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Coalition wants to stop wasting ARC funds on “futile research” – Here’s a few more suggestions

Cut those waste-of-time academic projects? Not a moment too soon.

If the Coalition wins the election they want to refocus the Australian Research Council (ARC). The first “wasteful” project mentioned is about adapting to climate change through public art. What a good omen…

Some ARC funds appear to be nothing more than disguised government advertising. That has to stop.

MILLIONS of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants for obscure research projects – such as the role of public art in climate change – will be scrapped or redirected to find cures for dementia and other diseases as part of a Coalition crackdown on government waste.

And a further $1.1 billion is expected to be returned to the budget bottom line from the scrapping of the carbon tax, under the Coalition election promises costings to be released today.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that as part of the Coalition’s budget savings measures, a dedicated team will be formed under its proposed Commission of Audit to re-prioritise about $900 million in annual Australian Research Council grants.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that a list of the types of grants that would no longer be funded under new and more stringent guidelines for the ARC included an RMIT project on Spatial Dialogues: Public Art and Climate Change which sought to explore how people could adapt to climate change through public art.

Coalition sources also cited as waste several grants worth more than $1 million into philosophical studies including the meaning of “I” through a retrospective study of 18th and 19th century German existentialists.

Perhaps we can suggest a few wasteful grants from the ARC grants list 

Grants from the most recent round, copied below, include ones aiming for cultural transformation, climate governance, and a discussion of legal paths used to try to stop the use of coal. Lawyers who want to help the UNFCCC stop a major Australian industry can apply for grants from the ARC?

Why are we spending $800k to transform our culture?

Who decides what kind of culture we ought to have? Who voted for broader “societal change”?


DP130102229 Kashima, Prof Yoshihisa; Paladino, A/Prof Angela; Sewell, Dr David K  PSYCHOLOGY The University of Melbourne

Project Title Collective self-regulation: the case of climate change mitigation
Total $410,137.00

Project Summary
Solutions to contemporary societal problems such as climate change mitigation require cultural transformations, namely, widespread changes in the ideas and practices of community members. This project will examine how people may achieve this in part by regulating their own temptations and actions for the good of the community.


DP130100845 Kashima, Prof Yoshihisa; Robins, Prof Garry L; Kirley, Dr Michael G; Kashima, Dr Emiko S;
Peters, Dr Kim PSYCHOLOGY The University of Melbourne

Project Title  Co-evolutionary dynamics of culture and social structure
Total $414,444.00

Project Summary
Solutions to contemporary societal problems require cultural transformations, namely widespread changes in the ideas and practices of community members. This project will establish a new social scientific framework for the analysis of such transformations. Outcomes will aid future policy planning to steer the course of broader societal change.

This project shows just how deep the ARC-nanny-state funding goes

Why are research funds used to help pay for lawyers to assist in stopping our largest export industry, and possibly to advise activists on legal action to further UN aims based on a scientific assumption that has not been audited and for which there is no empirical evidence?

DP130100500 Peel, A/Prof Jacqueline; Osofsky, A/Prof Hari M
Project Title:  Transition to a clean energy future: the role of climate change litigation in shaping our regulatory path  LAW  The University of Melbourne
Total $250,000.00

Project Summary
As the world seeks a clean energy future,  courts in Australia and other key fossil fuel-producing nations, like the United States, are increasingly hearing cases seeking to block the use of coal due to its climate change effects. This project critically assesses the role such climate litigation plays in generating regulatory momentum to address climate change.

In an earlier publication Peel and others explain how litigation can be used to get new laws to respond to inadequate law-making activity (“inadequate” as defined by whom?). Isn’t this funding designed to oppose the democratic process?

“Litigation is often thought of as a forum for enforcement of the law, rather than as a site of potential regulatory development. In the climate context, however, litigation has often been used in a strategic fashion as a response to inadequate law-making activity by government and to prompt wider policy change.”

Imagine a conservative government funding lawyers looking at ways to use litigation to reduce UN influence, to block the use of government funds to subsidize the renewables industry, or to use legal cases to assist citizens wanting to respond to onerous or overly burdensome legislation? The only difference between them being that the conservatives could argue that it was in Australian citizens interests to reduce subsidies, reduce foreign unelected bodies influence and to help provide a balance and check against overactive government.

The abstract to the publication (May 2012) about Climate Governance (linked above):

As international negotiations struggle to deliver timely, binding commitments to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions to safe levels, the environmental legal community has begun to
contemplate the scope for climate governance ‘beyond’ the international climate change
regime. Many see merit in a more decentralized, disaggregated approach, operating across
multiple governance levels. This article examines the development of climate change law in an era
of multi-level governance. It analyzes several case studies of current manifestations of multi-level
governance in climate change law, including the fragmented global emissions trading system,
developing arrangements governing forests and land-based sinks, the growth of climate litigation
establishing transnational liability principles, efforts to ensure adaptation to unavoidable climate
change, and the emergence in federal systems of a decentralized approach to climate change
regulation. The article concludes by considering whether the emerging multi-level system of
climate governance is adequate to meet broader international goals of climate change mitigation
and adaptation.

Activists for bigger government get taxpayer funded legal advice on how to get what they want. The playing field is tilted towards growing the government ever larger. This is why even if the Conservatives defund these type of projects now, there will still be paid positions going right up til the next election working against citizens who want a smaller government. (The funding listed here is paid in parts from 2013 -2015).

The other publications of Peel are listed here.



The election has not been won or lost yet.

H/t To Brice. 🙂

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