The Australian Greens Education Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has introduced a bill to completely remove the Education Minister’s ability to veto research grants funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).
The move would bring the ARC in line with other research bodies, like the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and follows the revelation that former Education Minister Simon Birmingham vetoed eleven grants for no reason.
Senator Faruqi, who is a former academic at the University of New South Wales, said:
“Simply publishing the reasons for veto isn’t enough. We need to take concrete action to protect academic independence and that means taking politics out and leaving it to the experts.
“As a former academic, I know that the independence of researchers is of the utmost importance and we now know that this has been massively undermined by political intervention by the Liberal Government.
“It is patently clear that politicians simply cannot be trusted to put the interests of the community ahead of their own political agendas.
“The Australian Research Council has a rigorous peer review process that must be trusted to guide research funding.
“Having the Minister list the grants that they have already refused is not good enough as the damage is already done. We will move to take away the veto power to ensure that researchers can continue their brilliant work building a better Australia knowing that they can do so with complete independence,” she concluded.
The Australian Research Council Amendment (Ensuring Research Independence) Bill 2018 would amend the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to remove Ministerial discretion over research grants and over the accompanying funding arrangements that are recommended by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The National Alliance for Public universities has been calling for this: https://napuaustralia.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/veto-statement.pdf