Dr Peter Ridd was fired effectively for criticising his colleagues and employer. He had been a physics professor at James Cook University for 30 years, but publicly said the published science regarding the effects of coral bleaching and global warming on the Great Barrier Reef was not subject to adequate quality assurance. He was rightly concerned that reports being relied on by governments for billions of dollars of investment should be unimpeachable. The University fired him. He is now fighting JCU in court for financial compensation.
What’s remarkable is the singularly rare common sense and natural justice articulated by Federal Circuit Court judge Salvatore Vasta in some of his remarks. These comments should reverberate around the halls of other authoritarians seeking to make offending people illegal such as defend Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act and the frequent flyers at the many and varied anti-discrimination tribunals which litter the nation. Our federal and state politicians should also sticky tape these words to their bathroom mirror to read every time they brush their teeth.
“[The university had] not understood the whole concept of intellectual freedom… In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset.“
Imagine if our Parliaments, courts, para-judicial bullies and national broadcaster also understood that laws designed to protect people from feeling denigrated, offended, hurt or upset will simultaneously arm fascists to transgress intellectual freedom and its sister freedoms: speech, religion and political expression.
With that kind of honesty and maturity we wouldn’t be needing national debates about Israel Folau or positive protections for freedoms which should be able to be taken for granted in a liberal society.