Research Australia has expressed concern over the fate of the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.
In the last week of the election campaign, the organisation that represents around 160 health and medical research organisations questioned the commitment of political parties to the MRFF.
According to Research Australia, Labor is yet to detail any commitment on the MRFF, while the Greens have endorsed the Fund but are also yet to provide any detail. It acknowledged the Coalition's ongoing commitment to the MRFF but notes "slight slippages" in the timeline for the MRFF to reach its $20 billion funding target.
The MRFF is expected to reach $20 billion by 2019-20, based on current projections and government policy, providing around $1 billion in funding to health and medical research annually. However, that includes a raft of unlegislated savings measures that help fund the $20 billion endowment, including increases in PBS co-payments and safety net thresholds and the measure Simplifying Medicare Safety Net.
Treasury has previously confirmed that, if the $1.3 billion in savings from these two measures are excluded, the MRFF would be expected to reach $20 billion one year later, in 2020-21.
“When medical researchers, albeit half-jokingly, talk of leaving their labs and taking to the streets, you know something has gone awry with public policy,” said Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin.
“The Fund was a watershed announcement, not just for our industry, but for the Australian people and health economy. It is not sound policy – it is essential policy,” she added.
“Every year it is delayed is another year that promising research projects, with potential for new discoveries that saves lives and improve quality of lives, are unfunded and unrealised.
“Aside from the human cost, every dollar that is diverted away from Australian medical research represents a loss of $3.39 future health and productivity gains (Deloitte 2014).
“Without a multi-party consensus, the policy risks being a political football, where there is broad agreement about the principles but not the funding.
“On behalf of the researchers of Australia we call on all parties to commit to the policy, commit to suitable funding mechanisms, and make it happen. It is far too important to fail,” concluded Levin.