Research Australia’s response to the Federal Budget

Posted: 31 March 2021

See below for BioMelbourne Network Member Research Australia’s response to the 2022/23 Federal Budget.

The rising cost of living has become a key election issue and this Budget delivers cash payments, extends tax relief and cuts the fuel excise in half for six months. Rising inflation also affects health and medical research, making the cost of undertaking research higher. Disappointingly, the Government has once again failed to address this issue, with increases in funding for the NHMRC and ARC failing to even keep pace with inflation.

The spending in this Budget has been made possible by better than forecast tax revenue, led by high export prices for commodities like iron ore and coal. What the Budget fails to do in any meaningful way is prepare Australia for the post- mining resources economy, where we will need to rely on the production of high-value-added goods and services if we are to maintain our standard of living. Research Australia has been arguing for several years now for a substantial, sustained and long-term investment by the Government in R&D. Once again, this issue has not been addressed.

The innovation focus of this Budget appears to be a continuation of the Government’s research commercialisation agenda, first announced in February. Collaboration between universities and industry will be stimulated by $988.2m of funding over five years, including $505.2m to establish Australia’s economic accelerator grants to help bring projects from concept stage to commercialisation.

There are big spending announcements in areas as diverse as Defence and infrastructure. While not on the same scale, there is some good news for health and medical research, including:

  • A continuation of the important MRFF Frontier Health and Medical Research initiative (designed by Research Australia in partnership with the Department of Health) out to 31-32;
  • $28.1 million for a new government agency, Genomics Australia, to support the implementation of genomics as a standard of care in Australia;
  • Much-needed funding for primary care research with an additional $70m through the MRFF and $1.9m to the University of QLD for an effectiveness-implementation trial to reduce anti-depressant use; and
  • Targeted funding for research of benefit to rural and regional Australia with new University Departments of Rural Health at Edith Cowan University and Curtin University and a new Rural Clinical School at Charles Sturt University.

This year’s Budget also includes the announcement of the Biotechnology in Australia- Strategic Plan for Health and Medicine, which focuses on the health and medical applications of biotechnology. A framework to identify gaps and align future initiatives to support the important biotechnology sector is very welcome news. Research Australia will be watching this initiative closely to understand how it aligns with Vision 2040 the National Strategy for Health and Medical Research announced by Minister Hunt at the Research Australia Awards last year.

Read Research Australia’s full analysis


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