Health Fact Sheet 6 - Leading Australia’s health into the future

This Budget funds a variety of measures to support enhanced technology and more research relevant to disorders such as epilepsy, spinal and nerve damage, and hearing problems.

Page last updated: 10 May 2005

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10 May 2005

Leading Australia’s health into the future

Medical and biological technology is advancing rapidly. New technologies and procedures have the potential to vastly improve health outcomes for many Australians who are not able to get effective or timely help from current medical treatments.

This Budget funds a variety of measures to support enhanced technology and more research relevant to disorders such as epilepsy, spinal and nerve damage, and hearing problems.

On the other hand, some new technology raises ethical issues which must be balanced against possible health benefits. This is the case in areas such as human cloning and research involving embryos, and genetic modifications of plants and organisms, which require strict regulation and monitoring.

Centre for Medical Bionics and Hearing Science

The Australian Government has invested a further $5.0 million in 2004-05 towards the establishment of a new non-government Centre for Medical Bionics and Hearing Science. This supplements the $700,000 already provided to this centre as an election commitment.

The establishment of the new centre will encourage research in the growing field of medical bionics and hearing science to improve treatments and improve the quality of life for patients with a range of medical problems, including paraplegia and quadriplegia.

The centre will conduct research into new methods of nerve repair, therapies for spinal cord injury, next generation cochlear implants and new hearing aids and devices that can recognise and control epileptic seizures.

Advances in treatment and management using these new technologies will mean better quality of life not only for Australians living with these conditions, but for their families, carers and service providers. The government’s contribution will encourage other donations towards the cost of the centre and its exciting research.

Support For Brain And Mind Research Institute

This Budget provides the Brain and Mind Research Institute in Camperdown, Sydney, with $5.0 million in 2004-05 to undertake research to help reduce the personal, social and economic costs associated with mental health and neurological disorders.

The funding will contribute towards providing the Institute with the equipment and technology which it will need.

This measure further demonstrates the Australian Government’s support for health and medical research and builds on the Medical Research Infrastructure - injection of funds initiative announced in the 2004-05 Budget.

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Establishment of a human genetics advisory committee

The Australian Government will provide new funding of $7.6 million over four years from 2005-06 to establish an independent expert advisory body on human genetics as a principal committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Rapid developments in human genetics and related technologies are likely to provide substantial benefits for Australians, particularly for health.

However, there are many complex social, legal, ethical and scientific issues that arise from these technologies. The new advisory body will ensure that these matters receive careful assessment.

The advisory body will consider the impact of new technologies and provide advice on how they might best benefit Australians.

Extension of funding for the regulation of research involving embryos and prohibitions of human cloning

The Australian Government will continue to provide $14.1 million over four years from 2005-06 to support a national framework that prohibits the cloning of humans and regulates research involving excess assisted reproductive technology (ART) embryos.

The framework ensures that human cloning and other unacceptable research practices do not occur in Australia.

Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Energy Program

Ongoing research is needed to find out about the effects of current and emerging technologies which give out electromagnetic radiation to determine if there are, or are likely to be, any effects on human health.

The Australian Government will continue to provide $1.0 million per year for the next four years to extend the funding arrangements for the Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Energy (EME) Program until 30 June 2009.

The continuation of funding will enable the EME Program to continue research, public awareness and education activities about the possible health effects of devices emitting EME including mobile phones.

The program is managed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Continued funding for the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

The Australian Government will continue to invest in protecting the nation’s health and the environment by providing $32.0 million over four years to 2008-09 to fund the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

The Gene Technology Regulator is responsible for assessing applications from some 147 organisations across Australia to use gene technology in research projects through to commercial applications.

Approvals are only granted after a thorough scientific assessment by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to identify the risks of the proposal and whether they can be managed.

Gene technology is a controversial new technology and one that requires a strong and effective regulatory system.

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