Senate inquiry says veto should stay but recommends independent review of Australian Research Council
A Senate inquiry has rejected a proposal to remove the government’s right to veto Australian Research Council grant recommendations.
If you were hoping common sense or faith in the scientific and peer review process would win out, sorry not so much, welcome to the farce of modern Australian politics. The very idea that politicians can decide whether it is politically palatable or expedient to overturn a decision by an impartial peer review process is offensive and outrageous. The implications are that academic freedom only extends as far as politicians are prepared to let it. The repost from the Senate committee is ominous and alarming. Having rejected the very idea that politicians shouldn’t be able to overturn peer review outcomes, their response is that a peek Australian research funding body needs to be reviewed.
Throughout March, the education and employment committees have taken submissions and evidence on a bill from the Australian Greens that would remove the minister for education’s right to refuse grant recommendations from the council. Its report, published on 21 March, highlights some concerns raised about “the bill’s potential weakening of parliamentary oversight”.
“The committee agrees with the view that requiring the minister to ‘rubber-stamp’ projects recommended by the ARC chief executive would essentially override the basic principle of responsible government,” the report says.
“Removing ministerial discretion would raise serious questions about whether the minister was fulfilling their obligations under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It would also prevent the minister from preventing projects being funded where there are due diligence or national security concerns.”
The report noted concerns about the ARC possibly losing assessors because of the risk of ministerial intervention, the impact on researchers’ careers and “a loss of faith in the rigorous peer review process”.