Research Australia challenges Electoral Reform Bill

Research Australia has made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, arguing that the regulatory burden the Bill will impose on research organisations that engage in public comment on Government decisions, programs and legislation is unwarranted.

In particular, Research Australia has focused on the definition of ‘political expenditure’ in the Bill, which could include activities such as responding to Government reviews and inquiries, and the fact that the Bill will capture research grants from overseas funding bodies as ‘gifts’ that need to be monitored in relation to political expenditure.

The Inquiry has received many submissions from charities and other organisations about the  Bill; the Committee’s report is due to be delivered to the Parliament on 2 March and it is hoped that it will recommend significant amendments to the Bill.

Research Australia’s submission on the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Bill

2030 Strategy for Science, research and innovation

As we are all too aware, Australia scores poorly on the translation of its research discoveries into new products and services. We need to improve the extent to which Australia’s research effort is directed to the questions and problems of greatest importance and how effectively our research is applied to provide solutions.

Bringing research and innovation together in the one Strategic Plan provides an opportunity to drive these improvements and to overcome some of the historic divides between programs to invest smartly in research and in programs to support and drive innovation. In addition to the research, innovation and investment communities, active engagement with the state and territory governments will be vital; it needs to be a ‘whole of governments’ strategy.

Just as importantly, the 2030 Strategic Plan needs a whole of community communication strategy to ensure all levels of society understand the imperative for a greater and more strategic investment in research, technology and innovation, and the benefits this can bring as we plan for the Australia we want in 2030.

Download Research Australia’s submission here.

Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates

Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates. Many of the Terms of Reference have relevance beyond brain cancers, cancers with low survival rates and low incidence cancers; our submission approaches the Inquiry from this broader perspective.

Government funding available for health and medical research is finite. While cancers with low survival rates are undoubtedly worthy of more funding, any increase in funding for one area has implications for the funding available to other disease areas. Improvements in survival are related to global research rather than specifically to the volume or subject of Australian research, and it is important that Australian researchers and patients have access to, and contribute to this global effort. This is particularly relevant for low incidence cancers and other rare diseases, because the number of patients in Australia is likely to be low and appropriate research collaborators are in many cases likely to be based overseas. Thus, when allocating funding we also need to consider the level of funding available and the research activity undertaken globally.

Research Australia also suggests there is merit in looking at approaches taken by other countries. This includes strategies such as rare disease policies that have been established in more than 20 countries as a means of providing a policy framework for a considered and comprehensive approach to the provision of research, diagnosis and access to treatment for rare diseases. In an area where the only available therapies are often experimental, a single policy that brings research, diagnosis and treatment together is valuable.

Read the full Research Australia submission today.

Social Impact Investing for better health

Research Australia’s submission to Treasury in response to the discussion paper on Social Impact Investing has advocated that interventions designed to improve health outcomes be explicitly acknowledged as within the scope of the proposed social investing framework.

Research Australia believes that Social Impact Investing could be an effective mechanism for funding and evaluating some pilot projects and clinical trials designed to implement and evaluate new evidence based practices and interventions. The benefits of implementing successful new interventions include better population health, improved patient care, and efficiency gains in the Australian healthcare system. These provide quantifiable social and financial gains that make the funding of these measures amenable to Social Impact Investing.

Research Australia Submission Social Impact Investing

Themes and Priorities for the CRC Programme

CRCs have played a key role in the translation of Australian health and medical research. Research Australia’s response to the Government’s consultation on Themes and Priorities for the CRC Programme took the opportunity to advocate for the reinstatement of Public Good CRCs, which are specifically excluded by the most recent Guidelines for the CRC Programme.

