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Australian Research Council Bill 2001

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1998 - 1999 - 2000

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL BILL 2000

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs the Hon Dr David Kemp MP)

 

 



 

AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL BILL 2000

 

OUTLINE

 

The Australian Research Council Bill 2000 will implement a number of initiatives announced in the Government’s 1999 policy statement Knowledge and Innovation: A policy statement on research and research training.   These include the establishment of the Australian Research Council (ARC) as an independent agency within the Education, Training and Youth Affairs portfolio, with an enhanced governance and accountability framework.  The Bill also establishes a funding regime for competitive research grants for the higher education system, to be administered by the ARC.

 

The role of the ARC is to provide advice to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs on matters relating to research in the higher education sector, to make recommendations to the Minister on the funding of competitive grants on the basis of excellence and to administer the new National Competitive Grants Program. 

 

Under the new framework, the ARC will consist of a Board (including a Chief Executive Officer), Committees and staff.  This reflects the governance structure for the ARC outlined in Knowledge and Innovation. 

 

The Board, will consist of a Chair, eight appointed members and five ex-officio members.  As stated in Knowledge and Innovation, the Bill requires that the Chair of the ARC be a prominent member of the Australian community, highly regarded in the research community.  The composition of the other members of the Board should also reflect the breadth of academic, industry and community interests in the outcomes of research.  Members of the Board will be appointed on a part-time basis.

 

The position of Chief Executive Officer of the ARC will be created by the Bill.  The Chief Executive Officer will be appointed by the Minister on the advice of the Board, and will be responsible for the day to day operations of the ARC.

 

The Bill also establishes the funding framework for the new competitive grants framework outlined in Knowledge and Innovation .  This will involve a streamlining of the current competitive grants schemes into the National Competitive Grants Program.  This program will have two broad elements - Discovery - which recognises the importance of Australia’s universities as major sources of fundamental research - and Linkage - which highlights the importance of collaboration across the innovation system.  As stated in Knowledge and Innovation , the Bill will give the Minister the power to determine the balance of funding between both of these elements.

 

An accountability framework is also established by this Bill, requiring the ARC to formulate a Strategic Plan as well as providing an Annual Report to the Minister.

 

A number of provisions pertaining to members of the Board mirror provisions of the Employment, Education and Training Act 1988 .  Similarly, a number of provisions pertaining to the payment of grants mirror provisions of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 .



 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

As the Bill transfers funding already notionally allocated to the Australian Research Council in forward estimates, there is no financial impact.



AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL BILL 2000

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Part 1 - Preliminary

 

Clause 1 - Short Title

 

This clause provides for this Act to be cited as the Australian Research Council Act 2000.

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

This clause provides for this Act to commence on the day fixed by Proclamation.  The intended proclamation date is 1 January 2001, following the expiration of terms of the current Council.  The clause further provides that if the Act has not commenced by Proclamation within six months of the date of Royal Assent, it will commence on the first day after the end of that period.

 

Clause 3 - Objects of Act

 

This clause sets out the objects of the Bill, namely:

·          To establish the Australian Research Council, which has functions to provide high quality advice and recommendations on funding to the Minister, as well as administer the regimes of financial assistance for research purposes; and

·          To create a regime for funding research programs.

 

Clause 4 - Definitions

 

This clause defines certain terms used in the Act.

 

Part 2 - Establishment and functions of the Australian Research Council

 

Clause 5 - Establishment of the ARC

 

This clause establishes the ARC as an entity consisting of the Board (including the Chief Executive Officer), its committees and its staff.

 

Clause 6 - Functions of the ARC

 

This clause outlines the functions of the ARC.  The main functions of the ARC are to make recommendations to the Minister on providing funding for research proposals, to administer the funding regimes to be established by the Act and to provide advice to the Minister on matters relating to research.

 

The Minister may request the ARC to provide advice about matters related to research.  These requests must be complied with by the ARC.  Particulars of the Minister’s requests must be included in the Annual Report.

 

Clause 7 - Ministerial Directions about performance of ARC’s functions

 

This clause provides for the Minister to have the ability to give written directions to the Council on the performance of its functions.  The Minister is not entitled to direct the ARC (or the Board) in relation to recommendations for funding a particular proposal.

