trusted” on reef science, Ridd committed several breaches of the university’s staff code of conduct, with its vague requirements to act “collegiately” and to “uphold the integrity and good reputation of the university.”

    In other words, even though the enterprise agreement specifically declared that staff had the right to intellectual freedom, it was for the university to determine the limits of what that freedom actually permitted.

    What is really at issue here?

    An academic who doesn’t have the ability to challenge the research findings of their colleagues because those questions threaten the university’s funding doesn’t have intellectual freedom. And if academics know they could get sacked, as Peter Ridd was, for asking uncomfortable questions, they will stop asking uncomfortable questions.

    • In some ways it was a surprise that they appealed – if I recall they lost on ALL 17 points in the Federal Court with some harsh comments from the judge so it was not even close. But on the other hand did they think are invincible and should have won, or as suggested are trying to win on financial grounds by having unlimited funds to Dr Ridd’s having to request donations to keep fighting? I made my donation as this case has global importance. I hope you are right that they lose the appeal and on top of that I hope the compensation amount is raised significantly if that is possible.

  16. This is why Engineering is better than the Sciences. Modern Science is dictated by Politics. Engineering is ruled by immutable laws of physical reality. If an Engineer gets things wrong, either they don’t work, cost too much or people die. (From a proud Chemical Engineer from THE Ohio State University)

    • GraemeTC
      An example of the sad trend that you describe was provided by the fatal collapse of the pedestrian bridge across a road at the Florida International University a couple of years ago:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_International_University_pedestrian_bridge_collapse

      The university bridge project had been politicised. One aspect of its design was heavily promoted at the time but since then has been covered in almost complete silence. That is the fact that the concrete mix was whitened by the addition of titanium dioxide. This has the claimed effect of making the concrete “self-cleaning” at its surface, and even of removing pollutants from the air. However – critically – this TiO2 admixture also weakens the concrete slightly.

      This weakening by TiO2 May have been a factor in the cracking and collapse that killed 6 people and seriously injured several more. Nice-sounding eco-politics took precedence over politically out-dated considerations like “not falling down”.

      In current accounts that you can read in the media or Wikipedia, the TiO2 addition is almost not mentioned, in a seeming cover-up. The only indirect mention in the wiki article is this under the “design and construction” section:

      The bridge was made using a new formulation for concrete intended to stay cleaner than standard concrete formulations.

  17. Peter, what you have been put through by JCU is simply awful but even more sadly, it is not unique. When the beancounters take over, the science flies out the window. As I see it, it is driven by the commercialisation of science and education with the output as a product. For the last 7 years, I have been working on the influences of solar system cycles on Earth’s climate. In view of the preparation of your second book, if you would like to get in touch feel free to send me a message either here or on Quora.
    Best wishes, John Bruyn

  18. So looking forward to the third Climate Change – The Facts book. Hope Mark Steyn does another job on a Ship of Fools if one is available. Hurt myself laughing
    .

  19. “Prestige” is a good name for Peter Ridd’s scammer-environmentalist enemies.
    Prestige is a term associated with conjuring tricks.
    According to Michael Caine in the eponymous film, the classic conjuring trick must have three elements:
    The pledge, the turn, and the prestige.
    The prestige is the rabbit out of the hat.
    The dying barrier reef from the near-pristine one. The catastrophe from mild warming and CO2 greening.

  20. Fraud is a criminal act, academic or not 😉

    I’m sure that a case of conspiracy to defraud the State for lucrative grant funding by coercing the data could be supported.

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