The decision of the University of Melbourne to demote Dr. Paul Mees after he publicly criticised a State Government Department report concerning the privatisation of transport in Victoria needs careful community scrutiny. The comments that Paul Mees made seem to be intemperate but perhaps should have been criticised on these grounds. There is no indication that his teaching and research were sub-standard. Instead the basis for the attempted demotion (he has subsequently resigned and gone to RMIT) seem to be that he offended a state government department and endangered university funding from this department.
I don't agree with many of Paul Mees' views on transport - I clashed with him once on the issue of congestion pricing - but he is a valuable member of the academic community who does maintain an academic focus on contemporary issues of transport policy.
University administrations are becoming increasing centralised and authoritarian at a time when private firms are becoming more decentralised and liberal. As every academic in Australia knows this is true everywhere - collegiality is dead. Maybe the University of Melbourne had good grounds for disciplining Dr Mees - I do not know all the background - but I have not heard these reasons. The notion that criticism of a state government department can lead to demotion within a university is deeply troubling.
It calls into question the whole critical function of a university and brings into focus the pressures that competing for research funds places on academic pursuits.
Update: This letter from one of Mees' colleagues shows there is concern that the action was political.