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AUS: Fostering Health And Medical Research

The Government has reviewed the most comprehensive report ever undertaken into health and medical research in Australia, endorsing the overwhelming majority of its 120 recommendations.

The strategic review into health and medical research, prepared by Mr Peter Wills, recommends that the Government foster fundamental and priority driven research, make investment in research a more attractive proposition and encourage greater co-ordination between the research community and industry.

To help ensure that we build a knowledge base for the future the Government has established a high level Ministerial Committee to implement a strategic plan for health and medical research.

The Ministerial Committee to implement a strategic plan will include Dr Wooldridge, Senator Minchin, and Dr Kemp, reflecting the joint interest of the health, industry and education portfolios.

This Committee will be supported by an Implementation Group of experts and government officials chaired by Mr Wills.

Today's announcement builds upon the budget decision to allocate $614 million over the next six years to effectively double the budget of the National Health and Medical Research Council by 2005.

The business tax initiatives following the Ralph Report will also encourage Australia's research effort and improve the returns from our world class reputation in biotechnology research.

I want Australia to become a 'can do' country and our response to this report will help turn ideas and invention into income and jobs right here in Australia for Australians.

We are committed to ensuring that Australia benefits from the biotechnology revolution by promoting the industry and improving our regulatory system so that both the environment and public health and safety are better protected.

We also need to do more to encourage the study of science amongst the young, to persuade some of our brightest to choose science as a career and to bring back some of our best we have lost overseas. We are looking at ways to offer researchers better career opportunities consistent with the enormous benefits this field can bring. Research fellowships offered by partnerships between research institutions, industry and private non-profit organisations could be a way forward.

The Government also has a role in fostering public awareness of the benefits of health and medical research, in partnership with industry and the research community. The Government's Community-Business Partnership will be asked to examine the scope for promoting such partnerships in consultation with Peter Wills' Implementation Committee.

I agree with the Wills Review that research needs to be undertaken as part of a virtuous cycle. Consistent with a social coalition what is needed is a mutually reinforcing partnership between the research community, industry and government.

This virtuous cycle has the capacity to underpin the future of health and medical research in Australia, our future as a knowledge based society as well as the prosperity and jobs growth that can flow from our health and medical research industry.

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