 

The Minister’s directions will be included in the ARC’s Annual Report.

 

The Board is responsible for ensuring compliance with Ministerial directions.

 

Part 3 - The Board of the ARC

 

Division 1 - Establishment and functions

 

Clause 8 - Establishment of the Board

 

This clause creates the Board of the ARC.  The Board will replace the ‘Council’ established under the Employment, Education and Training Act 1988.

 

Clause 9 - The Board’s functions

 

This clause outlines the main functions of the Board as being to decide the ARC’s goals, priorities, policies and strategies and to ensure the performance of the ARC’s functions, as outlined in clause 6.  Other clauses in the Bill confer functions on the Board, such as the preparation of the Annual Report and the Strategic Plan.

 

Clause 10 - Ministerial directions about performance of Board’s functions

 

This clause provides for the Minister, through the Chair of the ARC, to provide directions to the Board about the performance of its functions.  The Board must comply with these directions.

 

These directions will be included in the ARC’s annual report.

 

Clause 11 - Notification of general Commonwealth Government policies that are to apply to ARC etc

 

This clause allows the Minister to notify the Board of general policies of the Commonwealth.  These notifications are to be included in the ARC’s annual report and the Board must comply with these policies.

 

Division 2 - Membership

 

Clause 12 - Membership of Board

 

This clause outlines the membership of the Board, consisting of:

 

·          The Chair

·          Eight other members appointed as per section 14

·          the following ex-officio members

-           the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council

-           the Chief Scientist

-           the Chairperson of the National Health and Medical Research Council

-           the Secretary of the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs

-           the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources

 

The Chair and the ‘8 other members’ are referred to in the Act as ‘the appointed members’.

 

This clause will give effect to the new governance arrangements outlined in Knowledge and Innovation .  It will provide for a larger membership of the Board than the current Australian Research Council, and ensures that the Board will reflect the range of interests in the outcomes of research.

 

This provision also allows for the appointment of ex-officio members.  Under the current framework, all members of the ARC are appointed in personam

 

Unlike the other ex-officio members, the ‘Chief Scientist’ is not a statutory office holder.  This description should be interpreted as that person appointed by the Government, to provide specialist advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, on matters relating to science, engineering and innovation.  The current Chief Scientist is Dr Robin Batterham.

 

Clause 13 - Appointment of Chair

 

The Chair is to be appointed by the Governor-General for a period of up to three years.  This reflects current practice under the Employment, Education and Training Act 1988 (current practice).

 

As foreshadowed in Knowledge and Innovation , the Chair must, in the Minister’s opinion, be a prominent member of the Australian community and be held in high regard by the research community.

 

The Chair cannot be an APS employee within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999 .

 

Clause 14 - Appointment of the 8 members referred to in paragraph 12(c)

 

The ‘8 other members’ are to be appointed by the Minister for periods of up to three years.  This reflects current practice.

 

In making appointments to the Board, the Minister must try to ensure that the composition of the Board reflects academic, industry and community interests in research.  This reflects the Government’s intention as announced in Knowledge and Innovation.

 

Under this clause, employees of the Australian Public Service are unable to be appointed to the Board of the ARC by the Minister.  This represents a change from the current arrangements, where the Minister may appoint an APS employee if ‘the Minister is of the opinion that it will be to the advantage of the Council to have such an officer or employee.’  Only one current member of the Council would be affected by this provision.  However, under the proposed framework, that member will fill one of the ex-officio positions.

 

Clause 15 - Acting appointments

 

This clause provides for the Minister to be able to appoint acting ‘appointed members’ in the instance of a vacancy in the office of member, or while the member is unable to perform the duties of the office.

 

This clause only applies to vacancies or inability to perform the duties of the Chair and the ‘8 other members’.

 

Clause 16 - Appointed members hold office on part-time basis

 

This clause states that the Chair and ‘8 other members’ will hold office on a part-time basis. 

 

This is a change of current practice with regard to the Chair, who currently holds office on a full-time basis.  This change was announced in Knowledge and Innovation , and is largely due to the creation of the position of Chief Executive Officer.

 

Clause 17 - Remuneration and allowances of appointed members

 

This clause provides for the Remuneration Tribunal to determine the remuneration of the Chair and the ‘8 other members’.  This reflects current practice.

