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Australia: Professor fired over swastika faces appeal

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A professor unlawfully fired for placing a swastika over the Israeli flag in a student presentation faces an appeal by his former university employer.

The University of Sydney is appealing findings it unlawfully sacked a professor. © Paul Miller/AAP PHOTOS The University of Sydney is appealing findings it unlawfully sacked a professor.

The University of Sydney has asked the Full Court of the Federal Court to overturn findings that Dr Tim Anderson was expressing his intellectual freedom when using the swastika and that he could not be dismissed as a result.

In October, Federal Court Justice Tom Thawley found warnings made over the professor's statements were a breach of contract, as was the university's decision to dismiss him.

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Professor Stephen Garton, who was deputy vice-chancellor while Dr Anderson worked at University of Sydney, also breached employment law by issuing the warnings, Justice Thawley said.

Prof Garton has filed a separate appeal of these findings.

Dr Anderson worked at the University of Sydney from February 1988 until he was dismissed in February 2019. At the time he left, he was a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Economy.

During his time at the university, he made a number of statements including that a News Corp journalist was a "traitor" because of a story on the Armenian genocide and that United States Senator John McCain was a "key US war criminal".

He also said News had spread "deceitful war propaganda" supporting what he called a terrorist war in Syria, and superimposed a swastika over an Israeli flag in a slideshow presentation about media coverage of the Palestine conflict.

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Dr Anderson was part of a delegation that travelled to Syria in 2013, meeting with government and non-government figures including President Dr Bashar al-Assad.

In response to his statements, the university issued two separate warnings to Dr Anderson in August 2017 and October 2018 before dismissing him in February 2019.

Backed by the National Tertiary Education Union, he initiated Federal Court proceedings against his former employer two months later.

After initially losing the lawsuit in November 2020, Dr Anderson then launched a successful appeal.

In August 2021, the Full Court found academics at the institution were allowed to express even "deeply offensive and insensitive" views under the banner of intellectual freedom as long as they did not harass, vilify or intimidate anyone.

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