Changes to MRFF investments and disbursements

The Investment Funds Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 will:

    • change the way the MRFF is invested,
    • allow the annual disbursements from the MRFF to be set for a period of up to five years, and
    • change the period for the MRFF Strategy and Priorities to six years and 3 years respectively (currently 5years and 2 years.)

In its submission to the The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee Inquiry, Research Australia has welcomed the changes, which have the potential to increase the funds available from the MRFF to fund research and innovation and provide greater stability. Research Australia has urged the MRFF Act be amended to make it explicit that the capital value of the MRFF is to be maintained in the long term.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

A patent box tax concession for Australia

Research Australia welcomed the Government’s announcement in the May 2021 Budget that it would introduce a patent box tax concession for the medical and biotechnology sector. As part of the further development of this proposal, the Australian Treasury has issued a consultation paper, outlining the key features. Research Australia’s response addresses several major concerns with the proposal including the focus on incentivising licensing but not manufacturing, and limiting eligibility to patents granted in Australia.

We are working with our membership and other key stakeholders across the sector, and look forward to engaging further with Treasury as the development of the patent box continues.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Research Australia responds to National Data Strategy Consultation

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for developing a National Data Strategy to guide all of the Government’s initiatives in relation to data. Research Australia was invited to comment on a high level outline of the principles and topics for the strategy, as the first stage of the Strategy’s development.

Our response has emphasised the importance of building social licence for the greater use of data. We have also highlighted the need to increase the capacity of the APS and Government agencies to share data securely and safely, which is is not currently addressed as part of the strategy. The submission also draws attention to the need to work with State and Territory Governments to increase the sharing and linkage of datasets across the jurisdictions.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

A new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act for Victoria

Research Australia has responded to the Victorian Government’s proposal for a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act. We have proposed that it adopt the following as principles for service design and delivery:

    • New treatments and services are evaluated for their relative clinical and cost effectiveness and user acceptability, and where found to be more efficacious than existing treatments, are made available rapidly to all people who could benefit;
    • Existing treatments and services are evaluated for their relative clinical and cost effectiveness and user acceptability, and discontinued swiftly (and replaced) where they are proven to be less efficacious than alternative treatments;
    • Promoting the importance of research to achieving the best possible mental health and wellbeing;
    • Supporting people with lived experience, their families and carers, and the mental health workforce to co-design and participate in research;

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Championing research in Primary Care

The Primary Health Reform Steering Group has been charged by the Australian Government with assisting the development of a 10 year Plan for Primary Care. Research Australia has used its submission to the Group’s Discussion Paper to make the case for a greater role for research in the new 10 year Plan.

Research Australia welcomes the Plan’s recognition of the key role research can and must play if reforms are to be achieved. Research Australia has argued for research to be integrated onto the system and to be informed by primary care practitioners (including nurses and midwives, allied health and general practitioners) and patients and carers.

As the national peak body for health and medical research, Research Australia has included case studies from its members of relevant primary care research that demonstrates the expertise available in Australia to support implementation of the Steering Group’s Plan.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Supporting further research in mitochondrial donation

Research Australia’s submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve’s Law) Bill 2021 has endorsed the cautious and rigorous approach the legislation takes to permitting research into the development of mitochondrial donation techniques. The approach of initially allowing mitochondrial donation as part of a clinical trial is an appropriate recognition of the stage of development of this technology. It ensures that mitochondrial donation will only occur with the informed consent of participants and in a highly regulated environment.

Read Research Australia’s submission.

The Senate Committee tabled its report in the Senate on 18 August. Read the report.

A Preventive Health Strategy for Australia enabled by research

Following a Discussion Paper released in 2020, the Australian Government released a draft National Preventive Health Strategy for consultation in early 2021.

Research Australia’s response to the consultation emphasises:

    • the critical role of research in supporting the evaluation of existing programs and measures and the development and implementation of new programs;
    • the importance of the proposal to increase funding for preventive health measures to 5% of health expenditure by 2030; and
    • while providing information is an important tool to empower and support people, supporting people to make the best possible decisions also require practical strategies and programs that can support and incentivise behaviour change, and policies that make it easier for people to make healthy choices.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Our response to the earlier 2020 Discussion paper is available here.

University Research Commercialisation

The Australian Government is undertaking a scoping study to understand how to best implement a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. It has appointed an Expert Panel and issued a Discussion Paper.

Research Australia’s response to the Discussion Paper addresses the role of ‘Missions’, the use of stage-gating and the role of co-funding by Governments, universities and industry. It highlights the critical need to better align existing funding programs and fill the gaps to provide a more seamless approach to research funding from basic research through to commercialisation.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Critical Technologies Consultation

The Australian Government’s Critical Technologies Policy Coordination Office is identifying critical current and emerging technologies with the capacity to significantly enhance or pose risk to Australia’s national interest, including our economic prosperity, social cohesion and national security. One of the key areas identified is health.

Research Australia’s submission to the consultation on health related technologies has emphasised the opportunity to address supply chain issues in the development and manufacturing of new technologies in Australia.  Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Better Use of Commonwealth Data

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill is intended to improve researcher access to datasets held by Commonwealth Government Departments and Agencies.  Its introduction to Parliament follows a three year consultative development process triggered by recommendations for legislative reform contained in the Productivity Commission’s report on the Availability and Use of Commonwealth Government Data. The Bill is the subject of an Inquiry by a Senate Committee.

Research Australia has been closely engaged with the development of the Bill and is supportive of its passage through Parliament. Our submission includes case studies of the public benefits that can be achieved from the use of health data, and the current barriers to access and use of data.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.