Medical funding in Australia is safe

11 May 2011

A unanimous sigh of relief is being felt through the UQDI and collectively across the nation, after the Federal Government handed down the 2011-12 budget last night.

After two months of relentless support from researchers and the general public, the Australian Government has announced as part of the 2011-12 budget, the proposed $400 million funding cuts would not proceed.

Cabinet leaks from early March indicated that the government planned to cut $400 million over three years from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which funds the bulk of medical research in Australia. However, budget papers released last night show the government has responded to public opinion, with federal funding for the NHMRC maintained at $850 million.

To coincide with the budget announcement, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, The Honourable Mark Butler MP, has released a video announcing a strategic review of Australian federal medical research funding would be conducted in a bid to improve the system.

“I’m announcing that over the coming weeks I propose to consult closely with the sector about terms ofreference for [the strategic] review, and about the sort of personnel we want overseeing the review as well. By the middle of the year, in June or July, we’ll be in a position to announce those terms of reference and the panel we’re appointing to oversee the review. Hopefully we’ll have that review in place by the middle of nextyear. That broad strategic direction combined with your passion and your expertise I’m confident will mean that in the coming decades we’ll get the same benefits in terms of the health of the Australian community that we came to expect over the past few decades,” he said.

“Thanks very much again for your incredible work that you do, day in day out, as medical researchers, and thanks for the campaign that you’ve been a part of over the last few weeks to really raise the profile and importance of medical research in the broader community’s mind.”

Community support for medical research and the benefits it brings to human health have been evident over the last two months with more than 12,000 Australians hitting the streets during April to participate in the Rallies for Research, protesting the proposed budget cuts. Discoveries Need Dollars say the government received hundreds of letters urging the protection of medical research, and a petition consisting of more than 12,000 signatures in support was presented to Federal Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, for tabling in Parliament. The research and general communities reiterated that cutting the medical research budget would negatively impact patient access to new treatments, diagnostics and preventive medicines for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a myriad of other conditions.

Congratulations to all of the supporters involved in the action to protect medical research. Australia must remain a country of great reputation in research and with confirmed ongoing financial commitment from the government and recognition of the importance of medical research in Australia, we have been successful.