NTEU WIN: Ministerial Veto powers heavily curtailed in ARC Overhaul

Last week both houses of parliament passed the ARC Review Bill - marking a victory for NTEU members around the country.

For at least a decade members have been campaigning for limitations on the powers of Ministers to directly intervene in the ARC grant approval process.

This campaigning was in response to the repeated political censorship of grants by several recent governments. In these case fully approved grants were publicly revoked at the final ministerial sign off stage (which was usually a formality) on the basis that the minister of the day did not personally see the value of the project.

Under the new laws ARC grants will be awarded and approved by the new ARC board with the Minister’s role being to broadly approve program sizes, goals, and criteria. The Minister’s veto power will be heavily restricted to narrowly defined national security grounds.

These changes are in line with changes sought by the NTEU in recent submissions to the parliament and the ARC Review.

In addition, the NTEU secured two key amendments to the bill to directly tackle the ongoing problem of insecure employment in research.

Under newly prescribed objectives in the Act the ARC, must, for the first time:

“support Australian universities to attract and retain academic researchers and promote quality academic jobs”

The ARC must now also include in its annual report disclosures on the nature of employment used in each grant funded research project. This new level of transparency is a first step in our fight against the excessive use of fixed terms contracts in research.

NTEU members were the only ones pushing for these two measures.

The bill includes other positive measures to support members including a new board that represents the diversity in the community, and the solidification of the ARC College of Experts under the law.

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