25 March 2011 The Gillard government needs to come clean with the universities and research sector whether it intends to cut $400 million out of the medical research budget, Peter Dutton, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, and Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research said today.
These remarks follow concerns being aired within the research community that the government intends to savage the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in the upcoming federal budget by cutting $400 million from its funding. The government is neither confirming nor denying these stories.
“The research community needs to know what’s in store for them and they deserve to know now,” said Senator Mason.
“The university and research sector cannot be blamed for fearing the worst from this government following the recent cuts to the higher education budget, particularly the controversial and ill-advised axing of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
“So far, the government’s decisions regarding the sector show a lack of genuine interest and understanding, and a bad case of tin ear. Stakeholders have to force the consultation with the government, and clear, unanimous sentiments coming from the sector are often completely disregarded.”
“It would be particularly tragic if the NHMRC was to feel the government’s axe as Labor tries to find money to offset its waste and fiscal mismanagement in other areas of spending,” Mr Dutton said.
“Australia has a particularly proud and distinguished history of medical research and advances, demonstrating that as a small country we have always punched well above our weight.
“One only has to think about the work of Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet in immunology and Sir Howard Florey, whose invention of penicillin saved tens if not hundreds of millions of lives around the world, as well as the invention of the bionic ear, electronic pacemaker and the pioneering work in in-vitro fertilization.
“More recently, we have seen the Nobel Prize winning work of Prof Barry Marshall and Prof Robin Warren who discovered the Helicobacter pylori bacterium as the true cause of stomach ulcers, as well as the Nobel Prize winning work of Prof Peter Doherty in immunology. More recently, Prof Ian Frazer and others at the University of Queensland developed a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, potentially saving millions of lives.
“In fact nine of Australia’s eleven Nobel Prizes had been awarded for groundbreaking medical or medical-related research.”
“This continuing legacy of excellence in medical research is now at risk from Labor’s budget cuts. The research community, as well as millions of people who benefit from its work, have every right to be concerned,” said Senator Mason.