James Cook University in Cairns leads the pack. Their precious academics don’t like peer reviews of their sometimes dodgy work. Never let the facts get in the way when appeasing governments for more and bigger grants.
A dark cloud hangs over the future of academic freedom of speech in Australia following the High Court’s ruling today against Great Barrier Reef expert Dr Peter Ridd, Katter’s Australian Party MPs have said.
The KAP which – alongside a variety of other supporters from across the country – have stood in solidarity with Dr Ridd as he took his former employer James Cook University (JCU) to court after being sacked in 2018, said the professor deserved to be applauded for his tenacity.
Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said today’s decision by the High Court meant, by law, Dr Ridd was in breach of his of JCU work contract when he publicly raised quality assurance and trust concerns around fellow researchers’ works.
The ruling had nothing to do with Dr Ridd’s expertise on the GBR or the validity of his scientific views, he said.
Mr Dametto currently has a Bill before the Queensland Parliament seeking a full repeal of the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019.
This Bill, labelled as “farm-destroying” due to the onerous requirements it places on North and Central Queensland cane growers, was predicated on water quality research similar to that which was questioned by Dr Ridd.
Dr Ridd has long called for the establishment of an Office of Science Quality Assurance to question and monitor the validity of scientific research used to underpin government policy.
“We believe that, in the court of public opinion, Dr Ridd has been successful,” Mr Dametto said.
“As a scientist, academic and individual we believe he deserves to be applauded for putting everything on the line to fight for what he, and many others, believe in, which is the fundamental importance of freedom of speech and academic integrity.
“In the name of standing up for what he thought was morally right and just, Dr Ridd has sacrificed his job and potentially his career and reputation, but he has done this because he believed it was right to at least question the science.
“Few people understand the effects of sediment and nutrient run-off to the GBR better than Dr Ridd, and systemic quality assurance problems are still plaguing the way GBR ‘science’ is being used to affect modelling that drives government policy and public opinion.
“The gravest concern attached to today’s ruling is that it has the real potential to scare off anyone else who wants to raise their head out of the trenches to question not only the reef science institutions but also science across the board.”
Mr Dametto said that, without academic freedom, there was a potential to stifle the progression of science and send us back to a time of limited academic thinking not seen since the Dark Ages.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter said that the cases of Ridd and Pavlou made it quite obvious that there was no freedom of speech on Australia’s university campuses.
“Peter Ridd was expressing opinions, and that has been the entire essence of universities since the days of Plato and Socrates,” he said.
“There must a free expression of ideals for universities to operate properly. When I was at university I disagreed with radicals who opposed Vietnam but I defended tenaciously their right to free expression of their point of view.
“The CEO class now run the universities, the corporations and half the trade unions. They are stifling freedoms in this country.”
Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter has pleaded with North Queensland MPs and candidates (state and federal) to support an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security into foreign influence at Australian universities, following the case of UQ student Drew Pavlou who was suspended after he was physically attacked during a pro-Hong Kong democracy rally on campus.
The KAP MP said the influence of the Chinese Communist Party went much further than the grounds of St Lucia. The agreement that James Cook University (JCU) recently signed with Xi’an University of Technology, for joint data science and engineering research projects as well as student and staff exchanges, must be properly scrutinised and investigated.
“I call upon the LNP Member for Herbert to support this Inquiry as he, along with myself, represents the people of the fortress city of Townsville,” he said.
“The Japanese had detailed photographs of every aspect of Pearl Harbour before that conflict kicked off. We now could have JCU, situated right beside some of the most intimate and sensitive parts of the Australian Defence Force’s communications infrastructure, working collaboratively with People’s Liberation Army scientists or on joint research projects in data science – and the People’s Liberation Army is a world leader in orchestrating cyber attacks on countries around the world, including Australia.
“The local brothels could pick up a few tips from these little, self-serving, visa-shop leeches at the universities. Mind you, in the brothels they don’t sell their souls, they only sell their bodies.”
Mr Katter has received support from Dawson MP, George Christensen, who will second the motion for the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into foreign influence in Australian Universities.
“It is great to see Australians who are prepared to stand up for what they know is right,” he said.
“Democracy, freedom of speech and academic integrity are values this nation was founded on.”
Mr Katter said JCU had a number of questions to answer over the agreement made with Xi’an University in May.
“Australia’s leading defence and strategy think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in 2018 produced a report on the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) expansion of its research collaboration with universities outside China,” he said.
“It said that since 2007 the PLA has sponsored more than 2500 military scientists and engineers to study abroad and develop relationships with researchers and universities. The report estimates that of that number 300 have been sent to Australia.
“For the PLA, the objective is to pick flowers in foreign lands to make honey in Australia. The report says that Australia was in the top five countries engaged in research collaboration with the PLA in 2017.
“JCU has made an agreement with the Xi’an University to be involved in a new International Engineering College Shaanxi province. JCU and Xi’an University staff and students studying engineering and data science will collaborate with each other and be involved in joint research projects. The PLA is heavily involved in China’s global cyber hacking programme and has an interest in data science and engineering.
“JCU must explain what it will do to make sure that no student involved in these arrangements is a member of or sponsored by the People’s Liberation Army. It also must say if it will seek advice from Australia’s security agencies about all students and academics nominated by Xi’an University to be involved in any joint research projects. In addition, the University needs to tell us what it will do to prevent the theft of intellectual property.”