5 April 2011. Doctors and scientists say the Gillard government is trying to soften them up to accept budget cuts to medical research that will slash jobs and set back the search for cancer treatments.
The Australian Medical Association yesterday appealed to Labor to rethink the rumoured cuts that could be as high as $400 million over four years as it strives to return the budget to surplus by 2013.
Doctors relied on research to ensure patients got the best evidence-based therapies and treatments, AMA president Andrew Pesce said. "The government needs to increase the funding commitment to health and medical research to improve the evidence base, not only for cutting-edge hospital procedures but also for preventative medicine and chronic disease management," he said.
Research Australia chief executive Rebecca James said the annual budget of the National Health and Medical Research Council was $800m a year and cuts in the order of $400m, even over several years, seemed "totally unreasonable".
There had been "no effort or attempt" by the government to downplay rumours sweeping the research community of significant cuts to the medical budget.
Ms James said: "The talk is more about what level of cut we can expect."
The NHMRC employs about 15,000 scientists and many of their research grants were jointly funded by the federal government, philanthropists and industry, she said.
Budget cuts would result in job losses, fewer research grants and much smaller grants, she added.
Research Australia has launched an iPetition so scientists, researchers and supporters can ask the government to at least maintain existing funding for various forms of life-saving medical research.
Dr Pesce said instead of cutting medical research, the government needed to increase funding by $850m over the next four years if it wanted to maintain Australia's position as a global leader in health and medical research.