 

Clause 18 - Appointed members may be granted leave of absence from meetings

 

This allows for the Minister to grant the Chair leave of absence from a meeting or meetings, and for the Chair to grant leave of absence to any of the ‘8 other members’ appointed under section 14.  This reflects current practice.

 

Clause 19 - Other terms and conditions of appointed members.

 

This clause provides for the Governor-General to determine, for the Chair, those terms and conditions not covered by the Act, and for the Minister to determine, for the ‘8 other members’ appointed under section 14, those terms and conditions not covered by the Act.  This reflects current practice.

 

Clause 20 - Resignation of appointed member

 

This clause allows for the Chair to resign his or her appointment through written notice to the Governor-General, and for the eight other members to resign their appointment through written notice to the Minister.  This reflects current practice.

 

Clause 21 - Termination of appointment of Chair

 

This clause provides for the Governor-General to terminate the appointment of the Chair on the grounds of misbehaviour, or physical or mental incapacity. 

 

The clause requires that the Governor-General terminate the appointment of the Chair if the Chair becomes bankrupt, is absent without leave from 3 consecutive Board meetings, engages in paid employment that conflicts or could conflict with the proper performance of their duties, or fails to disclose direct or indirect pecuniary interests in matters before the Board.

 

This clause reflects current practice.

 

Clause 22 - Termination of appointment of other appointed members

 

This clause provides for the termination, by the Minister, of the appointments of any or all of the ‘8 other members’ on the grounds of misbehaviour or physical or mental incapacity.

 

The clause requires that the Minister terminate the appointment of any of the members if they become bankrupt, are absent without leave from 3 consecutive Board meetings, engage in paid employment that conflicts or could conflict with the proper performance of their duties or fail to disclose direct or indirect pecuniary interests in matters before the Board.

 

This clause reflects current practice.

 

Division 3 - Meetings

 

Clause 23 - Convening meetings

 

This clause provides for either the Chair or the Minister to convene a meeting of the Board at any time.

 

The Bill stipulates that the first meeting of the Board must be held within three months of the commencement of the Act, that a minimum of four meetings must be held each year and that no more than six months can elapse between meetings.  This arrangement provides the flexibility for the ARC to time meetings of the Board to coincide, where possible, at various stages of the research grant funding cycle.

 

Clause 24 - Presiding at meetings

 

The clause provides for the Chair to preside at meetings of the Board.  If the Chair is absent, those members of the Board present may elect a member to preside at the meeting.  There is no restriction on which members are eligible to preside at meetings in this instance.

 

Clause 25 - Quorum

 

This clause determines that a quorum for a meeting of the Board is a majority of members then holding office.

 

The calculation of a quorum takes into account both appointed members and ex-officio members.

 

Clause 26 - Voting at meetings

 

This clause allows for a majority vote of those members present and voting to determine any question arising at a meeting of the Board.  The person presiding at a meeting has a deliberative and, if necessary, a casting vote.  This reflects current practice.

 

All members, both appointed and ex-officio, have the right to vote at Board meetings.

 

Clause 27 - Disclosure of interests

 

This clause requires any Board member who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered by the Board, to disclose the nature of the interest at a meeting of the Board.  This disclosure must be made as soon as possible after relevant facts have become known. 

 

Disclosures must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

 

Unless the Board determines otherwise, affected members must not be present during any deliberations by the Board on the matter, nor take part in any decision of the Board on that matter.

 

The affected member must not be present during any deliberation of the Board on whether to make a determination under subclause (3), nor are they permitted to take part in making the determination.

 

This clause has effect subject to subsection 38(5), which completely prohibits the CEO from participating in deliberations and decisions relating to the appointment of a person as the next CEO, or a proposal to terminate the CEO’s appointment.

 

Aside from the matters pertaining to the CEO, this provision largely reflects current practice.  The only change is that the Board is the sole entity with the power to determine whether affected members may participate in decisions in which they have declared an interest. 

 

Clause 28 - Conduct of meetings

 

This clause gives the Board the power to regulate proceedings at its meetings, provided that they are consistent with the Bill.  The Board must also keep minutes of its meetings.

