A sacked academic who displayed a slide of a Nazi swastika superimposed on the Israel flag during a lecture has been accused of behaving “well outside” the remit of intellectual freedom and breaching his employment conditions.
Tim Anderson, a political economy lecturer at the University of Sydney, lost his job in 2019 after a series of misconduct findings that included posting a photograph on Facebook of himself with one of his PhD students, who was wearing badges that said “death to Israel”, “curse the Jews” and “victory to all Islam”.
Federal Court judge Thomas Thawley in November upheld the university’s decision to sack Dr Anderson, ruling that the lecturer’s “deliberately provocative” posts were not protected under his employment contract and did not amount to a “genuine exercise of intellectual freedom”.
The National Tertiary Education Union appealed against the ruling in January on three grounds, including that the court erred in finding that the university’s enterprise agreement did not create an enforceable right to intellectual freedom, that an exercise of intellectual freedom could constitute misconduct, and that the Facebook photograph was “sufficiently connected” to Dr Anderson’s employment to constitute misconduct.
On Monday, barrister Kate Eastman SC, acting for the university, urged the Federal Court to dismiss Dr Anderson’s appeal, claiming the lecturer had ignored requests to distance himself from the image. “The afternoon (that he) received that request or direction, he then posted that afternoon and then the following day on both Facebook and on his Twitter accounts the same cropped swastika,” she said.