I spoke on these bills yesterday and I reiterate that this legislation is about the government's plan to ensure that we have a future sustainable industry that supports medical research, which is a very important industry for our nation.
This legislation will establish a sustainable long-term fund that will continue to provide support and a platform for the undertaking of medical research over a long time.
As I said yesterday, I do hope that if this legislation is passed by the parliament it is also supported by future parliaments, because I think this policy can be effective only if it is continued on for a number of years and provides ongoing support for businesses, universities and others that invest in medical research. Medical research is an inextricably risky venture. It is an investment that requires a long view, a long relationship and a commitment, and people are going to make those kinds of commitments only if they can be sure that there is a stable, consistent government policy set from Canberra. I do very much hope that it is supported not only by this parliament but also by future parliaments.
In the time I have remaining I will reflect on some ancillary issues related to this legislation. While this legislation will help underpin the funding for medical research in this country, there are other issues that also face our medical innovation sector. I think it is incumbent on future governments and perhaps the advisory boards to be established by this legislation to consider and push for fundamental change to ease the red tape on the introduction of medical products. We have one of the most stringent regimes in the world—and it is right and proper that there is a stringent regime on the introduction of medical products—but it is also a regime that is quite restrictive and less flexible than some of the regimes that exist overseas. For example, in Europe medical products firms can seek to be accredited by a range of certifying bodies that exist in different countries, and therefore they can often get more 'silver service', if you like, from those bodies to make sure that their products do reach the market as soon as possible. In Europe it does not seem to compromise safety standards whatsoever; rather that stimulus of competition seems to ensure that the red tape that is necessary is there, that there is not more than necessary and that it does help facilitate a vibrant medical products industry. In this country we do not have that. We have some mutual recognition arrangements with other countries, but the fundamental accreditation body here in Australia is the only choice and our firms cannot go to other countries or other certifying bodies. I think that is a reform that should be looked at in the future.
The only other thing I wanted to say is that I do credit the government for conducting a review on IP. I do think the legal issues around the proliferation of patents and around potential gaining of intellectual property are serious issues and go beyond the medical products industry itself. Patents and IP law are also, of course, a very important part of the framework which helps support medical research. We very much need to have a patent system as a necessary evil and a temporary monopoly for people who do invent new and better products, but they should be restricted to products that do provide a new and proper benefit.
I do hope the parliament gets behind this bill. It is a future plan for an extremely important industry in this country. It is not just a plan to help promote, protect and support the health of Australians. It is also a plan to help, promote, protect and grow the jobs and prosperity that are delivered by this sector. It is a strength of this country, it is something that should be built on, and this legislation will help do that.