As has been well documented, the Interim Minister of Education, Stuart Robert, vetoed the funding of six Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Discovery Projects applications. These projects were approved for funding by the ARC’s College of Experts following a meticulous refereeing process.
This is brutal political interference in the academic pursuit of knowledge. That it did not follow any serious consideration is attested by the empty pretext provided: that the projects “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money.” That the Interim Minister was aware that it is outrageous is attested by the fact that the publication of the outcomes – less than 600 projects funded out of more than 3500 applications – was delayed for 6 weeks, till late Christmas Eve. That the monetary excuse was nothing, but an excuse is attested by the fact that all 6 were in the humanities, hence minor in expense. That it was strictly politically motivated is attested by them being from just three subdisciplines: China Studies, Literature and Culture. That the real purpose of the Interim Minister was to bully the academic community into submission subjected to the whim of political power. This is attested by his blunt opposition of “peer review process” to “National Interest.”
The independence of research from immediate political interests is essential for sustaining and developing knowledge. The dependence of political authority on transparent and reasoned decision making is essential for democracy. Both are essential to the Australian national interest and to assure that taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately. We, therefore, call on the Interim Minister to reconsider his decision and for Parliament to institute legislative measures to secure these interests from future infringement.