University Appeal Upheld, Peter Ridd Loses – We all Lose

Reposted from Jennifer Marohasy’s website

University Appeal Upheld, Peter Ridd Loses – We all Lose

July 22, 2020 By jennifer

On 2 May 2018, Professor Peter Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for serious misconduct. It all started when he called-out his colleague Terry Hughes for falsely claiming healthy inshore coral reefs were dead from climate change and deteriorating water quality.

Ignoring the first censure in April 2016, Professor Ridd went on television in August 2017 and explained in an interview with Alan Jones and Peta Credlin why so much said and written about the Great Barrier Reef, including by scientists at the Australian Institution of Marine Science, is ‘untrustworthy’.

The interview was to promote a book that I edited, Climate Change: The Facts 2017. The book published by the Institute of Public Affairs, begins with a chapter about the Great Barrier Reef in which the orthodoxy on Great Barrier Reef science is challenged, in particular reporting on coral calcification rates. In that interview – that contributed directly to Peter Ridd’s sacking – the main argument was, and continues to be, for better quality assurance of coral reef science.

It is a fact that the Australian Institute of Marine Science refuses to release 15 years of coral growth data – because it contradicts the claims of high-profile activists that coral growth rates are in decline. They are not. But the false claims are central to their fundraising strategy. Never mind the truth.

The first finding handed down by Judge Salvatore Vasta back in April last year case concerned the photographs taken in 1994 that Terry Hughes used to falsely claim Acropora corals that were alive in 1890 are now all dead. Peter Ridd had photographs taken in 2015 showing live Acropora and the need for quality assurance of Hughes’ claims.

Judge Vasta found in favour of Peter Ridd and ordered that the 17 findings made by the University, the two speech directions, the five confidentiality directions, the no satire direction, the censure and the final censure given by the University and the termination of employment of Professor Ridd by the University were all unlawful.

Peter Ridd took on the institutions, and today lost in the Federal Court. The Judgement suggested his academic freedom was his personal opinion.

It was very significant that Peter Ridd won on the issue of academic freedom: that he did have a right to ignore the university administrators and continuing to speak out about the lack of quality assurance and explain how and why important scientific institutions had become so untrustworthy.

The University never accepted that decision by the Federal Circuit Court, and they have never conceded that Terry Hughes was wrong to suggest all the corals were dead, when a documentary has since been made showing them to be alive. Further, they have never supported any calls for the coral growth data to be made public.

Instead, the University appealed, and today the University won in the Federal Court. In the judgement, Peter Ridd’s academic freedom is portrayed as his ‘personal opinion’.

It is not Peter Ridd’s personal opinion that the corals are alive, and the Great Barrier Reef resilient to climate change. It is fact. I’ve seen the coral reefs whose health is contested with my own eyes: they are very much alive.

What is dead is academic freedom in Australia.

Universities should be understood by the judiciary as different from other workplaces because it is expected by the ordinary Australian that, on occasions, there will be vigorous debates on important and controversial issues. It is essential that academics can engage in these debates without fearing that the use of plain and colloquial English could end their careers.

Yet today, the university’s appeal was upheld on the basis Peter Ridd was un-collegial in stating plainly that his own university and the Australian Institute of Marine Science are ‘untrustworthy’ because of systemic deficiencies in their quality assurance processes. Further, it was mentioned that Peter Ridd did ‘satirise’ the university’s disciplinary processes in a personal email.

Today’s decision means that James Cook University, and other Australian universities, will continue to crush dissent and sack academics who campaign for the truth.

The truth is that coral reefs are resilient, and despite the fear mongering, refuse to die.

Australia’s universities may now be corporatist bureaucracies that rigidly enforce an unquestioning orthodoxy but it is the case that one day, when the travel restrictions are all lifted, you will be able to visit the Great Barrier Reef and see with your own eyes that Peter Ridd told the truth about the Stone Island corals, while Terry Hughes’ photographs deceive.

The feature image at the very top of this blog post is of Premnas biaculeatus, an anemone fish, photographed at a Ribbon reef on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef in January 2020. There are still so many fish, and so much healthy coral where Terry Hughes has most recently claimed devastating coral bleaching. I SCUBA dived for a week and could find very limited coral bleaching. The underwater footage from this expedition will be made into a feature length documentary.

92 thoughts on “University Appeal Upheld, Peter Ridd Loses – We all Lose

  1. It would seem that the world is descending into another Dark Age, on many levels. Voltaire is surely rolling over in his grave.

    • Jane Jacobs called it. She compared modern ideologies to Middle Ages Roman Catholicism where

      the dominant ideology prevented and discouraged people from finding rational and scientifically verifiable explanations and solutions.

