After reading another collection of Menzies’ articles, I was extremely disappointed to read the following from Liberal Party MP Craig Kelly. Where Menzies saw an Australia that could rise to excellence, Kelly is only capable of seeing an Australia that’s mired in mediocrity. If ever you needed evidence that Australia is in desperate need of a conservative party, here’s Kelly’s incompetent discussion of the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill (my comments about the lack of policy discussion are available on SBS online here):
I rise to speak on the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2013, which amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to ensure that the Australian Research Council can continue to support and serve Australia’s vibrant research community. Despite the nonsense that we heard from the member for Shortland, this appropriation bill increases the Australia Research Council’s funding and caps it in line with inflation to ensure that this government can continue to support thousands of research projects.
I noted that the member for Shortland talked about money being spent on research that validates your belief systems and how we should be spending our research funding on the search for knowledge. I could not agree more. We must remember that our funding for research is limited. Every dollar that is spent is a dollar that comes from taxpayers’ pockets. With that, it is worthwhile looking at some of the expenditure that occurred under the previous Labor government. We need to ensure that every cent of this limited funding that we have for research is used to make us a more competitive. That should be the goal. Its goal should be to improve our medical research, to improve our prosperity, to improve our lifestyles. They should be the ultimate goals of our research, because these are taxpayers’ dollars that are being spent and every dollar must be spent wisely.
I want to go through a list of some of the expenditure items that occurred under the previous government. A Queensland university secured funding of $197,302 for a project titled, Sending and responding to messages about climate change: the role of emotion and morality. You have to ask what medical researcher missed out on funding because of that little research grant. A cool $578,792 was granted for a study of credit instruments in Florentine economic, social and religious life from 1570 to 1790. One of my favourites was the $314,000 for a study to determine if birds are shrinking. Another one was the $145,000 to study sleeping snails. Let us not forget the $85,000 that was given to a researcher for the study of Renaissance garden statues. What about $125,000 for a study titled, ‘What is the future of trade unions? How trade unions can contribute to an environmentally sustainable world?’ We all know that trade unions are important. But should our Research Council be using taxpayers’ money to fund such a program with $125,000? Another one was the nice little $185,000 grant to produce a new autobiography of the Labor opposition leader during the 1950s, H V Evatt. The title was ‘How his life resonates with modern challenges in a time of global warming.’
In another example, there was a grant of a cool $65,000 for a study to examine who actually reads Thomas Keneally books. I could fill out that one—I read Thomas Keneally books—but do we really have to provide $60,000 of taxpayers’ money for that study? A cool $150,000 went into a study of the impact of locally mined silver to make coins in Athens between the years 550 BC and 480 BC. In another example, a cool $200,000 went to determine what young Australians are learning about sex, love and relationships from the popular media. I would suggest that these are not the type of funding projects that the government should be funding.
Another little one here, which I am sure might be a favourite of many sitting on the opposition side, is a study of Marxism and religion and the relationship between theology and political radicalism—$60,000. Another one here is $180,000 for a study rethinking the history of Soviet Stalinism to provide a sophisticated understanding of the complexities of Stalin’s Russia. We know the complexities—obviously, Stalin must have been a good bloke who was misunderstood. We need $180,000 to find that out.
In another example, $210,000 was spent on a study of how early-modern women’s writing was produced and circulated. And $196,476 was spent on a study of trade unions in Indonesia to document and analyse unionist strategies for the upcoming Indonesian election. Is this really what the Australian taxpayer should be funding, instead of medical research, instead of research to make our nation more competitive?
This is a little bewdy, too: $164,000 for a study of magical spells and rituals from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD to achieve success in personal relations—a most important expenditure! In another one: $370,000 for a study to find whether physiological plasticity of individuals renders populations resilient to climate change. It goes on: $265,000 for a study to understand the context and purpose of philosophy within higher education in the eastern Roman Empire in the period 300 BC to 500 AD. In another example, $330,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent under the previous Labor government to explore the music-cultural identity and related socioeconomic dilemmas of remote South Sea nomads vis-a-vis the Muslim Malays in the industrialising Riau Islands.
Under the previous Labor government $253,000 of taxpayers’ money also went to study archaeology in the Central Caucuses. And $444,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent to study a history of advertising industry practices in Australia between 1959 and 1989. Isn’t that the type of study that would be better funded by the advertising industry than by taxpayers?
Another example is a study of official histories produced by humanists in the courts and chanceries of Renaissance Italy during the 15th century—$116,00 of taxpayers’ money at a time the budget is billions in deficit. It goes on: $112,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on a study on rural communities in South Australia and how they will adapt to health challenges from climate change. The only problem is that according to our bureau’s records the hottest day ever recorded in South Australia was back in January 1960. In another example, $120,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent by the Labor government for a study of the life and times of musical artists, bands, managers, recording studios and relevant radio programs since 1945 in Western Australia.
Is this really what governments should be spending taxpayers’ money on? Our Australian Research Council is important. The money we spend on research as a nation is vitally important. But we must be directing that spending on goals and achieving outcomes that will improve our nation’s competitiveness, improve our national prosperity—especially at a time we are in such deep deficit, and the previous Labor government has left the nation with such a deep debt that we have to pay off.
I am confident that the new education minister will continue with the very good job he is doing and will ensure that the Research Council expenditure, the generous grants that we give under this government, and the increasing amounts of grants that we give, will continue on those grants that are actually improving and increasing our national prosperity. I commend this bill to the House. [Source]
For those interested in why Kelly is wrong, see:
- Let Academics Get Back to Work, New Matilda, 19 November 2012
- What’s Wrong with Academic Grants? New Matilda, 11 November 2013