The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) today welcomed Murdoch University’s decision to drop the financial component of its counter claim against its whistleblower staff member, Associate Professor Gerd Schroeder-Turk, but Murdoch’s attempts to remove him from the University Senate and the ongoing law suit against him must now also be dropped.
“This was nothing more than a legal tactic to intimidate Gerd. It was patently absurd to think that a University would sue a staff member for millions of dollars in damages,” NTEU General Secretary Matthew McGowan said today.
“Murdoch has rightly received international condemnation for its action, and it’s pleasing to see that the University is finally seeing some sense on this issue,” Mr McGowan said.
“But we still fundamentally disagree with Murdoch management about what is the real essence of this matter. This IS about academic freedom – the right of a staff member to speak openly about issues and concerns about their institution without fear or favour – and if Murdoch management cannot understand this then they shouldn’t be running a university.”
Mr McGowan noted that Murdoch has dropped this part of its claim at the same time as it announced it has severed its ties with an Indian recruitment agency reportedly accused of fraud by Indian migration authorities.
“This goes to the heart of the issues raised by Associate Professor Schroeder-Turk, who has always acted in the best interests of the University and its students. This development vindicates the nature of the concerns he and others have raised. Associate Professor Schroeder-Turk’s continuing concerns for Murdoch students’ welfare and academic integrity are the motivations for continuing with this action.”
Associate Professor Schroeder-Turk is taking legal action against Murdoch University for seeking to remove him as a staff elected representative on the University Senate, following his appearance on an ABC Four Corners program in May 2019 raising concerns about the University’s practices in recruiting international students. Murdoch then lodged a counter claim that included seeking financial damages against him.