Exclusion clause amendment protecting academic freedom in tatters
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is appalled at the failure of the House of Representatives to legislate amendments to the Defence Trade Controls Bill proposed by their Senate colleagues only twenty-four hours earlier to preserve freedom of intellectual inquiry for Australian university researchers.
“What is most disappointing is that both government and coalition members in the House of Representatives have walked away from a key amendment championed by their Senate colleagues”, NTEU National President Jeannie Rea said.
“Yesterday Senators demonstrated parliamentary leadership by extending the hand of bipartisanship and achieving not only a more rigorous transition period for implementing the Bill, but the introduction of an exclusion clause that would protect the freedom of intellectual inquiry for researchers, including researchers at universities and other university staff. By removing the very sensible exclusion clause, this good work has now been swept away.
“University researchers now face a great deal of uncertainty about what research they can legitimately exchange or publish without potentially facing criminal sanction. An even worse outcome is that the government and coalition have relied upon a barely comprehensible reference to national interest considerations at the expense of Australia’s research and innovation efforts.
Rea said that the NTEU acknowledged that the concerns of the wider research sector were strenuously put forward from the cross-benches.
“For this, we thank the Greens and Independents,” Rea said.
“The Minister for Defence, Senator Smith, appears to have a limited understanding of the nature of academic research, when he said the legislation does not impact on domestic research. The union’s objections to this legislation are that researchers might be committing a criminal offence, with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, if they share their thoughts or results for what is ostensibly ‘domestically focused research’ with overseas peers and colleagues for review and or verification.
“The House of Representatives has put all its eggs in the basket of the Chief Scientist’s Steering Committee. While we are confident Professor Chubb will seek to address the concerns of research and university staff, there will be much uncertainty throughout the transition period. This will undoubtedly exact a cost from the productivity of Australian research and innovation,”
Media enquiries: Carmel Shute, NTEU Media Officer: 0412 569 356 firstname.lastname@example.org
Media comment: Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531 email@example.com