Experts Respond: The 2011 Australian federal budget

The Australian government has announced the 2011 federal budget, revealing that several proposed cuts to science and research funding have not be undertaken. Our colleagues at the AusSMC have contacted experts for comment on the financial situation presented by the budget, available below.

Further comments on the 2011 Budget can be found at The Conversation.

UPDATE: Comments on mental health funding also included below

Feel free to use these quotes in your articles. For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact the NZ SMC (

Professor Gary Jennings is Director of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute

“On behalf of all Australians, we welcome the priority given to Health and Medical research funding in tonight’s budget. Australian medical research translates to important health and economic benefits and is an essential component of the current health reform agenda.

Many of our researchers will breathe a sigh of relief tonight, knowing that the life-saving diagnosis and treatments they’re working on will be funded for another year.

Moving forward, it’s important that Australia adapts a much more strategic and less ad hoc approach to health and medical research funding. This will be critical to the long term success of the health reform agenda and will ensure tax payer resources are directed more effectively toward better health outcomes for all Australians.”


Professor Bob Williamson is Secretary for Science Policy at the Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science today welcomed the Government’s decision to protect science research funding in the 2011 Federal Budget but said it was disappointed there will be no increase in the research budget and no ongoing support for scientists to collaborate internationally.

“The Academy is pleased that proposed funding cuts for medical and other research have not occurred, but far more could be done to secure a prosperous and technologically advanced future for Australia. Scientific research is our nation’s guarantee that we can remain productive and economically secure. By protecting its existing investment in research, the Government has shown that it has vision for Australia’s future prosperity. However, Australia has weathered the global financial crisis exceedingly well, and in this climate we had hoped the Government would support its key researchers with an increased commitment to domestic research and international collaboration.”

Although most research funding has been maintained in the Federal Budget, key science agencies have lost ground, including Geoscience Australia, Collaborative Research Networks and Cooperative Research Centres.

“The Academy has called on the Government to increase research funding to at least three per cent of GDP by 2020, in line with OECD best practice.”

The Academy welcomed the Government’s previously announced investment in building scientific collaborations with China and India.

“It is good that we are building these relationships but it is extremely disappointing that valuable programs with other long-term international partners in Japan and Europe are in jeopardy with the imminent demise of the Government’s International Science Linkages program.”

The Academy welcomes the Budget commitment to adult education and remains hopeful that the Government will recognise the importance of building scientific literacy and numeracy by supporting school science and maths education.

“Although not specifically mentioned in the Budget, we hope the Government continues to support the Academy’s two highly effective independently-assessed primary and high school science education programs. The Academy is committed to these important programs and is willing to continue to seek alternative sources of funding for both Primary Connections and Science by Doing.”



Update 11 May 2011

Following the release of the Federal Budget last night, the AusSMC invited mental health professionals to give their perspective – see comments below.

Professor David Copolov is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University

“”The mental health initiatives in the 2011-12 budget are one of the most important financial commitments to Commonwealth support of mental health reform for many, many years.

I’m particularly impressed with the component  that tackles the issue of severe, debilitating and recurrent psychiatric illnesses because this is the tough end of the spectrum. The budget has included measures for care facilitators, personal helpers and has also included support for employment. Very importantly, there is money in the budget to improve the coordination of mental health care between the states and the Commonwealth Government.  That’s very important, because historically, public sector mental health care has been the preserve of the State Governments, and it’s only since the Hawke Government involvement in mental health, introduced by the then Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, that there has been any substantial Commonwealth commitment to this area of health. The two limbs of government haven’t coordinated their strategies very well and much more needs to be done in this regard.

The idea of setting up a National Mental Health Commission is a very good initiative, as is the strategy of developing a 10-year plan. The mental health components of the budget demonstrate long-term thinking and pave the way for an objective assessment of how mental health care is progressing in Australia. It also sets the scene for developing new service innovations, especially because it also includes dedicated and quarantined additional mental health research funding to be allocated via the National Health and Medical Research Council. So I think the mental health initiatives get many ticks, because it shows that the Commonwealth Government is serious about this vital area of health. It was also terrific to hear that there was broad support for new mental health initiatives by both the major parties and also the Greens, and that was very welcome.

My particular support for this is in the initiatives to help people with severe, debilitating and recurrent mental health problems.”


Associate Professor Julian Troller is Chair, Intellectual Disability Mental Health at the University of New South Wales

“I welcome the mental health initiatives in the budget. However, the budget fails to speak to the stark disadvantage faced by people who have both an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

People with intellectual disability have high rates of mental illness but very poor access to mental health services. The complexity of this group means that specialist services are necessary to meet the mental health needs of this population. However, there is very little funding available for such specialist services and no money is available for training and education of health professionals in this needy area. The budget fails to provide for the specific needs of this population.  Australia has ratified the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disability, in which equity of access to health care (Article 25) is enshrined. It’s time funding was made available to make the aspiration goals of the UN Convention a reality for people with Intellectual Disability and mental disorders.”