 

The Board is able to invite a person to attend a meeting to inform or advise the Board on any matter.

 

These provisions reflect current practice.

 

Clause 29 - Certain Board members may be represented at meetings by another person

 

This clause provides for the ex-officio members of the Board to allow for a nominee to represent them at a meeting, if they are unable to attend.  This nomination must be made by notice to the Chair.

 

The representative of an ex-officio member has all the rights of the member at that meeting.  In participating in the meeting, however, the representative must comply with any instructions given to them by the ex-officio member.

 

A representative that attends a meeting must comply with the provisions requiring the disclosure of direct or indirect pecuniary interests relating to both themselves and the ex-officio member they are representing.

 

Part 4 - Committees

 

Clause 30 - Board may establish committees

 

This clause enables the Board to establish committees to assist in carrying out the functions of both the ARC and the Board.  It also enables the Board to dissolve a committee.

 

Both the establishment and dissolution of a Committee require the approval of the Minister.

 

Clause 31 - Functions of a committee

 

This clause provides for the Board to determine the functions of a committee, and requires the committee to comply with any directions of the Board.

 

Clause 32 - Appointment of committee members

 

This clause sets out the requirements for appointing committee members.

 

Committee members are appointed by the Board, with the Minister’s approval.

 

Committees must consist of at least 5 members and could consist of a combination of either all members being Board members, only some committee members being Board members or no Board members.  The Chief Executive Officer is precluded from being appointed to a committee, but other members of staff may be appointed to a committee.

 

In making appointments to committees, the Board must try to ensure that the composition reflects the diversity of the interests in the matter(s) before the committee.  This was originally proposed in Knowledge and Innovation .

 

The Board, with the approval of the Minister, is also able to designate a committee member as the Chair of that committee.  Members of the staff of the ARC are not able to be appointed as Chair of a committee.

 

Clause 33 - Terms and conditions of committee members

 

This clause enables the Board to determine the period of office of committee members, and the terms and conditions on which they hold office, as well as the ability to terminate the appointment of a committee member.  All these actions require the approval of the Minister.

 

A committee member is also able to resign by giving written notice to the Board.

 

Part 5 - Chief Executive Officer and Staff

 

Division 1 - Chief Executive Officer

 

Clause 34 - Appointment of CEO

 

This clause creates the position of Chief Executive Officer of the ARC.  The CEO will perform some of the duties of the current position of Chair, as well as be responsible for the day to day operations of the ARC.

 

The CEO is to be appointed by the Minister for a period of up to five years.  With the exception of the inaugural CEO, the Minister must seek and consider advice from the Board in relation to the proposed appointment.  As foreshadowed in Knowledge and Innovation , the Minister must have considered the proposed appointee’s record in research and research management prior to their appointment.

 

Clause 35 - Acting CEO

 

This clause enables the Minister to appoint a person to act as CEO during a vacancy in the office or while the CEO is unable to perform the duties of the office.

 

Clause 36 - CEO holds office on full-time basis

 

This clause provides for the CEO to hold office on a full-time basis.

 

Clause 37 - Remuneration and allowances of CEO

 

This clause provides for the remuneration of the CEO to be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. 

 

Clause 38 - Other terms and conditions of CEO

 

This clause outlines the other terms and conditions of the CEO’s employment.

 

The CEO is prohibited from engaging in paid employment outside the duties of the CEO’s office without the Minister’s approval - this is consistent with the provisions in the Employment, Education and Training Act 1988 that relate to the Chair of the Council established under that Act.

 

The Minister determines all other terms and conditions of the office of CEO not otherwise expressly provided for in the Act or determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

 

The CEO is precluded from being present at, or taking part in, any deliberation or decision of the Board in relation to the provision of advice to the Minister relating to the appointment of a person as the next CEO.

 

The Minister may terminate the appointment of the CEO at any time.  Before this occurs, however, the Minister must seek and consider advice from the Board.  The CEO is prevented from being a party to the deliberation or decision of what advice the Board will give the Minister on this matter.

 

Clause 39 - Duties of CEO

 

This clause enables the Board to determine the duties of the CEO, other than those already required by this Bill or any Acts, such as the Public Service Act 1999  and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 .  The Board’s determination is subject to the qualifications that the duties must include a duty to manage the day to day administration of the ARC and that the Minister must be consulted about any determination.

