House debates

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


Medical Research Future Fund

7:45 pm

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Medical Research Future Fund, which I will refer to as the MRFF, was established in August and, in my opinion, has not received the recognition it deserves. The $20 billion MRFF, the biggest endowment fund of its kind in the world, is a landmark initiative. It is a game changer, and I am sure the member for Wakefield, who is sitting opposite, would agree, given his position as the shadow parliamentary secretary for health.

My wife works in the health industry, and I understand the importance of having a well-resourced health sector and the need to ensure that Australia's best and brightest medical researchers remain world leaders when it comes to developing treatments and cures that will improve the lives of Australians and millions of people around the world. The MRFF is expected to reach a target capital level of $20 billion by 2019-20. Let us just imagine that for a moment—$20 billion to be available to research professionals to advance medical research projects, develop treatments and cures and ultimately deliver improved health and medical outcomes for all Australians. The MRFF will eventually deliver $1 billion in annual funding for health and medical research. 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. The MRFF highlights that this government is serious about research and serious about Australia playing its role in advancing world-leading medical research and skilled jobs for the future.

Academics and some of Australia's leading health professionals have welcomed the government's Medical Research Future Fund. Professor Christine Bennett, Chair of Research Australia, said:

Investing in health and medical research is about better health and well-being, greater productivity and a stronger economy, and giving hope to people living with health problems for which research is the only hope.

My electorate of Hindmarsh is one of the oldest, age wise, in the nation and I know firsthand the need for this fund to help our researchers to find cures for conditions such as dementia. More than 7,500 Australians will be diagnosed with dementia each week in coming years. According to Harold Mitchell, Chairman of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the Florey institute is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in its efforts to prevent, treat and even cure this devastating disease, and the Medical Research Future Fund could not come at a more valuable time. This is just one example that needs reliable funding so researchers can forge ahead.

I would also like to recognise the efforts of local South Australian businessman Mr Ian Smith, and his commitment to the future of Australian health. Ian is a board member of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and an advisory board member of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes. The discovery by Baker IDI of the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is one of the many great Australian medical discoveries. Ian has welcomed the government's efforts to support medical research. He says:

A medical research fund of such significance will help Australia lead and collaborate in the global search for cures for the most chronic health problems. It will also enable us to retain and attract talent to help nurture an industry of the future.

In South Australia this fund will have significant impacts on a number of local companies, such as Hospira, Bionomics and Baxter Healthcare. Hospira, which I have visited, has impressive future plans which will secure 100 jobs in advanced manufacturing, something that new Prime Minister Turnbull is very supportive of, and it will contribute significantly to the state's economic activity over the next eight years. Bionomics is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to making better treatments and is currently undertaking clinical trials for renal and ovarian cancer studies, trials that will no doubt benefit from the MRFF. Baxter Healthcare Australia is working towards developing and manufacturing products that save the lives of people with haemophilia, immune disorders, infectious diseases, kidney disease, trauma and other chronic and acute medical conditions. The MRFF will allow companies such as those mentioned to continue the work to create products that advance patient care worldwide.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the great work of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, or SAHMRI, our first independent flagship health and medical research institute. Established in 2008 with the help of $200 million of federal government funding, it was opened by the former Prime Minister Abbott. With more than 600 outstanding researchers working together in the search for better treatments and cures for some of the world's most challenging diseases, SAHMRI is a world-class precinct. I was privileged to tour the SAHMRI with the executive director, Mr Steve Wesselingh, and meet a number of our best and brightest.

In closing, seven million Australians currently live with chronic disease and 75 per cent have a long-term health condition. Investing in health and medical research is not just a nice-to-have but a must-have for our future. This offers the very best talent available career paths and a bright future with employment opportunities. It is a great initiative and a game changer.