Peter Ridd loses High Court case over censorship of climate skepticism

The judges said that as a result, an initial censure in 2016 against Dr. Ridd was unwarranted and cited the famous 19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill in their reasoning.

“While the prohibition of disrespectful and impolite conduct in intellectual expression could be a ‘convenient plan to achieve peace in the intellectual world,'” the judges maintained, “the ‘price paid for this type of intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of all the moral courage of the human mind. ‘

However, that did not result in an overall victory for Dr. Ridd because the court found that his conduct extended well beyond the expression of opinions within his area of ​​academic expertise. If his conduct had been related solely to his area of ​​expertise or to criticizing the decisions of the JCU through prohibited processes, he would have been protected by intellectual freedom. Because his case was handled on an all-or-nothing basis, that meant Dr. Ridd lost.

“This litigation concerned Dr. Ridd’s conduct well beyond the 2016 censorship, almost none of which was protected by intellectual freedom … That conduct culminated in the termination decision, a decision that in turn it was justified on 18 grounds of serious misconduct, none of which involved the exercise of intellectual freedom. “

The Institute of Public Affairs, which helped Ridd handle his case through crowdfunding and public relations support, said the decision showed Australia’s universities were mired in a crisis of censorship.

“Our institutions increasingly want to control what Australians can say and what they can read and listen to,” Executive Director John Roskam said in a statement which also announced that Dr Ridd would be joining the institute as an unpaid researcher to work. in “real Sciences”.

Before Wednesday’s decision, Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge announced that all 41 Australian universities now comply with the French model code on freedom of expression, proposed by former Chief Justice Robert French.


“This has taken two years to get to this point, but now every university has policies that specifically protect free speech,” Tudge said.

The federal government has also legislated a definition of academic freedom in college funding laws, a push led by former education minister Dan Tehan, who said last year that he had received Legal advice that Mr. Ridd would not have been fired if the definition had been in effect at the time.

The definition, which was also based on wording recommended by French in his government-commissioned review of freedom of expression in Australian universities, includes “the freedom of academic staff to teach, discuss and research and to disseminate and publish the results. of their research ”And“ contribute to the public debate, in relation to their study and research topics ”.

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