 

Clause 40 - Resignation of CEO

 

This clause allows for the CEO to resign his or her position by giving written notice to the Minister.

 

Division 2 - Staff

 

Clause 41 - Staff to be engaged under Public Service Act etc

 

This clause provides for the staff employed by the ARC to be engaged under the Public Service Act 1999 .  This reflects current practice.

 

This clause also provides for the CEO and staff to constitute a Statutory Agency for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 and that the CEO is the Head of that Statutory Agency.

 

Part 6 - Planning and Reporting

 

Division 1 - Strategic Plans

 

Clause 42 - Board to prepare strategic plans

 

This clause requires the Board to prepare a written strategic plan for the Minister’s approval at least once a year.  The plan must cover a period of at least three years. 

 

The plan must set out the goals, priorities, policies and strategies to be adopted by the ARC in performing its functions, as well as indicators for assessing its performance. 

 

Clause 43 - Ministerial approval of strategic plans

 

This clause enables the Minister to either approve the ARC’s Strategic Plan or to request the ARC to revise the plan to take account of any specified concerns.  This request must be in writing.

 

If the Minister has requested that the Board revise the strategic plan, the Board must do so as soon as reasonably practicable.

 

When the Minister approves the Strategic Plan, it must be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days of approval.

 

The Strategic Plan has no effect unless it has been approved by the Minister.

 

Clause 44 - Variation of strategic plans

 

This clause allows the Board, with the approval of the Minister, to vary the Strategic Plan.

 

As with the Strategic Plan, any variation must be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days of its approval and the variation has no effect until it has been approved by the Minister.

 

Clause 45 - Annual report to include assessment of ARC’s performance using performance indicators in strategic plan

 

This clause requires the ARC to include an assessment of its performance during the year in its Annual report.  The performance indicators that are included in the Strategic Plan must be used in making this assessment.

 

Division 2 - Annual report

 

Clause 46 - Annual report

 

This clause compels the Board to prepare for the Minister a report on the operations of the ARC for each year ending 30 June.  The Board is required to also include in the Report any matters required by other provisions of the Bill - namely particulars of advice requested by the Minister, any Ministerial directions to the ARC or to the Board, notification of general policies of the government and an assessment of performance against the specified performance indicators.

 

The report is to be prepared in accordance with the guidelines referred to in the Public Service Act 1999

 

The completed Annual Report will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament by the Minister within 15 sitting days of its receipt.  This is consistent with current practice.

 

Part 7 - Funding of Research

 

Division 1 - Financial assistance for approved research programs

 

Sub-division A - Preliminary

 

Clause 47 - Definitions

 

This clause defines certain terms used in Part 7 (Funding of Research).

 

Clause 48 - Years to which Division applies

 

This clause sets out the years in which funding is made available.  It is anticipated that future years will be added by amendments to the Act.

 

Sub-division B - Capping of funding

 

Clause 49 - Annual cap on funding

 

This clause sets out the total funding limits for each of the years to which this Division applies.  It is anticipated that future years will be added by amendments of the Act.

 

Clause 50 - Minister must divide funding caps between different categories of research programs

 

This clause requires that the Minister determine the proportion of total funding that will be allocated between such programs of research that the Minister specifies. 

 

In practice, this will mean that the Minister will determine the amount of funding to be allocated under the Discovery and Linkage elements of the new national competitive grants program.  This will ensure that due attention is given to the balance of funding targeted at basic and applied research, addressing the concerns of the research community.  The Government made a commitment in Knowledge and Innovation that the proportion of funding to be allocated between these types of research would be initially maintained.

 

The determination for each year must be made before the start of the year, and it may cover two or more years.  The clause also enables the Minister to vary the determination.

 

Sub-division C - Provision of Financial Assistance

 

Clause 51 - Approval of expenditure on research programs

 

This clause enables the Minister to approve a proposal for expenditure on a research program.  The approval can extend beyond one year.  This will allow for grants that are typically of two or three years duration to be approved only once by the Minister, rather than, as is current practice, once by the Minister (year 1) and then years 2-3 by the Minister’s delegate.

