Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2019; In Committee
Labor does not support this amendment, but we understand the importance and intent of Senator Faruqi's amendment in seeking to remove the politicisation of the announcing of ARC grants. We've long held concerns about the politicisation of the ARC grants process, and I would really like to commend the work that Senator Carr has highlighted, showing how the work of the ARC has been undermined by the government. He has exposed many issues around the transparency of ministerial vetos of grants and the delay of funding for the ARC, despite grants having been ticked off and been ready for announcement. We have sought a briefing from the department—I'd like to thank Minister Birmingham and Minister Tehan for organising that. We understand and note the minister's comments that outline the administrative changes that have been undertaken and further note this is the information provided to us in the briefing that we received and that these arrangements were changed last year. The department has advised Labor in relation to Senator Faruqi's amendment that it would have unintended consequences and could delay announcements unnecessarily. As a result, we're not supporting the amendments today.
However, the onus remains on the government to do the right thing and stop announcing research grants for political purposes. We note that Senator Van announced a research grant in January for research into hail. This was only days after a hailstorm swept through the ACT. Another announcement coincidently followed bushfires. The government announced this ARC grant while you were scrambling for something to make you look reputable in the government's response to bushfires. This grant had been approved many months earlier. So, if the government does not stick to its commitments, we will be here to call it into account. The government needs to implement these commitments and be seen to do it forth rightly. We will be working with all interested parties, including the Greens, on depoliticising the grants process.