Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Melanie Whiting

Expert says MP’s Facebook post could amount to misconduct

SERIOUS concerns have been raised about Dawson MP George Christensen's recent social media post, with one political expert saying it could be "outside the bounds" of reasonable conduct.

In a post on his official Facebook page last week, Mr Christensen told James Cook University to "lose my contact details" after it won an appeal against embattled Queensland professor Peter Ridd's $1.2 million unfair dismissal case.

Dr Ridd was sacked from his job at the Townsville-based university in May 2018 after he publicly criticised Great Barrier Reef research being produced by the university.

The maverick MP said he would no longer "champion" the institution's future work.

"Not only will I not take any calls or correspondence from that university of any description but if I become aware of any funding proposals they've put to the federal government, I will actively oppose such proposals until the university reinstates Dr Ridd and makes amends for its attack on academic freedom," Mr Christensen wrote.

University of Queensland political expert Chris Salisbury said the community should be concerned about potential broader implications of the MP's comment.

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"It does strike me as a little bit of overreach and possibly out of the bounds of a member's rights and abilities to make such claims," Dr Salisbury said.

Dawson MP George Christensen's Facebook post about James Cook University. Picture: Facebook
Dawson MP George Christensen's Facebook post about James Cook University. Picture: Facebook

"On one hand, he's criticising the university for somehow constraining Dr Ridd's academic freedom but on the other, he threatening that he may play some role in denying the freedom for other academics and researchers at that institution from gaining the means to conduct their own academic activities.

"Which seems slightly hypocritical if not even out of the bounds of reasonable conduct."

Dr Salisbury said the comments could also have the effect of intimidating other institutions.

"I would like to think George might be cautioned about this and he might either remove the post or write some sort of statement," he said.

Mr Christensen said his comments "simply questioned the value of a university that fires an academic for raising questions and concerns".

"Dr Salisbury is entitled to his opinion and I'm entitled to mine but it's sad that Dr Peter Ridd was not entitled to his," he said.

Former James Cook University professor Peter Ridd. Picture: Cameron Laird/The Australian
Former James Cook University professor Peter Ridd. Picture: Cameron Laird/The Australian

"UQ is more of an offender against academic freedom than JCU is, as it recently suspended a student that continually criticised and protested against the Chinese Communist Party."

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In a statement, James Cook University said the Full Federal Court had found the university did not contravene the Fair Work Act nor the enterprise agreement in taking disciplinary action against Dr Ridd.

"Dr Ridd was not sacked because of his scientific views," the statement said.

"James Cook University strongly supports academic freedom."


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