The Government has established a National Commission of Audit (NCOA) to identify areas of waste and duplication in Commonwealth Government Expenditure. Research Australia has made a submission to the NCOA. The Government has given a commitment to protect funding for health and medical research, and Research Australia has sought to ensure that the Commission is aware of the breadth and extent of HMR funding, and that this goes far beyond NHMRC grants. Research Australia has also urged the Commission to support implementation of the McKeon Review’s recommendations as a means of making our health system safer, more effective and efficient; even small improvements in efficiency in the $140 billion health sector can generate significant savings.
In June 2013 the Australian Government issued a consultation paper seeking views on a proposal to assess the wider benefits of university based research. The paper proposed that a pilot exercise be undertaken in 2014 using case studies and quantitative data, and sought input on its design. Research Australia made a submission, urging a small scale ‘experimental’ approach using existing data to the greatest extent possible to test the feasibility and value of measuring research impact in this manner.
Unlike some other States, Western Australia’s Guardianship and Administration Act does not make provision for the participation in human research of individuals who are unable to make a reasonable judgment or decision for themselves.
Research Australia’s submission proposes the Act be amended to make specific provision for this purpose. Research Australia’s chief recommendations are that Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) be responsible for determining whether medical research is safe for individuals who are unable to make a reasonable judgment or decision for themselves to participate in; and that persons responsible be able to decide whether a person who is eligible to participate will do so.
The May 2013 discussion paper released by Treasury proposes a $2000 cap on the tax deduction for self education expenses. In the health and medical research sector, where many researchers are forced to meet the cost of a range of expenses associated with work themselves, this proposal will have a significant adverse effect on health and medical research in Australia. Research Australia’s submission opposes the proposal.
UPDATE: The Government has subsequently withdrawn the proposal to impose a cap on self education expenses.
In October 2012, the Australian Government announced a review of pharmaceutical patents, including the provisions for extending the terms of eligible pharmaceutical patents. The Review has issued a draft report with a number of interim findings and recommendations. Research Australia has made a submission to the Review, emphasising the important role that pharmaceutical patents play in encouraging innovation and competition, and the importance of providing a level of protection that is consistent with our collaborators in pharmaceutical development in the USA and Europe. Research Australia has also emphasised the important distinction between paying a drug company for its innovation by buying drugs under patent, and providing public funding for research.
Each year the Treasurer invites the Australian community to make submissions in relation to the preparation of the budget for the following financial year. Research Australia recommended:
- A real increase in Commonwealth Government funding for health and medical research, to enable continued improvements in the health and wellbeing of all Australians.
- A specific allocation to fund the implementation and monitoring of the McKeon Review recommendations and the development of a coherent national health and medical research strategy
- Increased funding for health systems research to increase capacity to analyse and identify best practice for the Australian health care system and to increase research into the most successful, effective and efficient delivery mechanisms and structures for implementing best practice.
- Increased funding for research to support the effective and rapid translation of new discoveries into practice.
- Greater funding for population health and preventive health research to improve the effectiveness of preventive health campaigns and identify emerging trends in the health and disease profile of the Australian population.
- Retention of the R&D tax credit as an important mechanism for supporting the commercialisation of Australian research.
In late 2012, the South Australian Government initiated a review of its Science, Research and Industry Innovation Strategy. Research Australia made a submission to the Government drawing its attention to the benefits of increased support for health and medical research, and innovation as part of the strategy.
In 2011, the Australian Government commissioned a Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia, led by Mr Simon McKeon, AO. The Review called for submissions on the terms of reference to be made by 31 March 2012. In October 2012 it issued a draft report and sought further comments. Research Australia made submissions on the terms of reference and the draft report.
The Australian Government formed a Business Tax Working Group (BTWG) in 2012 to investigate the options for reducing the corporate tax rate in a revenue neutral way by offsetting the cut in the rate with the removal of existing business tax concessions. In response to the Working Group’s discussion paper, Research Australia made a submission focused on the potential abolition of the Research & Development Tax Incentive. The submission opposed any change on the basis that the R&D Tax Incentive had not yet been in place long enough in its latest form for an evaluation to be made of its effectiveness or the impact of its removal.
On 24 October 2012, the BTWG released the draft of its final report. It did not recommend changes to the R&D Tax Incentive or to other business concessions such as the depreciation allowance. While the BTWG was in favour of a further cut in the corporate tax rate when economic circumstances permit, ‘a cut in the company tax rate funded from within the business tax system should not be pursued at this time’. Research Australia continues to monitor the final report and the Government’s response.
In 2012 the Australian Government introduced legislation that made significant reforms to the regulation of charities in Australia, including entitlement to tax concessions and the creation of a new regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Many health and medical research organisations and the organisations that support them are affected by this legislation, and Research Australia made a number of submissions throughout 2012 to the Australian Treasury, the ACNC taskforce and to parliamentary inquiries in relation to these changes. Further changes will be made in 2013, and Research Australia continues to represent the health and medical research sector in consultations on the new measures.