Scientists and researchers to protest if $20bn fund is abandoned


Scientists and researchers may stage protests if the Government’s proposed $20 billion medical research fund is not delivered due to disputes over the budget, said Simon Mckeon, the Chair of a review into Australia’s health and medical research.

Image credit: flickr User: Kristy Wegner
Image credit: flickr User: Kristy Wegner

He said the medical and research community has embraced the fund and that a “funding peace package” needed to be reached to prevent dissatisfied “lab coats” from taking the matter to the streets.

“To anyone who simply says no funding of it is more important than the fund itself, anyone who simply says if we can’t get our way with this there ought to be no fund, I suspect we may then see lab coats [protesting] in the streets. Because it’s simply gone down so well at this point,” he said.

According to the article on The Guardian, the $20 billion fund was announced in the Abbott Government’s first budget, to be funded by $5 of the proposed $7 GP co-payment, with the remaining $2 going to the doctor.

The Senate opposition is threatening to block the co-payment measure, but Mr Mckeon said he was hopeful that politicians would find common ground and sort out their differences.

“It would be a tragedy if the fund did not happen simply because the funding mechanism was not agreed to in parliament, and what I hope is that everyone who has a role in manufacturing how this fund is actually funded considers that very, very carefully,” he said.

“The government is saying, quite correctly, if we don’t do anything to our health system, it is unsustainable. They’re absolutely right. The real question is whether this co-payment is the most sensible way . . . It’s their right to propose it. My own view, for what it’s worth, is the medical research future fund is going to get up. I don’t know quite what the next few weeks or months hold, in relation to the funding solution. There will be, I suspect, some give and take.”

It is yet unclear how the fund will be structured and what type of research it will cover, with the treasurer, Joe Hockey, citing Alzheimer’s and cancer as potential subjects.

“Yes, we need a cure for cancer, as has been emphasised by the treasurer, but frankly the intelligent approach which will generate superior returns for the health of a nation, let alone the health of our economy, necessitates a broader focus,” he said.