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Tuesday, 9 March 1971
Page: 755

Mr Keating asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1) What amount was' spent by the Commonwealth on medical research ito 'each of the last 10 years. . . . ..:

(2) How much of those amounts ' was allocated in each of those years for research into the causes df and cures for (a)' heart disease and (b) cancer diseases.

(3) Can he say what organisations are undertaking research into the causes and cures of these complaints.

(4) If so, how are the activities of these bodies or organisations financed.

Dr Forbes The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Commonwealth contribution to medical research is provided through three main channels. Firstly, grants to the universities, including the total support for the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University; secondly, grants through the National Health and Medical Research Council (and to a lesser extent, the Australian Research Grants Committee); and thirdly, the support of research in Government and para-government institutions, including the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney, the Commonwealth X-Ray and Radium Laboratory in Melbourne, the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission.

Detailed figures on total medical research expenditure in Australia during the past 10 years are not available. However the National Health and Medical Research Council has _ undertaken several surveys since 1962 to determine trends .in medical research expenditure and from these surveys the following information is available. These figures relate only to. direct costs of individual research projects.


From these figures it is evident that the Commonwealth contribution to medical research is considerable and continuing to increase relative to other sources, such' as ' Stale Governments and private research funds.

There are other funds, not included in the NH and MRC surveys, provided by the ''Commonwealth which are difficult to estimate but which also directly or indirectly add to Commonwealth support of medical research. These include capital costs of buildings and laboratories, universities, hospitals, and research institutes; housekeeping, costs of maintenance and services including insurance, administration and library. The Commonwealth funds are also made available for attendance at international .and local scientific conferences.

Australia contributes $135,000 per annum to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and some proportion of $775,000 contributed annually by Australia to the World Health Organisation is used to support medical research. Another major contribution by the Commonwealth to medical research is in the area of taxation exemption for donations to private medical research foundations.

(2) The National Health and Medical Research Council is currently undertaking a survey of all medical research being undertaken in Australia and when this data is analysed more precise information should be available on the distribution of medical research funds in the fields of heart disease and cancer, lt is realised that much of this research is basic research which could have applications to many areas of medicine and cannot at this basic level be clearly differentiated into work on specific disease processes. However, . it has been estimated that the current expenditure on research primarily directed towards the control of cancer would be approximately $750,000 per annum, and for research into cardiovascular disease about $1,000,000 per annum. Approximately 50 per cent of these funds would be provided by Commonwealth assistance.

(3) The National Health and Medical Research Council is the main Commonwealth body supporting research into heart disease and cancer. Other bodies include the National Heart Foundation and the Life Insurance Medical Research Fund of Australia and New Zealand for research into heart disease and the Anti-Cancer Councils in the various Slates for Cancer research.

(4) The National Health and Medical Research Council grants are financed through the Medical Research Endowment Fund which receives a triennial appropriation from Parliament; for the triennium 1970-72 this appropriation is in excess of $6m. The Heart Foundation and Life Insurance Fund are private organisations funded by public subscription or from commercial sources. The Anti-Cancer Councils are financed principally by public donations and support from State Governments.

In conclusion it is important to realise that much of our medical research in Australia is conducted by university teaching staff and by hospital or laboratory medical staff as part of their normal work or practice, without special allocation of research funds. The full cost, of this part-time research cannot be computed separately. . ,

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