 

The Minister must determine in writing the amount of both estimated and approved total expenditure on the proposal for each year.  This determination must be laid before each House of Parliament within 15 sitting days.  This replaces a requirement in the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 for the tabling of an annual report of expenditure under that Act.

 

Approvals must contain the name of the approved organisation, a description of the approved research program, the name and qualifications of the person leading the approved research program and the approved amount of funding.

 

Clause 52 - Recommendations by ARC in relation to approval of proposals

 

This clause requires the ARC to make recommendations to the Minister in relation to what proposals should and should not be approved for funding.  These recommendations must be approved by the Board.

 

The process by which the ARC arrives at its recommendations will be set out in the Rules required by clause 54.  This will involve a competitive process utilising peer review.

 

The clause also sets out what must be included in the recommendations to the Minister.  This will include the name of the organisation being funded, the research being funded, the name and title of the person leading the research program and a statement of reasons why the proposal is or is not being recommended.  This will ensure that the Minister has all relevant information available to him or her when making a decision.

 

As the Minister will have such information before him or her, and this recommendation will have been arrived at through a process of peer review, the Minister may rely solely on the ARC’s recommendation without having to make independent enquiries.  This will permit a lawful decision to be made, without limiting the Minister’s power to seek further information on any recommendation.

 

Clause 53 - Requirements for approval or recommendation of proposals

 

This clause prevents the ARC from recommending, and the Minister from approving, any proposal for funding unless it is consistent with the funding limit for the year(s) that apply, the Minister has determined the funding for each of the categories, an approved set of funding rules are in force and the proposal satisfies the eligibility criteria set out in those rules.

 

The clause also prevents any proposal that has been approved by the Minister or recommended by the ARC, being rendered invalid or ineffective due to subsequent variations of the funding split determination (as per section 50), or changes to the governing funding rules.

 

Clause 54 - Variation of funding approvals

 

This clause enables the Minister to vary a funding approval, provided that it is consistent with the funding cap for the year and the split determination (section 50).  The approval also is not able to be less than the amount of funding that has already been paid. 

 

This provision will enable the Minister to continue funding for research grants that may breach section 55, due to administrative changes over the course of the lifetime of a research project.  For example, changes arising from the leading researcher transferring to a different university, or another researcher taking over control of the project, due to the death or resignation of the named leading researcher.  This will allow payment for the research grant to continue over that time frame.

 

The Minister will be able to delegate this power to the CEO or staff of the ARC to allow for efficient payment of grants to researchers.

 

Clause 55 - Payment of financial assistance for approved research programs

 

This clause enables organisations (such as universities) which have had proposals for research programs approved by the Minister, to be paid financial assistance.  This assistance is to be paid in such amounts, and at such times as the Minister determines.  This power can be delegated to the CEO and staff of the ARC.

 

Financial assistance for the research program will end if the organisation or the leading researcher is no longer involved with the research program, or if the nature of the research program is no longer consistent with that originally approved by the Minister.  However, section 54 of the Act will enable the Minister to vary the original approval of the program should any of these circumstances arise.

 

Clause 56 - Advances

 

This clause enables the Minister to make an advance payment to an organisation that will be in receipt of financial assistance for an approved program of research.

 

This payment will be subject to the terms and conditions set out in section 58 of the Act and any other terms and conditions imposed in writing by the Minister.

 

The Minister’s powers under this clause will be able to be delegated to the CEO and staff of the ARC.

 

Clause 57 - Source of payments

 

This clause appropriates funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of paying financial assistance to approved research programs (section 55) and advances (section 56).

 

Clause 58 - Conditions of payment of financial assistance

 

This clause sets out legislative conditions that must be met by organisations in receipt of financial assistance for research programs under this Act.  These conditions are largely modelled on those contained in sections 23 and 108 of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 .

 

The first condition is that the amount expended by the organisation in connection with the proposal in respect of a year must not be less than the amount of financial assistance paid to the organisation in relation to that proposal for that particular year.

 

The second condition requires the organisation to provide a statement by a qualified auditor on that expenditure.  The provision defines qualified auditor and provides the Minister with the authority to approve someone as a ‘qualified auditor’ for the purposes of the Act.

