Australia's $20 Billion Medical Research Future Fund Didn't Consult the National Health and Medical Research Council or Chief Scientist

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By Silvana Peters | June 4, 2014 4:06 PM EST

It was announced earlier that the Abbott government will be doing some hefty investment into medical research, amounting to a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (the Fund) to keep Australia at the forefront of medical research.

However, reports have surfaced that the government did not seek the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council on the said fund. Even with the Council being the fund's primary beneficiary, the medical research agency claims it has not given any input to the budget centerpiece.

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that the Council's chief executive, Warwick Anderson, revealed during Tuesday's Senate hearing that their agency has not provided any advice to the government with regard to the Medical Research Future Fund that was announced in the May budget. But he said that on the same day, the Council was in talks with the health department as well as other agencies on the fund's operations.

Prior to this, on Monday, representatives of the Health Department admitted to the Senate that work only began on the Fund as late as April, giving then but a few weeks to finalise its details. Additionally, Health Secretary Jane Halton told the hearing on Monday details of eligible researches have not been determined.

It was also reported that Ian Chubb, the nation's chief scientist, would have liked to provide his own inputs but was not consulted on the fund prior to its announcement.

"I presume that it sought it from the Department of Health, from the National Health and Medical Research Council. I presume that it talked to people within the research sector and perhaps outside the research sector with an interest in the outcomes of medical research. But I didn't talk to them."

Heath Minister Peter Dutton explained that Chubb was not consulted because "It's not a reflection on individuals, but governments have decisions to make."

According to the Government's overview of the future fund, beginning Jan 1, 2015, the fund will be established to grow to $20 billion and is estimated to reach the said target capital level by 2020, and the capital base is set to be preserved in perpetuity. To establish the Fund, approximately $1 billion in uncommitted funds from the existing Health and Hospitals Fund will be transferred into the Fund at its inception.

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