Statement by Professor Iain Gordon, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Division of Tropical Environments and Societies in response to Professor Ridd's publication of matters relating to his termination and litigation
The Code of Conduct is the standard by which we conduct ourselves towards others and perform our professional duties on behalf of the University to the highest standards of ethical conduct.
All staff members must comply with the Code of Conduct. This is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental duty and obligation that forms part of their employment.
All academic staff are free to promote and share their areas of expertise, including through public debate – however, this must happen within the framework of the Code of Conduct and in line with the quality assurance processes that apply to scientific research internationally, not just at our University.
We take our responsibility to our academic staff members and our students to ensure an ethical, academically robust and a respectful workplace seriously, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that.
Conduct and behaviour that falls short of the Code of Conduct is not acceptable and the University as with any employer, would act on such conduct. These are the same expectations and obligations in place in workplaces around Australia including other academic workplaces.
The University has not objected to Professor Ridd's right to comment on quality assurance.
However, the University has objected to the manner in which he has done this. He has sensationalised his comments to attract attention, has criticised and denigrated published work, and has demonstrated a lack of respect for his colleagues and institutions in doing so. Academic rebuttal of his scientific views on the reef has been separately published.
Professor Ridd has at all times been free to comment on quality assurance. The University has not prevented him from doing so. This is clearly addressed in its communications with Professor Ridd, but also through his continuing to speak at events to share his views on quality assurance.
However, Professor Ridd's academic freedom is not and has never been at issue and is not related to the termination of his employment. His employment was terminated by reason of his repeated refusal to comply with the University Code of Conduct and the repeated disrespect he showed for the University as a senior employee. He was a senior employee who was aware of his conduct, his obligations and having been warned twice about such conduct, continued to engage in it.
Professor Ridd has on numerous occasions and in numerous ways seriously and repeatedly breached the Code of Conduct – his employment has been terminated on this basis. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
While Professor Ridd has determined to publish documents, rather than to focus on his legal proceedings, on review of the conduct in which Professor Ridd has engaged, it is patently clear that this is not about his views on the reef. These matters reflect a senior member of the University's repeated disregard for the same terms and conditions that apply to all staff. This includes deliberately publishing comments that were untrue, failing to manage his conflict of interest obligations and failing to comply with directions.
The University regrets that Professor Ridd's employment came to an end in these circumstances. However, these matters relate to Professor Ridd's conduct, and his conduct alone.
Professor Ridd commenced proceedings against the University. The University is continuing to vigorously defend those proceedings. The University has repeatedly had to address Professor Ridd's failure to comply with court directions, and calls on Professor Ridd, if he is genuinely aggrieved, to address this matter through the courts, which is the appropriate jurisdiction to do so.