      Jacobs characterizes a Dark Age as a “mass amnesia” where even the memory of what was lost is lost.

      It could happen.

      The one ray of hope is that Jordan Peterson is on the mend and appears to be re-emerging in his full glory. He may be the one person who can motivate the masses back in the direction of the Enlightenment.

      • Unfortunately I now find it a tad ironic that Jo still nominally promotes Freedom of Speech issues on her blogsite.

        Jo, as some of you will know, has taken a side on the Wuhan Flu topic and is willing to strongly defend her point of view. However Jo’s argument seems to be that since she has virus education at tertiary level the entire virus needs to be dealt with using ‘text book’ methods.

        The counter argument that text books are deliberately simplified in order to isolate and teach individual core topics and hence in the ‘Real World’ we use the ‘Real World’ solution of As Far As Is Reasonably Practical to deal with risk reduction is not tolerated. ‘Reasonably Practical’, in my part of the world at least, is the legal argument you will be forced to defend in court in the profession that pays my salary, but apparently not in the world of theoretical discussions about virus control.

        Unfortunately I have found Jo’s blog has an increasingly hostile comments sections with Jo herself having her comments heavily ratioed* by her own readers with examples of deliberate misquoting and blatant strawman.

        Hopefully once people finally accept Wuhan was not the literal apocalypse we were all fearing her blog will return to the very friendly and well informed venue it once was, but at the moment the signal to rant ratio is pretty bad.

        *Ratioed : A term referring to the like to dislike ratio. More a YouTube term I believe. The theory is most people who like will ‘like’ a video or comment, but people who dislike will just leave because they were never interested in the first place. Hence a ‘dislike’ (or in JoNova’s case, a Red Thumb) can in real terms carry more weight than a ‘Like’. So to be ‘ratioed’ is to have a Like:Dislike of 1:1 or worse. 20:1 is normal, but 1:1 means in real terms that you have seriously misread the mood of your audience.

        Jo, in her own Blog, has been getting very badly ratioed in her comments.

        • I find myself less inclined to comment on her site because contrary opinions seem unwelcome. I can expect that from the legion of commenters with a diversity of backgrounds. However, I don’t think that it is wise for a blog host to take a strong stand on controversial topics. At least not without a large number of facts that are incontestable.

  2. I am absolutely stunned that Dr. Peter Ridd has had the decision by Judge Vista overturned by the Federal Court. Judge Vasta found in favour of Peter Ridd and ordered that the 17 findings made by the University, the two speech directions, the five confidentiality directions, the no satire direction, the censure and the final censure given by the University and the termination of employment of Professor Ridd by the University were all unlawful.

    It is a totally corrupt court that reverses the such a monumental decision about the very foundation of academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge. This will just galvanize Dr. Ridd into the history books as one who was persecuted by evil doers in the pursuit of knowledge on past, present and future climate. This decision speaks volumes to how corrupt the judiciary has become, bought and paid for by wealthy, corrupt and evil manipulative forces. Shame on them.

    • Yes very bizarre. The university code of conduct seems to override the union agreement(which detailed the intellectual freedom) , but the code doesn’t apply to JCU itself. And when their actions arent consistent with code or award, the university claims their position is backed by Common law.

    • The Australian appeals court also upheld the conviction of Cardinal Pell, which was recently unanimously quashed by the High Court. Two cases don’t allow general conclusions, but the Pell case certainly suggests some judicial activism by the appeals court.

      • And that appeals court of Victoria under its current head has had 17 cases overturned by the High court. Victoria has been governed by a far left party for 16 years out of 20 and replace judges with activist lawyers from legal aid bodies. It’s truly a Marxist haven. Not a fan of George Pell, but his case was clearly a political hit job. It’s a worry when governments can put activist judges in place of law practitioners. Queensland has had the same level of left wing governments for decades. They subvert every level of society. It’s called Fabian socialism.

  3. Any possibility of appeal, or is the Federal Court of Australia like the Supreme Court of Canada?

    • Is there no route of appeal through the U.K. legal system, or was that lost when the House of Lords was replaced by the Supreme Court? I believe that at one time Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders had recourse to the British House of Lords, but I’m not a constitutional lawyer.

        • You are correct, many Commonwealth countries could appeal to the Privy Council. But, with the passing of the Australia Act by both UK and Australian parliaments in 1986, the High Court of Australia became the only avenue of appeal from the Federal or state courts.

  4. There is no justice in a progressive world – if they get a majority they simply behave like the fascists they are – unrepentant.

    It applies all they way across the board, no matter where you find them.

