James Cook University has won an appeal against a court verdict that found it unlawfully dismissed controversial marine physicist Peter Ridd.
Dr Ridd was sacked in 2018 for breaching the university’s code of conduct over critical comments he made about the work of leading coral researcher.
He also claimed organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) could “no longer be trusted”.
Last year the Federal Circuit Court found his termination was unfair and ordered JCU pay him more than $1.2 million in compensation.
But on Wednesday the full bench of the Federal Court allowed the university’s appeal and ordered the previous judgment be set aside.
Dr Ridd said he was disappointed by the verdict, but not entirely surprised.
“This is a long fight and we’re just at the very beginning,” he said.
“I got fired, ultimately, for saying that there’s not enough quality assurance on science in the Great Barrier Reef, and this is badly affecting the farmers of North Queensland.
“I’m going to continue this fight to make sure farmers get justice and the science is properly checked.”
Dr Ridd said he had raised about $800,000 in donations and spent $300,000 on legal fees so far.
“Universities are supposed to be places where people should be able to speak their mind without having to worry too much about the odd word here or there,” he said.
“[This decision] means any other university which has a similar work agreement, which is most of them, their academics really don’t have meaningful academic freedoms.”
In a brief statement, James Cook University acknowledged the verdict.
“The court has allowed the appeal and dismissed Dr Ridd’s application, and has published detailed reasons for doing so,” a spokesman said.
“The university thanks the court for its time and consideration of these matters.”