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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 760

Senator KERNOT —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health and concerns funding for medical research in this year's budget. How much of the $92.8 million allocated to medical research over the next four years is genuinely new money and not a continuation of funds already earmarked for the National Health and Medical Research Council under the May 1989 science and technology statement and the 1992-93 budget?

Senator CROWLEY —I am advised that the new money element of that is $40 million and the $50 million effectively is rounded out, so the total, I am advised, is $92.8 million.

Senator Kernot —Fifty per cent.

Senator CROWLEY —Near enough; $50 million is restoring the base from the science and technology money and $40 million is new money. It is very important to recognise that that is not the only part of this government's commitment to increasing medical research funding to two per cent—

Senator Newman —You have not moved one cent.

Senator CROWLEY —I thought Senator Newman might buy in at this point. She is wrong again. The commitment to two per cent by 2000 stands. In this budget the government has provided substantial additional funding to the NHMRC. Of the money Senator Kernot asked about, I say again that $40 million is new money. It is also important to know that that is not the only allocation of money towards research in this budget. We continue the 150 per cent tax concession for commercial research and the factor F money, because we are very committed to research. It all comes under the medical research funding. As well, there has been an increase in the allocation for breast cancer research. That has also to be taken into account.

  The important thing to remember is that when we came into office the allocation for research under the NHMRC was $30 million. That is what the opposition left this government. It is now over $140 million—more than double in real terms. While we make sure that we increase the allocation for medical research to the NHMRC and while we are setting priorities that we hope the NHMRC will take up, the government makes it clear that in no way will it be directing the allocation of money to any one particular piece of research. We strongly support the notion of the NHMRC, which is qualified to choose excellence in research. There is absolutely no government interference in the allocation of dollars to specific research projects.

  The opposition's tedious little campaign to try to increase the funding for breast cancer research by 10 per cent, for example, would have seen that the research uptake was not even available in this country. Much of those dollars would have to have gone to less than classy research. We are concerned that the allocation of the research dollar goes to the NHMRC. There is real new money as well as a significant transfer of money from the science and technology committee and there is a continuing commitment to encourage private sector investment in medical research. We are on target with a small increase, but a real increase, this year of money towards that 2 per cent by the year 2000.