AusBiotech: Budget delivers no surprises


With pre-budget statements announcing a boost to medical research, the release of the 2019 Federal Budget delivered no further surprises on Tuesday night.

  • The research and development tax incentive (RDTI) was a term conspicuous in its absence;
  • $5 billion Ten-Year Investment Plan was announced for the Medical Research Future Fund, across four themes: patients, researchers, missions, and translation;
  • $116.8 million over seven years was announced for health and medical research infrastructure, including for cancer patients in regional areas; and
  • $30 million over four years from 2019-20 was announced to develop a national policy on agriculture biodiversity and trial a grants program to increase the adoption of biodiversity practices - $2.9 million over three years from 2019-20 to drive national leadership for agricultural innovation.

The research and development tax incentive (RDTI) was a term conspicuous in its absence. AusBiotech has extensively advocated on behalf of the life sciences industry to keep the RDTI Bill in its current format, most recently raising concerns about the intensity measure introduced.

AusBiotech’s Chairman, Julie Phillips said, “AusBiotech is pleased that additional cuts to the RDTI are not explicitly mentioned in the 2019 Federal Budget, however, we are curious to understand the Government’s intent for future plans – particularly given the lack of detail and certainty around how they will obtain the $1.35 billion savings from the RDTI outlined in the forward estimates. The RDTI is absolutely critical to the life sciences industry which develops life-saving therapies and the RDTI should be maintained in its current form to ensure stability and maximise its economic benefits.”

Until the result of the upcoming election is known, and the consultation processes underway conclude, the uncertainties remain. The earliest the sector can expect more clarity is September. AusBiotech will be keeping a close eye on announcements, as well as the Opposition’s response.

The opportunity remains for either of the major political parties to openly commit to maintaining the RDTI in its current form. Maintaining an environment conducive to investment is critical in an increasingly competitive global environment. Seldom has there been greater benefits to be achieved by doing nothing.

The Ten-Year Investment Plan for the Medical Research Future Fund included a $5 billion investment in life-saving and job-creating medical research, across four themes: patients, researchers, missions, and translation.

Investment specifically addressed the areas of: Clinical Trials for Rare Cancers; Rare Diseases and Unmet Needs; Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research; Global Health — Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance and Drug Resistant Tuberculosis; Genomics; Ageing, and Aged Care and Dementia; and, Data Infrastructure — focus on registries, biobanks and linkage platforms.

The Government announced several provisions which may impact companies working in the agritech and foodtech sector.

The Government will provide $4.4 million over four years to implement the recommendations of the Third Review of the National Gene Technology Scheme. Funding will be used to implement review recommendations in conjunction with states and territories and to support the role of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

AusBiotech has previously engaged the Department of Health on the review with during their consultation process in 2017-2018. Other agritech and foodtech provisions included innovation, workforce, stewardship and agricultural trade.

Overarching Budget summary

With an election to be held in May, this was a Budget with a key focus on demonstrating the Coalition’s economic management credentials. It was built around the delivery of a Budget surplus of $7.1 billion and the provision of greater financial support in the form of tax cuts to low and middle-income earners. In this context, there were fewer major announcements of significance for our sector.

AusBiotech is looking forward to seeing how the Opposition responds in their Budget Reply tonight.

Further reading

  • Read the Budget papers here.
  • Read Hon. Greg Hunt MP’s comments on the health care agenda here.
  • Read Hon. Karen Andrews MP’s Budget statement here.
  • Read Senator Hon. Kim Carr’s reply here.

Opportunities for member engagement

AusBiotech released a members’ briefing on Wednesday with a comprehensive overview of the impacts on sector. For more information, or to tell them your view, please contact Andrew Mosely, Policy and Programmes Manager.