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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9868

Medical Research

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:32): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government is supporting Australian medical research?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:32): I thank Senator Smith for his question. Today the Minister for Health has announced a massive boost to medical research in Australia. The Turnbull government will invest $640 million to support Australia's world-leading health and medical researchers. Cancer research continues to be a major priority for this government, with $109 million allocated to projects for research into better cancer detection, treatments, care and cures, over $96 million for cardiovascular disease and $48 million for diabetes research. Over $53 million will be targeted through research projects that aim to help four million Australians who suffer from a form of mental health illness each year. Prioritising the health of Indigenous Australians is again a focus, with an additional $31 million.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is introducing a new initiative to reduce the gap in funding rates between male- and female-led investigators for project grants. Across Australia, 732 projects will receive funding for research into the areas mentioned and also other national health priority areas such as injury, dementia, obesity, asthma, arthritis and osteoporosis. Today's announcement, once again, proves the Turnbull government has a rock-solid commitment to the health and the better health of Australians. Compare that with those opposite and what they did at the last federal election—

Senator Cameron: What about the $7 co-payment?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I'll take the interjection from Senator Cameron. All you were able to offer at the last election was 'Mediscare' and 'Medifraud'. Do you remember ringing up, scaring the little old ladies? Your little mates went out there, Senator Cameron— (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Government senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order now on my right as well! We will proceed with question time when there is some silence. I'll wait until I can hear you, Senator Smith. Order on my left! You're wasting your own time.

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:34): I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate what the impact will be of this substantial new investment in medical research?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:35): This funding supports work in laboratories, clinics and the community to find the next major medical breakthrough. Medical research investment is driving an increase in cancer survival rates. It is estimated that more than one million Australians are living with cancer or have survived a cancer diagnosis. A grant of $1.16 million will use data, for example, from cancer survivors and people without cancer to generate new knowledge to improve policy, clinical practise and health outcomes. This announcement will have flow-on effects to places like Macquarie Park in Bennelong where there are many companies that contribute to Australia's better-health outcomes. They have a very strong supporter in John Alexander, as opposed to those opposite who cut medical research when they were in government.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a final supplementary question.

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:36): Is the minister aware of any threats to medical research in Australia?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:36): It's those opposite. Let's look at Labor's abysmal record on medical research. During Labor's term, they repeatedly tried to cut funding for medical research. In 2011, Labor tried to rip $400 million from medical research but backflipped at the last moment after the researchers went out protesting in the streets. Labor also ripped $140 million out of medical research in their last budget through tricky accounting that withheld money from the NHMRC and then forced them to claim back what they had spent. This is no way to give certainty to the medical research sector. This is especially important in places like Bennelong where thousands of people, directly and indirectly, benefit from health related investments. Contrast this with your record of 'Mediscare' and 'Medifraud'. (Time expired)