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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Climate change critic Murry Salby loses case against Macquarie University

by Kylar Loussikian, The Australian, March 9, 2016

Sydney - Climate change critic and atmospheric scientist Murry Salby has lost his long-running court battle against Macquarie University, which he had accused of a raft of workplace contraventions and political ­interference.

Dr Salby, whose employment was terminated in 2013, had claimed Macquarie demoted him, obstructed his research and interfered with his right to interact with his research students ­because of his political views.

In emails obtained by The Australian in 2013, he claimed the university had blocked the presen­tation of research that was highly critical of the now defunct Climate Commission and refused him travel to Europe to unveil those findings, which he said countered “reckless claims” about the role of mankind in greenhouse gases.

Climate Commission chief Tim Flannery was a professor of environmental sustainability at Macquarie at the time.

But after nearly three years, Judge Rolf Driver has thrown out Dr Salby’s claims.

Dr Salby was recruited by Macquarie in 2008 from the University of Colorado. His duties ­included supervising postgraduate students and maintaining an ­active research program. However, a hiring freeze soon after Dr Salby tried to employ a research assis­tant appears to have triggered a breakdown of relations ­between the academic and the university, which advised him to teach undergraduate classes as well as supervise postgraduate students.

Several years later, the university declined to approve Dr Salby’s travel to the European Geosciences Union General Assem­bly in Vienna and a lecture tour of Paris, Cambridge, Oslo and Stockholm.

His employment was suspended on serious misconduct charges after he missed the start of lectures, but he later used the university’s corporate credit card for the European trip.

Justice Driver said Dr Salby had “failed to establish any of the elements of his case” and upheld Macquarie’s termination of his employment.

“Dr Salby did not articulate whether the relevant political opinions were those held by him or those held by the various people he alleges made the impugned decisions,” Justice Driver said.

“Dr Salby has not established that his disciplinary/scientific view about human effects on climate change was in fact mani­fested as a political opinion. Nor has he established that any of the relevant decision-makers had a view that was contrary to his.

“More importantly, he never put to any of the witnesses that they made any of the decisions which he attempts to impugn for the reason of, or for reasons ­including, either his alleged political opinion or theirs.”

Dr Salby’s sacking created a minor international furore, with the International Council for Science suggesting it could scrutinise the issue.

Marie-Lise Chanin, the French representative of the Paris-based council, said she was “scandalised by what happened”, only to backtrack on that statement the following month.

The US National Science Foundation placed a three-year bar in 2009 on Dr Salby receiving any federal grant after finding evidence of duplicate grant proposals and failure to comply with policies on conflicts of interest.

Dr Salby could not be reached for comment yesterday, while a Macquarie University spokeswoman said she could not comment on individual staff matters.

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