Public Universities Australia is a nation-wide alliance of organisations and individuals that connects academic professors and students (https://puau.org/). All are concerned with the current state of Australian universities and committed to ensure that the value and function of Australian universities for the broader public is fully realised. Public Universities Australia aims to give expression to the voices of all academics, all students and alumni, and all professional staff of Australian public universities. Public Universities Australia is independent of government and other directions.
Funding cuts and grant vetoes do not only affect academics and staff; they change the atmosphere on campus. Students feel and share the disappointment of lecturers, supervisors, friends and mentors. They share the same passion for pursuing knowledge for the betterment of society. Therefore, political vetoes hurt students just as deeply. More importantly, they take away the students’ sense of hope for a brighter future when they see their role models lose the jobs they love.
To deny academics pursuing what they love, especially when their intellectual peers have validated the quality of their proposal, is counterproductive for individuals, for our communities, and for society as a whole.
Finally, political interference has a disproportionate impact on Indigenous research and academics, thus constituting a blatant example of a culturally disrespectful approach.
In summary, while we believe that there should be a necessary degree of political oversight in establishing the ARC and in periodically reviewing its operation, merit decisions ought to be free from political interference and be solely based on academic criteria if Australia is to improve its standing as a knowledge-economy on the world stage.
As a result, we fully support the proposed amendments contained in subsections 51(1), 51(2) and 52(4) of the Australian Research Council Amendment (Ensuring Research Independence) Bill 2018.