'Knuckle-dragging philistines': Labor targets Liberals for blocking arts grants
So we have a Leftist party wanting to transfer taxpayers' money to middle-class ivory-tower types. That leaves the conservatives as defenders of the workers' money. Something wrong there?
My own first degree was an Arts degree but I think the argument in favour of Humanities involvement is greatly over-egged. I am not sure that any arts and humanities courses should be publicly funded. There is very little evidence that they do any good. All we get are high flown assertions to that effect
I myself greatly enjoyed my studies of Homer, Thucydides, Chaucer, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Hopkins, Goethe, Wittgenstein, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven etc. and still do -- but I can't see that I needed to go to university to acquire that familiarity
Labor has accused former education minister Simon Birmingham of pandering to “knuckle-dragging rightwing philistines” by blocking 11 Australian Research Council grants in the humanities totalling $4m.
Senate estimates hearings on Thursday revealed that Birmingham blocked $1.4m of discovery grants for topics including a history of men’s dress from 1870-1970, “beauty and ugliness as persuasive tools in changing China’s gender norms” and “post orientalist arts in the Strait of Gibraltar”.
Birmingham, now trade minister, also blocked $1m of early career awards announced in November 2017 including a $330,000 grant for research into legal secularism in Australia and $336,000 for a project titled “Soviet cinema in Hollywood before the blacklist”.
Two further grants announced in June 2018 were also blocked: “The music of nature and the nature of music” ($765,000) and “writing the struggle for Sioux and US modernity” ($926,372).
The grant projects were proposed by researchers at universities including the Australian Catholic University, the Australian National University as well as Sydney, Melbourne, New South Wales and Monash universities. All grants were independently approved by the ARC.
Labor’s innovation spokesman, Kim Carr, accused Birmingham of judging research on its title and targeting the humanities because no research in other disciplines such as science were blocked. "He’s pandering to rightwing extremism in an attempt to peddle ignorance,” Carr told Guardian Australia. “There is no case for this blatant political interference to appease the most reactionary elements of the Liberal and National party and the shock-jocks.
“These are grants in arts, culture, music and history which somehow or other in his mind are not acceptable … what is his research expertise to justify interventions of that type?”
Carr said that when the former education minister Brendan Nelson vetoed humanities grants in 2004-05 there was “outcry from the Australian research community”.
When in government Labor instituted a protocol that blocking research required a special declaration so the decision was public, which Carr said the Coalition had rescinded.
Birmingham responded on Twitter: “I‘m pretty sure most Australian taxpayers preferred their funding to be used for research other than spending $223,000 on projects like ‘Post orientalist arts of the Strait of Gibraltar
In a statement the Australian Academy of the Humanities expressed “shock and anger” that the minister intervened and called for the $4m of funding to be restored.
The academy president, Joy Damousi, said Australia’s research funding system “is highly respected around the world for its rigour and integrity”. “Political interference of this kind undermines confidence and trust in that system,” Damousi said. “The rigour of that system and the competition for funding means that only exceptional applications make it through the process.
“A panel of experts have judged these projects to be outstanding, yet that decision has apparently been rejected out of hand by the former minister.”