27 May 2015

Medical Research Future Fund Bill 2015


Second Reading Speech

Check against delivery

The Abbott Government is focused on ensuring our best and brightest Australian medical researchers remain at the forefront of developing treatments and creating cures that will improve the lives of Australians and millions of people around the world.

That’s why, last year in the Budget, we committed to creating the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund – the biggest endowment fund of its kind in the world.

This is a game-changer for Australia and for Australians.

The Medical Research Future Fund is a landmark Coalition Government initiative.

It will deliver enormous benefits for the health of all Australians.

It will be transformational, not only for Australia’s 23,000 research professionals, but also for the medicines industry that stands behind that and employs nearly twice as many Australians.

It will provide funding for Australian scientists and medical researchers to become the best in the world.

The Bill establishes the Medical Research Future Fund from 1 August 2015. The first $10 million in additional medical research funding is to be distributed in 2015-16 and over $400 million is estimated for distribution over the next four years.

Importantly, this funding is in addition to the Government’s existing budget for direct medical research of around $3.4 billion over the next four years.  

But we know this is not enough, as only around 15 per cent of last year’s grant applications to the National Health and Medical Research Council received financial support.

The establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund will encourage innovation, at all levels of health and medical research.

It will fund vital research to better enable the discovery and development of new medicines and technologies.

It will support investment across the research spectrum, from laboratory research, through clinical trials, the commercialisation of new drugs or devices, and the translation of new techniques or protocols into clinical practice and public health.

All Australians stand to benefit from this initiative, through a better health system and improved health outcomes. Medical research that can be exported to the world, and provide benefits to all.

But the true value of medical research is hope.

The hope a mother needs when she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The hope parents need when they are told their child has leukaemia.  A cure that is maybe 5 or 10 or 15 years away.

And it is a hope that vanishes with the passing of days. That is why we need to act now. Today.

To give you one example, unlike other forms of cancer, survival rates for brain cancer have hardly changed over the past 30 years.  It is a cancer that attacks the youth of this country, as brain cancer kills more children than any other disease. 

This is a tragedy that not only needs national attention, but national action. Finding the answers and cures for tragic diseases starts with this Fund, and Australia is the place to get on with ground-breaking medical research.

Australians have a proud history of medical research, with 8 Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine, ranging from discovering the cure for peptic ulcers to helping to develop penicillin.

But you don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to change the world. Australia has led the way with other life changing medical advances, such as cochlear implants, which have given over 300,000 people around the world the ability to hear again. Or the development of spray-on-skin, which is a vital treatment for burns victims.  

The legislation I introduce today, will establish the Fund from 1 August 2015.

The Fund will then receive an initial contribution of $1 billion from the uncommitted balance of the Health and Hospitals Fund. In addition, the estimated value of savings from the Health portfolio will be contributed until the Fund reaches a target capital level of $20 billion.

Based on these contributions, and as outlined in the budget papers, the Medical Research Future Fund is projected to reach $20 billion in 2019-20.

The Medical Research Future Fund will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, which has a proven track record of managing investment portfolios on behalf of the Government, and maximising returns over the long term.

The Bill requires the Treasurer and the Finance Minister to issue directions setting out the Government’s expectations as to how the Fund will be managed and invested by the Board, including setting a benchmark return for earnings.

The Future Fund Board of Guardians will have responsibility for preserving the capital of the Fund in perpetuity. The Board of Guardians will also be responsible for advising the Government on the amount of earnings that have been raised in a given year, which are available for disbursement to medical research in the following year.

The Government will establish an Advisory Board to provide strategic advice to the Government on medical research priorities and expenditure of the disbursements from the Fund. This advice will inform how the new medical research funding is allocated in each budget cycle.

The establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund will provide a new, secure revenue stream for medical research, supporting a sustainable health system into the future.

Innovations in health and medical research play an important role in increasing the efficiency of health services and improving health outcomes.

As I said during last year’s Budget, as a result of the Medical Research Future Fund, it may be an Australian who discovers better treatments and even cures for dementia, Alzheimer's, heart disease or cancer.

By investing now, this new and historic commitment in medical research may achieve even greater breakthroughs in years to come and save the lives of those that are closest to us.

I commend the Bill to the House.