Business, research alliance seeks to push Research Fund over the line

04 September, 2014

An unlikely alliance of business leaders and medical researchers has banded together in a bid to convince a heavily divided Senate that a medical research fund is vital for Australia's future.

The move comes on the back of Health Minister Peter Dutton's recent announcement that the federal government will strive to establish Future Fund – albeit smaller – if the beleaguered GP co-payment plan fails.

"The medical research future fund without the co-payment will be much smaller, no doubt about that," Dutton told reporters.

"The medical research future fund will go ahead, regardless of what happens in the senate.

"If the co-payment falls over, then that is going to be a big blow to the medical research future fund."

Dutton said although the co-payment was intended to the largest source of funding for the Fund, there were a number of different sources from the Budget that would also contribute to its genesis.

Commercial viability

A coterie of heads from the medical research groups have banded together, calling themselves the MRFF Action Group, to try and propagate a case for its long-term viability on commercial and social grounds. The group will be led by Chairman of the Burnet Institute, Alastair Lucas.

"I think everyone understands the health benefits. But I think it's really important for business leaders to come out and speak out about the economic benefits, because you can argue they are just as important as the health benefits," Lucas recently told reporters.

Cochlear CE Chris Roberts said: "The medical research future fund is a great idea because it's solving a problem – we're not spending enough money on health and medical research.

"We know that it's important for the health of the population. We know that it's got economic benefits as well, but we are under-spending on a per capita basis compared to our peer companies.

Paul Murnane, MS Research Australia chairman and a former investment banker said: "I think this is a very positive thing for the country, regardless of how it is funded.

"But we're risking slipping behind the rest of the world without a proper focus on medical research, the government does need to keep investing.

"We keep talking in Australia about manufacturing exports but what we get from health in the medical area absolutely overtakes the export area."