Bill's Transcripts

ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTES PRESIDENT’S BREAKFAST

ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTES PRESIDENT’S BREAKFAST


CANBERRA


THURSDAY, 12 NOVEMBER 2015

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and I pay my respects to elders both past and present.

Australia has a great history of research.

An honour-roll of achievements and discoveries familiar to all of you.

I’m interested in how we have a great research future.

Where the quality of Australian medical research, from inquiry to translation is second to none.

The race for the jobs and economy of the future is a knowledge race, a science race, a research race.

A race where nothing less than the health of our planet and our people at stake.

And if Australia chooses not to participate, if we stay stranded on the blocks or locked behind the barriers, then not only do we risk missing out on brilliant discoveries and technologies that directly and immediately benefit us.

But we also limit our capacity to properly access and translate research that is done overseas.

Because only with a strong science and research base can we build on ideas and breakthroughs from overseas and adapt them for our own purposes.

This is why, in my Budget Reply speech this year, I set a great national goal for Australia.

Aspiring together: government, universities, research centres and industry, to dedicate 3 per cent of our national GDP to research and development by 2030.

It is why Labor has put forward positive plans for an education system that encourages and values discovery and knowledge at every age and stage: from coding and computational thinking in our primary schools, to science and technology at university and TAFE.

Every facet of our national life – from politics and commerce to industry and engineering – will benefit from greater engagement with science.

And I want Australia to have a bigger, broader conversation about the future of science and research in this country.

A conversation built on respect for evidence, recognising and encouraging collaboration and co-operation.

Because as you all know, modern scientific breakthroughs are rarely the product of a lone genius, toiling in isolation.

Each discovery depends on a chain of contributions, from a host of disciplines.

And every person involved in a project draws on their education – their school, undergraduate and postgraduate study…shaped by inspirational teachers, professors, mentors and peers.

And medical research in the 21st century also relies on chemistry and physics and mathematics.

Even whole new fields like bio-informatics.

Using sophisticated analysis to make sense of the vast amounts of data generated by new technologies.

For example, one of the most significant medical breakthroughs of 2013 was made by a statistician – Professor Terry Speed, who many of you know well.

His discovery is helping biologists identify genes that are responsible for different diseases and cancers.

So while – as your powerful campaign ‘What’s the Fuss’ has recognised - it is always important to provide funding certainty for medical research.

It is equally crucial for us to look at new and better ways to encourage general, foundational research and cross-disciplinary research.

And to ask how we make research a core facet of our health system, drawing on new technology, new thinking and new methods to keep Australians healthy and deliver better care for patients.

I’m sure all of you could point to examples of the disconnect, sometimes measured in years, between the work of brilliant researchers – and the transfer into clinical practice and policy.

Australia has a fantastic primary care workforce.

Our GPs, our nurses and allied health professionals work hard every day to keep people well in our communities.

Organisations such as the National Heart Foundation, The Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia, and many more lead preventative health initiatives to keep Australians active, improving nutrition and reduce the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

But the challenge involved in preventing disease requires new initiatives, because too many Australians are not as healthy as they should be.

And right now, only two cents in every dollar we spend on health goes toward prevention.

We will need our health system to adapt, so we can:

  • Ensure Australians growing older enjoy quality of life

  • Reduce the rate of chronic and complex disease

  • And address the new health problems brought on by a changing climate


We will need our research community to help us develop and assess the future models of care to address these challenges.

Because we won’t find the answers by looking at healthcare purely as a target for cuts disguised as efficiencies.

Or jettisoning the qualities we treasure about our system:

  • Universal healthcare

  • Affordable medicines and access

  • A highly trained workforce


The solution won’t come from government or politics alone.

There’s been too much short-termism, for too long.

Too much boom-bust and uncertainty.

I want us to take a generational approach, a trajectory we can all sign up to and support.

A consensus built upon the voices of all involved: researchers, institutions, universities, policy experts, clinicians and patients. And the new Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences could have an important role here.

We need a plan shaped by the best minds, the best ideas – to set Australia up for the best possible future.

I look forward to working with all of you, to make it happen.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053