  5. Is there no Supreme Court in Australia?
    This may be about Academic Freedom, but also looks like Australia needs a Whistleblower Law. Bummer.

    • It’s up to Peter if he wants to take it to the high court, he may restart a new crowd fund to do so. However that is at least a 3 year wait probably longer because there are a number of cases about state borders for covid control which are slated to be heard.

  6. James university is cooked. Real academics will avoid it like the plague. Even the Chinese will stop coming.

    The court has brought the law into discredit. This verdict shows the judge(s) to be scientifically illiterate, facts being an ‘opinion’, which will reflect poorly on the profession and the legal system.

    • One all, so far. Best of three. Let’s hope Peter can get funding for the final match – while we wonder where JCU get theirs.

  7. I financially supported Peter initially. As a result, he has personally kept me posted. IF he decides to appeal, I let him know I will support him again—even more than at first.

    • Rud,

      I am with you. I would be delighted to fund his appeal again just as I have contributed to his earlier legal actions. We have to stand up for heroes like Peter Ridd. If we don’t, it will be like the Nazis in the 1930’s, who picked off individual opposition groups in Germany one by one because no one stood up for them.

  8. Folks, I’m no lawyer, and have no legal experience beyond being involved in a couple of industrial tribunals, but…

    This case is not about free speech, scientific truths or anything like that. It is a very specific appeal against a judgement that JCU ‘contravened s 50 of the Fair Work Act 2009’ by their actions. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t – way beyond my pay grade. Perhaps someone else can comment on whether the original judgement left this hole for JCU to wriggle through.

    The law deals with specifics and opinions on fine lines of interpretation. If I call my boss a fraud in public I may be provably correct in my assessment, but I may still be rightly accused of slandering her. The law rarely seems to look up to see if that makes any sense in the bigger picture, it seems to me.

    • Sadly Amos, I reluctantly share your observations on this.

      This appeal judgement was delivered on the narrow considerations of “black letter law” as it governs S 50 of the Fair Work Act.

      To take this judgement to a higher court for a counter-appeal means the matter is still going to be deliberated on the pros & cons of strictly legal interpretations of the Fair Work Act.

      • As JCU has used s 50 of the Fair Work Act, they have probably done themselves a disservice by ensuring any future potential employees are aware of this. It may prove that the best and brightest will not seek employment with JCU if they are strangled by an employment contract. Time will tell.

    • “This case is not about free speech, scientific truths or anything like that. It is a very specific appeal against a judgement that JCU ‘contravened s 50 of the Fair Work Act 2009’ by their actions.”

      yup not about free speech.

      ridd was put on notice and violated the code of conduct, willfully.

      he had every right to say

      1. I question the analysis
      2. here are the errors in the analysis
      3. I have a different interpretation of the data
      4. I think the analysis is flawed.
      5. Here is why I think professor X is wrong, A, B, C, D

      The code of conduct prevented him from talking trash.

      “I dont trust professor X, his shit is garbage, dont trust that fraud,”

      blah blah blah.

      in short, the same crap that gets you moderated at some blogs, got him fired.

      He had every right to say “The coral is Not dead”
      The code of conduct prevented him form saying
      “Dont trust my fellow worker when he tells you it is dead”

      Fine distinction.

      • Such a fine distinction that the original judgment had completely disagreed with you on every count.

        blah blah blah,

        • “Such a fine distinction that the original judgment had completely disagreed with you on every count.”

          I was on record ( and abused here) for suggesting that Ridd would be a loser in all this.

          It is rather simple.

          when they tell you to CLEAN UP YOUR LANGUAGE or else, you clean up your your language

          There was NO issue with him saying that the science was wrong

          There was an issue with HOW HE SAID IT.


          • I wonder if JCU treated Rudd’s CofC violations the same as those of the in-crowd? It may be a way to blast through to the Australian Supremes.

            When a CofC includes undefinable sustainability and social justice terms (as does JCU’s), is it a valid and enforceable mutual contract? Ambiguity is generally interpreted in favor of the less-powerful party.

        • How about obey the [REDACTED] rules?

          your employer tells you to NOT TRASH YOUR CO WORKERS PERSONALLY

          he could say “X is wrong”

          he could not say X is a buffoon, dont trust him

          you dont like those employer rules?


