The Australian Research Council chair must advise the education minister whether grant applications meet the government’s national interest test, separate to the ARC’s peer review process.
Council chair Sue Thomas confirmed the responsibility sat with her and applied to all programmes, including laureate fellowships, in response to Senate Estimate questions by Labor research shadow minister Kim Carr, Thursday night.
“The CEO will look at “highly ranked proposals” and the text of the national interest test, Professor Thomas said.
During questioning Senator Carr suggested; “the minister has put you in the position where you have to make the recommendation to him as to whether or not a project meets the national interest test … you are in a unique position. …. What qualifications does any CEO have to make such a judgement?”.
“Where I have concerns I will contact an institution,” Professor Thomas replied.
Education Minister Dan Tehan’ established the national interest test late last year. It assesses, “the extent to which the research contributes to Australia’s national interest through its potential to have economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits to the Australian community’.”
Senator Carr told Estimates, “if there is a change of government, this will change.”