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Remarks to the Burnet Institute Parliamentary Cocktail Reception: speech, Canberra

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Remarks to the Burnet Institute Parliamentary Cocktail Reception, Canberra June 25, 2013


Thanks very much Natasha. It’s a pleasure to be here. I acknowledge the presence of the Minister, the Shadow Minister, my old friend Jane Halton, the Secretary of the Department, various other people from my old days as the Health Minister, and of course

so many distinguished parliamentary colleagues.

This is a very busy week, the last sitting week, not just of the first half of the year but of this very parliament and the fact that there are so many members of the Parliament here indicates that this is an important anniversary, one that is taken very seriously by

public policymakers in this country because 30 years ago, people were dying in significant numbers and no one quite knew what was causing it. There was something close to panic amongst certain sections ofour community and it was vital that something be

done to address this issue.

It wasn’t a moral issue, it was a health issue and it is greatly to the credit of policymakers and scientists in this country and in comparable countries that we did approach this from a public health perspective. Thanks to the discovery of HIV, we were able to

address this in a scientific way and following on from that discovery there were various treatments developed and thanks to the treatments that have been developed, as has been mentioned earlier, people with HIV can expect to live long and relatively

healthy lives and be extremely productive contributing members of our community. Yes, we still have some 33 million people around the world living with HIV AIDS. Tragically, some two million people will die of HIV AIDS complications every year. Quite a

few of them are regrettably in countries in our region and it’s good that the High Commissioner from PNG is here with us, Mr Lepani, tonight and it’s good that we are working with PNG to address this issue.

I want to particularly congratulate the Burnet Institute for its work over many years in this area and acknowledge the CD4

diagnostic process which was developed largely by the Institute, which is proving so successful in countries such as PNG, in finding out who has HIV and enabling appropriate treatment to take place.

All of this, ladies and gentlemen, has happened because of the commitment that this country makes to the best possible health

and medical research and I do want to close my remarks with some comments on health and medical research more generally. At the risk of sounding like I’m striking a partisan note, which I wouldn’t wish to do at a gathering such as this, I think the Coalition

does have a good record in this area. Between 1996 and just a few years ago our NHMRC funding went from a little over $100 million a year to well over $700 million a year. It is important to retain a strong level of health and medical research funding and

one of the few areas which will be free from the search for savings, should there be a change of government later in the year, will be health research. It is too important to the world, it is too important to Australia. It’s economically important as well as important

in every other respect. Therefore it must be retained, at least at its current levels.

But I think it’s also important to try to improve the way research is done in this country. We have recently had the McKeon Review of health and medical research. The clear conclusion of the McKeon Review was that researchers spent too much time attending

to the paperwork, not enough time in their laboratories or at the bedside. It is important that we address this issue, and while some have accused the Coalition of being a little light on for policy, I am pleased to say that we have today made a policy

response to the McKeon Review.

We will take the McKeon Review recommendations seriously and we will work with the National Health and Medical Research Council to simplify and rationalise the types of grants available, to simplify and rationalise the grant application process, to simplify

and rationalise the grant assessment process, particularly to simplify and rationalise the Ethics Review Committee process which is holding up and delaying a large amount of health and medical research effort and we want to work with the NHMRC to try to

ensure that wherever possible, the term of NHMRC grants is extended to five years.

Our objective is to get the best possible result from our research dollar. It is so important, if lives are to be improved, if lives are to be saved, that we make the most of our health and medical research skills. Australia is a world leading centre of health and

medical research, we must continue to allow our world class researchers to punch above their weight for the benefit of

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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Australians, for the benefit of people all over the world and that’s why I’m pleased to have this response in the McKeon Review.

Thank you so much to the Burnet Institute for hosting today, to Brendan Crabb, your Director, to Alastair Lucas, your Chairman, to all who support the Burnet Institute, thank you so much. You do great work. You do, if I may say, God’s work for our country and

for our world.


© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

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