          [C’mon, Mosh. Language. ]

        • Michael I too struggle with Steven sometimes but on this he is spot on. It may well be a loop hole that JCU have wriggled out of being held answerable, but Peter has only himself to blame in this small but significant part of his contract – because he decided to directly question in public a fellow employee of JCU.
          Its a shame because he has every reason to be aggrieved and JCU every reason to be ashamed of their biased and unscientific behaviour. I doubt very much had he made his complaint internally that it would ever have been answered or for that matter brought to light to correct a blatant piece of misinformation.
          JCU is just an extension of the attitude held by Universities whose principals are unwilling to stand up against vociferous and aggressive politics. Cambridge has done the same over Jordan Peterson and Oxford are in the process of doing the same to Cecil Rhodes.
          Honest debate is dead in our modern Univesities it would seem, better to exclude your opposition rather than defend your position!

      • Except his Union contract gave him that right. The University willfully entered into that contract but want to pretend it doesn’t exist. In otherwords, his boss agreed he could word it that way. Plus, most countries treat gov’t bosses differently then private bosses.

  9. The High Court of Australia is the best place to address major areas of legal policy (technically just ‘declaring the law as it is and always was’ but to the layperson is making law.
    This issue is just the sort of thing that final appeal courts love.
    My Australian legal colleagues would be best to assess the odds of success given the make up of the court and its history and I am sure Peter’s legal team is working on this now.
    What can we do to help? Well, if the legal team and Peter decides an appeal is the go, then we can help fund it. I am up for that an I suspect I will not be the only one. I will double my contribution to the previous case. It will be needed.

    • To avoid repealing ObamaCare, the US Supreme Court had to rule that the fines it imposed were both a tax in one section of the ruling, and not a tax in a different section of the ruling.

      Modern liberals are willing to tie themselves into all kinds of logical knots in order to get where they wanted to go in the first place.

  10. Interestingly, one of the judges in this case claimed environmental laws as one of his specialties.
    Can you imagine what a cool reception he would have gotten from the enviro networking groups if he had exonerated Peter Ridd?

    • Smells like what happened in NZ several years back when NIWA were found cooking the books and the sceptics tried to get their money back. The judge had an ‘aweful’ lot of money tied up in ‘renewable investments’ and made the whole case a farce.

  11. He lost because he was not a team player. JCU did not argue his thesis of poor academic rigor, they argued his insolence. The Grand Climate (pick your screaming terror phrase) is a gravy train that rewards the grant getters that contribute to a university’s bank account and creed in the standing for the most virtuous and punishes those that attempt to break the veil.

    • In an American Scientist book review (Jan-Feb, 2020) about The Information Age Steven Sloman concludes “First we have to give up on the idea that we live in a free ‘marketplace of ideas’ that allows only the best to prevail. Information has to be regulated to make sure that it conforms to the facts. Second, human beings are too vulnerable to manipulation by misinformation to be able to sustain a democracy…..”

      In the July 21 Wall Street Journal, Ph.D. candidate Elise Darragh-Ford suggest that in WSJ’s (July 13) previous opinion piece about academic ideology, that Lawrence Kraus is “… so often leveraged by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.” The letter makes some good points, except putting faith in academic structure including tenure “…. frequently continue to offer sweeping protections to those in power.” If she gets tenure, she might find herself out of the frequent category from that change of status quo.

      • Sloman’s ” Information has to be regulated to make sure that it conforms to the facts.” assumes there is some sort of unbiased fact-giver. It is usually called censorship and is always biased. Also, there are those that assert “We believe truth over facts.”

  12. Can’t wait until the ‘protest-about-everything’ activists start demanding that the university ditch its name.

    They are already vandalizing monuments, statues and ceremonies that mark Lt James Cook’s place in history.

    To most of us who inhabit the sensible, civilized world, Cook was a great explorer and recorder who well earned his place in history.

    But to the “cancel culture” morons, he was just another “white man”.

    • today online adel news runs item saying the aboriginals are distressed by ALL whiteys statues now
      so we have to take em down so they arent emotionally harmed
      no one could publish what my opinions of this utter…rubbish really are
      but I am NOT alone in my views;-)

  13. Defund the Universities .
    Well said John harmsworth .
    All over the world Universities are awarding useless degrees to students and the majority of the professors use their positions to push their own political agendas.
    We continually get this or that professor quoting on the TV news touted as experts.
    Universities have become businesses and they should stand on their own feet .
    Peter Ridd has stood up to this bully culture and it has to be exposed .
    Lets hope that this case can be appealed in a higher court .
    The truth is on Peter Ridds side .

    • a lot of our unis run on chineses and otheros students
      so Covids a bonus as theyre firing staff and shutting down many courses
      and really under pressure income wise
      couldt happen to a more deserving bunch of marxists/socialist/snowflake factories
      kids might have to get a real job…lol

  14. It’s not just Peter Ridd or even JCU. Other casualties of the cancel culture include Carter, Salby, and most recently 1000frolly.

