JOINT PRESS RELEASE
THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH & AGEING
The Coalition will protect the funding of Australia’s premier medical research funding body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). As well, the Coalition will simplify the assessment of research grants and offer these for five years.
Our commitment to improve the way we fund and operate medical research funding will give our nation’s finest medical researchers confidence and certainty to plan their work, as well as free them up from paperwork so they can spend more time in their lab, clinic or health service.
Investing and supporting medical research is one of the best long-term investments in health that a government can make. Ongoing, long-term funding of medical research improves quality of life and life expectancy and, at the same time, takes pressure off the hospital system.
The Coalition has listened to our medical researchers who have said that existing guidelines and processes are cumbersome, costly and inefficient.
If elected, a Coalition government will streamline the grant application process and simplify the way the NHMRC assesses research grants. Furthermore, we will move swiftly towards a nationally consistent approach to the way clinical research trials are overseen and conducted.
As well as protecting the NHMRC’s funding over the forward estimates, the Coalition will work with the Council and the health and medical research sector to:
· Streamline the NHMRC’s grant application process including simplifying the grant applications, condensing and simplifying the different schemes and better integrating the grant process with that used by the Australian Research Council. This will assist applicants and reviewers who commonly have to use both systems.
· Simplify the NHMRC’s grant assessment process by what the McKeon Review calls an ‘early triage’ of grant applications unlikely to be successful. This will reduce the load on everyone involved in the grant reviewing process and speed up approvals.
· Transition to five year grants to allow for greater career certainty and to recognise that high quality research is becoming increasingly complex to perform. The three year project grants currently awarded have led to persistent career insecurity and a constant administrative burden.
These measures will help ensure that Australia remains a world leader in medical research.
We are among the top five countries in the world in producing scientific articles per capita and in the past decade alone, Australia’s health and medical research sector has produced three Nobel Prize winners.
The Coalition is proud of its record supporting Australia’s medical research community. The last Coalition government increased funding to the NHMRC five-fold from $131 million in 1995-96 to $715 million in 2010-11 after our funding commitments had been fully implemented.
In contrast, Labor previously attempted to cut medical research funding and is currently cutting health funding. Labor is cutting $1.6 billion from state hospitals and nearly $4 billion from private health insurance over the next four years.
Only a Coalition government will ensure the funding of the NHMRC’s medical research is safeguarded and we have the track record to prove it.
It is only through sustained investment that we can retain our scientific talent, generate health discoveries and fully reap the benefits of health and medical research.
Medical research is an essential part of the Coalition’s plan to build a more diverse, world-class five pillar economy. Protecting medical research is part of our Real Solutions Plan to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.
24 June 2013