PROFESSOR Peter Ridd had a distinguished 30-year career at James Cook University, Brisbane, with particular interests in coastal oceanography, including human impacts on coral reefs. His consultancy work was associated with marine dredging operations and development of specialist instrumentation, the profits being used to fund student scholarships and research projects. He has published over 100 papers in international science journals.
He criticised the work of a university colleague who asserted that human-induced global warming was damaging the Great Barrier Reef. In Ridd’s expert opinion this was not the case. For this he was dismissed by the university. The issue was not whether the idea of human-induced global warming/climate change is real or just an enormous fraud, but of free speech.
He sued the university for unfair dismissal and was awarded A$1.2million (£650,000) in damages. In the federal court, Judge Salvatore Vasta said: ‘Intellectual freedom is so important. It allows academics to express their opinions without fear of reprisals. It allows a Charles Darwin to break free of the constraints of creationism. It allows an Albert Einstein to break free of the constraints of Newtonian physics. It allows the human race to question conventional wisdom in the never-ending search for knowledge and truth.’
In a 2017 collection of essays, Climate Change, The Facts, Dr Ridd wrote: ‘There is now an industry that employs thousands of people whose job it is to “save the Great Barrier Reef”. As a scientist, to question the proposition that the reef is damaged is a potentially career-ending move . . . Policy science concerning the Great Barrier Reef is almost never checked. Over the next few years, Australian government will spend more than a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef; the costs to industry will far exceed this. Yet the keystone research papers have not been subject to proper scrutiny. Instead, there is a total reliance on the demonstrably inadequate peer review process.’
During the legal proceedings the university stifled Dr Ridd’s contractual – and moral – right to academic freedom and hit him with multiple ‘censures’ and gag orders, even telling him at one point that he couldn’t speak to his own wife.
Having spent A$630,000 (£344,000) of taxpayers’ money on this legal battle, and losing on every one of 28 points, the university has decided to appeal. Dr Ridd’s legal costs for the original court case of A$360,000 (£196,000) were raised by crowdfunding. The appeal case will cost substantially more. The university may assume that the cost will be too high and Dr Ridd’s challenge will fade away. We must not allow this to happen. Please donate to www.gofundme.com/f/peter-ridd-legal-action-fund