Rorting From the Head: Use of Ministerial Vetoes of ARC grants by Coalition governments on the verge of electoral defeat
This project will consider the following:
- The 2018 vetoing of 12 ARC-approved grants, as a populist wedge, designed to push progressives into defending the grabbing of six-figure sums for projects that are, on the face of it, wacky as fuck.
- The random and often comical nature of such vetoes, cherry-picking wacky-sounding projects — “Post-Orientalist art in the straits of Gibraltar” — while letting umpteen other wacky projects through. The focus on hot-button words, such that a neutral historical study of the interaction between Soviet filmmakers such as Eisenstein and the Hollywood studio system, from its formation to the closing down of such co-operation by the Red Scare era, comes to be vetoed because it has the words “Soviet” and “blacklist” in the title.
- Reference back to earlier uses of this culture war motif, when Joe Hockey in 2013 made fun of a multi-author grant for a study of “God After Hegel”, i.e. the sort of thing that the Ramsay Centre would probably feature; and in 2007 when the Howard government appointed a newsreader, a judge and dying alcoholic ratbag Paddy McGuinness to vet ARC grants, McGuinness so addled that he announced that the grants were full of “Maoism”.
- The hilarious way in which the academerati plays into this feint by squawking about free speech while asking for $200,000 to study “the music of nature and the nature of music”, seemingly unaware that large sections of the public enthusiastically support this winnowing — unaware that they’re being played by the minister.
- The tricky issue that the current humanities research process is full of bullshit interpretive projects, which should be journal articles, while a vast amount of basic first-order work that needs to be done in Australia — biographies, histories of key events and studies of institutions — goes undone, because the ARC is insufficiently directive towards these ends because the whole thing is a peer-review racket.
- The piquant fact that, whatever the gains in suburban and outer seats, the Coalition still hasn’t realised how much damage these hoon initiatives — the Opera House projections, ARC grants, etc — do them in blue-ribbon seats with a genuine liberal strata, in an era of viable independent candidacies.
- A flicker of hope that people will make this about the process of grant scrutiny, with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, drought relief in NSW, etc, etc, and it will bite the Coalition on the arse in every direction.
The project will include a dedication to the author’s partner, a female academic, who leaves the author between the project’s completion and its printing.