    The disgraceful behaviour reflects a universal descent of Australian education into the intellectual abyss. Without freedom to question, there can be no intelligent discourse. And without that there is no enlightenment. The established pattern makes clear that education in Australia has been reduced to indoctrination.

    The truly appalling side of this disgraceful behaviour is its endorsement by Australian courts, the very institutions responsible for protecting society against such behaviour and in disregard of laws that were enacted to do so.

    Through their support, the ultimate loser is the Australian public – by undermining its future.

  15. Never forget that judges are political appointees, and they will always find a way to do what those who pay them want done.

  16. I supported (modestly) Dr. Ridd in the first round of his battle against the insanity.
    In round two , I didn’t feel able to contribute, as I’m not exactly well off, and Dr. Ridd , despite his sacking, will still have a pension I could never dream of.
    But, now I’m angry. The rotters (no offence to Charles) need to be hammered.
    I’ll happily contribute to round three.

    • If his legal team advise him that he has a good case and if he has the strength to go through with it I will contribute much more than than I did the first time round to make up for not contributing last time.

      What I would like to know though, is what Dr Ridd is doing these days. Is he still in academia or has JCU managed to destroy his career? Are there no other universities or scientific institutions with the guts to offer him a position.?

      Mr. Mosher may be right that this is a matter of law and not science. But what does it say for universities worldwide if they are so beholden to one unproven hypothesis, no matter how widely accepted, that they will not offer support to a scientist with the expertise, courage and integrity to point out that “evidence” supposedly supporting that hypothesis has been misstated.

  17. It will probably take an act of Parliament to right the wrong, by modifying the law.

    The modified law should include a section abrogating court case outcomes that depended upon the deleted portion of law. Perhaps Peter should be talking to his MP, as part of his strategy.

  18. “I’ll happily contribute to round three”. Me too. Apart from the obvious principles at stake, contributing to this battle is work-related expenses. I live and work in the same city. If JCU wins, it is bad news for almost everyone here, but there are others who will gleefully capitalise on a JCU win at the High Court.

    • Hey look on the bright side if we keep International students out for a year or so all these 2nd tier universities will collapse.

  19. This ruling should not come as a surprise to anyone. Large companies can afford to pay top
    lawyers to write contracts that allow them to fire people whenever they like within the letter of
    law. The court is ruling on matters of law not on whether or not the University should have fired Prof. Rudd.

  20. The health is the Great Barrier will prove Peter Ridd’s point, and the Crookedness of C_ook college.

  21. This is a real kick in the teeth for Judge Vasta as well. I wonder what he thinks of the appeal.

  22. Even in this judgement it is clear that he was right and they were wrong , but that he was ‘impolite’
    So much for ‘science ‘

  23. This bad turn of events with Prof. Ridd is Upsetting! There needs to be a new University dedicated to Reality, not my feelings are more important than the truth.

  24. This is yet another example that courts are a waste of money and time. We all should just agree to a flip of a coin. Political activism in courts is everywhere.

  25. With all of the left spewing their nonsensical calls for various justice movements (social justice, climate justice etc.) in truth justice itself needs justice.
    Justice 4 Justice
    And I live next to Portland, Oregon area where lawlessness has become the official means to all Progressive Justice.
    What a mess.

  26. It’s the slow march through the institutions. In the end, it won’t matter how many facts and logical arguments are on your side. All the judges, lawyers, professors, politicians, police, military officers, will be progressives and all wrong thinkers purged out. It matters not how severely reality batters them over the head.

  27. I am glad that I sent money to this cause and will continue to fight against censorship when ever I can. I take comfort that eventually the truth will win out.

  28. A couple of decades back I attended one of the APEGBC ‘continuing education’ seminars on Contract Law. One engineer asked a hypothetical-situation question of one of the presenter lawyers; she thought for some 10 seconds, and then replied “I think I could win that one for you, but it would take a LOT of money’.

    That, plus a few other observations through life, have taught me that the law is NOT ‘The Law’; it is an opinion. And if you have enough money, and/or influence, you can buy and/or obtain the opinion you desire.

    It is possible that there is no application or decision of actual ‘law’ here. That said, I think Steven Mosher’s point above requires some serious consideration.

  29. This is extremely disappointing. So the gaslighting lives on. It’s credentialed perpetrators bank more and more bad karma, earn more and more of the hostile backlash that must eventually come their way as objective reality diverges from their increasingly ridiculous political, self-serving narratives.

  30. My question is, if Professor Peter Ridd was employed by the university for his expert opinion on reef science, wouldn’t his personal option be an expert opinion?

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