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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3934

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (16:12): In speaking on this matter of public importance I want to talk about one of the centrepieces of this year's budget—that is, the medical research future fund.

When we look at Australia's history in this area, we see a proud tradition in medical research: Howard Florey, Gus Nossal, Fiona Stanley and also, more recently, Peter Fraser. Australia has an excellent system of clinical trials. One of the areas where Australia has previously fallen down has been the commercialisation of medical research. As part of that, the Howard government commissioned Peter Wills to do a strategic review of our health and medical research. Going back 15 years, what that led to was a substantial increase in the budget for health and medical research in the 1999 budget. I pay tribute to previous health ministers Wooldridge and Abbott, who were strong champions of the need for medical research, and I pay tribute to the current Minister for Health, the member for Dickson, who has continued in that vein.

We all remember the attempts that were made by the previous government to savagely cut the health and medical research budget. This future fund will have a transforming impact. It is visionary. What you will see is that the impact of this will be to make Australia a destination of choice for young medical research scientists and medical research scientists at the top of their careers from around the world. By 2020, it will lead to a $20 billion fund and will see the income from this fund reaching $1 billion per year.

Around Australia we have a number of excellent medical research institutes: the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute; the Garvan Institute; the Baker IDI; the George Institute; the QIMR; and, a newcomer, the SAHMRI in my home state of South Australia.

This is really consistent with what we said before the election in terms of our themes. One of those themes was to back our strengths. Medical research is a strength for Australia but it can become even greater in the future. Previous speakers quoted a number of people's comments on the budget. I wanted to quote one from the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, which said that the 'Medical Research Future Fund is a visionary investment in Australia's future.' I quote from Professor Brendan Crabb, the President of the AAMRI:

Creation of this $20 billion fund into perpetuity is amongst the most significant initiatives in the history of medical research in Australia.

Like many members of this House, I have extensive ties in the medical research community, having close family members in it. I have seen this debate over the last 15 and 20 years, and I think we are now poised at a very exciting point. In the future, people will look back to the creation of this fund. It is very important that we make sure that it has a lock that cannot be picked by the Labor Party, because we saw what they have done with previous capital funds in higher education and in health and hospitals—they took the capital and spent it as income. This is a very exciting development for the future of Australia. It means that the next Australian Howard Florey—who made his career in Oxford in the UK, but was a product of Australia—will be able to make their career, do their research, and commercialise their innovations here in Australia.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The discussion has concluded.