Taxpayers to cover professor’s legal bill
CONTROVERSIAL professor Peter Ridd is likely to be eligible for taxpayer funding to cover his court costs, as James Cook University presses ahead with its appeal on his sacking.
Dr Ridd won his unfair dismissal case against JCU for criticising his colleagues work warning of the impact climate change was having on the Great Barrier Reef.
After questions from conservative MPs, Attorney-General Christian Porter said he would seek a departmental briefing on whether Dr Ridd's case was eligible for Federal funding through the Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme.
Mr Porter confirmed the scheme may be able to be used.
"(It) may be relevant to this matter, but ultimately would depend on the nature and grounds of any appeal and on the information provided if any application is made under the Scheme," he said.
It is understood Dr Ridd has made no application so far to the scheme.
The Commonwealth Public Interest and Test Cases Scheme allows the Attorney-General's department to provide financial assistance in legal cases which could "settle an uncertain area or question of Commonwealth law", or "resolve a question of Commonwealth law that affects the rights of a disadvantaged section of the public".
The Attorney-General investigated whether the scheme would apply to Dr Ridd after inquiries from four Coalition MPs.
JCU has indicated it will appeal the academic's successful unfair dismissal claim in the Federal Court in April.
Mr Porter has previously said it was an important case because if the appeal failed, "it will change the landscape for academic freedom".