A Senate committee has rejected a federal bill to prevent ministers vetoing research grants. 

New legislation was put forth after acting education minister Stuart Robert blocked funding for six Australian Research Council grants, seemingly on ideological grounds. 

The bill had strong support from the academic and research community, but has been knocked back by the federal education and employment legislation committee, chaired by Nationals senator Matt Canavan.

The recent inquiry report concluded that current legislation “serves the national interest”, though it concedes that the Australian Research Council Act 2001 “may no longer be fit for purpose”.

A Greens senator on the committee, Mehreen Faruqi, said LNP government and Labor members “teamed up” to oppose the bill and “disregard overwhelming evidence in support of it”.

“Despite an overwhelming majority of contributors supporting the removal of the veto, the committee majority have relied selectively on evidence provided by a very small number of witnesses,” she said. 

“Politics has trumped good policymaking as both the government and Labor have refused to concede their political power to interfere with individual research grants.”

A dissenting statement said the report’s drafting process was “utterly flawed, undemocratic, a breach of due process, and completely lacking in transparency”, and that “no time was allowed for discussion of proposed Greens amendments”.

“Of the more than 80 submissions received by the committee, the overwhelming and clear majority, that is more than 85 per cent, are in support of removing the ministerial veto,” the statement said.

“The position of researchers, experts, academics, peak bodies and many universities is also clear from the evidence provided during the hearing held by the committee, where the vast majority of witnesses argued for the removal of the ministerial veto.”

Labor senators rejected the reform bill, but claimed to have “strong concerns about the way in which coalition government education ministers have arbitrarily exercised their power to veto grants”.

Labor committee members called for the ARC Act to be amended, adding a new requirement that ministers table s the “reasons, evidence and advice received” for any grant veto decision made within 15 parliamentary sitting days.