Research Australia’s Submission – CRC Themes Consultation

Research Infrastructure Draft Roadmap

Research Australia has provided a response to the Chief Scientist’s Research Infrastructure Draft Roadmap, released in late 2016. Research Australia’s submission has addressed the proposal for a new national advisory group, suggesting the functions of this group could be preformed by existing bodies. It has also emphasised the importance of engagement with state and territory governments in relation to investment and reiterated the importance of workforce planning for a skilled workforce to build, maintain and use research infrastructure. Research Australia has called for greater transparency in the funding of major research infrastructure and suggested some further clarity about the circumstances in which the national interest can be invoked to justify new infrastructure spending.

Research Infrastructure Roadmap Submission

Public Sector Data- Productivity Commission proposes reforms

The Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Public Sector Data Availability and Use, part of a 12 month Inquiry, has highlighted the public benefits of improving access to public data and has proposed significant reforms, including to improve access to data for researchers and to make researchers’ own data more accessible. While Research Australia is broadly supportive of the Commission’s draft recommendations, we have made substantive responses in relation to a number; particularly some that would affect the way research is conducted and funded.

As the quantities of data collected about all of us grows, so does our capacity to utilise this data for the benefit of all. As the Draft Report has identified, there is evidence that community attitudes to data and questions of privacy and security are changing, and legislation and government practices need to change to both reflect this change and enable us to harness this data as a valuable resource. Now is the time to act if we are to make the most of the opportunities public data provides to improve the delivery of government services and the health of our community, and to create the new economic opportunities and jobs of tomorrow. The Commission’s Draft Report is a very important step in what Research Australia acknowledges will be a long but fruitful journey in harnessing the transformative power of data in contemporary society.

Response to Productivity Commission Data Availability Draft Report December 2016

R&D Tax Incentive – Response to the Review

Research Australia has made two submissions into the federal government’s R&D Tax Incentive review.

R&D Tax Incentive Submission 2016

R&D Tax Incentive Submission 2015

Research Australia supports the report’s recommendations to:

  • maintain the current eligibility criteria
  • introduce an incentive to encourage collaboration with publicly funded researchers
  • to release more information about claimants.

Research Australia has opposed the application of a new $2 million cap to small caps that are seeking to commercialise HMR and proposed a modification to a recommendation that would limit the R&D Tax Incentive to more research intensive companies.

The Government will now consider the recommendations of the Review together with the responses from the public consultation and then formulate its response, which is expected to be subject to another round of consultation, probably early next year.

Roadmap for Research Infrastructure

Research Australia has responded to the Capability Issues Paper provided as part of the development of a new National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. The Roadmap will guide the Australian Government’s future investment in large national research infrastructure.

Research Australia’s submission supports the consideration of international participation in Australian facilities and Australian participation in international facilities as part of the process of evaluating new research infrastructure facilities. We have supported the proposed governance principles and suggested that specific governance arrangements need to be fit for purpose for the individual proposal rather than fitting a predetermined template.

Research Australia has emphasised the importance of broadening the governance frameworks in relation to data infrastructure to consider the issues raised where the data is individuals’ health information, and made the point that legislative and cultural barriers to the better use of data need to be addressed in tandem with technological solutions.

The need to consider workforce training and capability issues as part of the broader roadmap was endorsed, as was the need to consider the full infrastructure lifecycle.

Infrastructure Roadmap submission

R&D Tax Incentive- proposed reduction opposed

As part of the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016, the Government has once again introduced a measure to reduce the rate of the R&D Tax Incentive by 1.5%. Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee opposing this measure, as we have done previously.

The reduction will have the greatest impact on small companies who are in receipt of the refundable tax offset. While the 1.5% reduction is intended to reflect the recent reduction in the tax rate for small companies and is there supposedly ‘tax neutral’ the reality is that these small research intensive companies are running at a loss and not paying tax, so they will be adversely affected. Large companies will also be adversely affected because the mooted tax reductions for large companies have not yet been legislated.

The Government has yet to release the report of the Review it commissioned in 2015 into the operation and effectiveness of the R&D Tax Incentive.

R&D Tax Incentive Submission