 

The clause also provides for the organisation to repay any amount of financial assistance to the Commonwealth if the Minister is satisfied that they have failed to fulfil these conditions or if the amount of financial assistance paid to the organisation exceeds the amount of financial assistance due to the organisation. 

 

Despite the requirement to repay, if the institution fails to spend all of that financial assistance, the Minister may determine that the amount may be taken to be paid to the organisation in respect of the next following year.  The Minister also has power to determine any further conditions relating to this amount.

 

The clause also requires institutions to comply with any applicable additional accountability requirements specified in the governing funding rules.  This could include the provision of annual or progress reports on the outcomes of the research, as is required by the current guidelines.

 

The clause also allows for the Minister to impose conditions by notice in writing to the organisations in receipt of funding.

 

The powers under this clause will be able to be delegated to the CEO and staff of the ARC.

 

Sub-division D - Funding rules

 

Clause 59 - Board to make rules

 

This clause requires the Board to make a set of rules that will determine the criteria and process for recommending grants for financial assistance under these programs.  These rules must be presented to the Minister for approval.  The ‘rules’ replace the current system of ARC guidelines.

 

The clause outlines a number of matters that must be dealt with in the rules; including eligibility criteria pertaining to both organisations and research programs, how to apply for financial assistance, an outline of the approval process, ways and circumstances in which funding approvals may be varied, and any additional accountability requirements considered appropriate by the Board.  It also requires the rules to be in writing.  All of these criteria are currently outlined in the ministerially approved guidelines relating to programs administered under s 23 of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 .  It should be noted that grants are selected on merit, based on an assessment of the research proposal and the researcher that has been conducted through a process of peer review.

 

As with current practice relating to the funding guidelines, it is intended that the rules be published on the Internet and distributed through the university sector.

 

Clause 60 - Ministerial approval of rules

 

This clause enables the Minister to either approve the rules provided by the Board, or to request that the Board revise that set of rules to take account of specified concerns.  If the Minister has requested a revised set of rules, the Board must provide those rules as soon as reasonably practicable.

 

As a set of rules is of no effect unless it has been approved by the Minister, this clause ensures that there will be agreement between both the ARC and the Minister in the rules governing the process of receiving financial assistance for research programs.

 

Clause 61 - Variation of rules

 

This clause enables the Board to vary the approved funding rules.  This variation will require the approval of the Minister.

 

The circumstances that may give rise to a variation of the rules could include a change in the amount of funding available for the year, or if there has been a variation to the funding split determination for the year.  Both of these may occur as a result of budgetary changes.  Other circumstances that could result in variations to the rules could be due to changes in the organisation of the university sector, such as name changes, establishing new universities or amalgamations - which could effect the eligibility criteria for funding.  The list of circumstances is not exhaustive.

 

As with the rules themselves, a variation to the rules will not be of effect unless the variation has been approved by the Minister.

 

Division 2- The ARC Research Endowment Account

 

Clause 62 - Establishment of ARC Research Endowment Account

 

This clause establishes a special account (for the purposes of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 ), which will be called the ARC Research Endowment Account.

 

This will allow the ARC to receive donations and bequests from the community.

 

Clause 63 - Credits to Account

 

This clause allows for amounts that are donated, bequeathed or appropriated for this purpose by the Parliament, to be deposited in the account.

 

Clause 64 - Purposes of Account

 

This clause enables the ARC to expend the funds of the Research Endowment Account on research programs that meet the eligibility criteria set out in the approved funding rules.  The expenditure must be approved by the Minister.

 

Clause 65 - Terms and conditions of financial assistance

 

This clause enables the ARC to determine the terms and conditions of financial assistance for recipients of funding from the Account.  The Minister must approve these terms and conditions.

 

Part 8 - Miscellaneous

 

Clause 66 - Delegation by Minister

 

This clause allows for the Minister to delegate any of his or her powers relating to financial assistance for research programs to the Chief Executive Officer of the ARC, or to the staff of the ARC.  This reflects the arrangements in the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 , which ensures that the administration of programs will be handled efficiently and effectively by the Australian Research Council.

 

Clause 67 - Regulations

 

This clause enables the Governor-General to make regulations.  This reflects provisions relating to both the current Employment, Education and Training Act 1988 and the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 .