JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


Handbooks

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


Advertising

micropace


GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Archives

Books

Abbott takes Jo’s plan: dumps renewables, pumps medical research

Three years ago I made the case for dumping renewables, and doubling medical research — and both occurred in last night’s budget. (Yes, I hear the cry that this is just more big-government funded bad-science, bear with me, I’ll get to that). First let me bask in the glory (wink). 

I’m especially proud of the Op-Ed I wrote in The Weekend Australian in May 2011.  Indeed it’s very much my driving mission — to redirect corrupted and wasteful tax funds towards better uses, and to help four year olds with cancer, and all the other variants of human pain.

It’s big biccies… The Abbott Government is setting up a 20 billion dollar medical research future fund, which is expected to distribute $1 billion to research annually by 2022-23. It’s being claimed it is the largest in the world (I am not entirely convinced, but nonetheless, it’s radically big). We currently spend about $800m a year on medical research, so this would really double it. (Spooky).

But I can feel the barbs of skeptical libertarians already — saying the money should have been used to pay off the debt or returned to the people who earned it — and I’m sympathetic. Public medical research funds get corrupted and wasted as efficiently as any other public kind. Hear me out — even if this could have been better, it’s a magnitude better than what went before, and if there ever was a case for public funded science research it surely starts with medicine.

First, funding inefficient solar panels is dead money — there is no upside, not even the possibility of discovery, no chance that second-hand solar panels will be worth something. But in medical science there is a revolution going on — like the silicon chips of the 1970′s, medical science is on the start of  the exponential curve — glittering, transformative new tools have appeared in the last 15 years. We’re talking of curing blindness and paraplegia, regrowing replacement organs for people waiting on endless lists. There is so much upside that even inefficient, biased, public funded research can produce things we want  — something we can sell for decades to come. Something we know there will be a demand for as long as there are people. Whether this is a good outcome or more wasted spending is partly up to us. What government science needs is real science journalists, commentators and organized public critics. We need to find ways to make Ministers accountable for non-productive, politically correct ARC grants. This is an opportunity, not a guarantee…

 

From: The Australian May 07, 2011

Some snippets:

LOST opportunities are invisible but deadly. 

We’re thinking of axing Australian medical research yet we’re supporting solar panel manufacturers in China. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Solar energy costs us more than five times what coal-powered energy does. So instead of spending $1bn on solar panels, we could have spent $200 million on cheap electricity and used the other $800m to double our medical research budget.

All the money spent employing green police, subsidizing solar or researching how to pump carbon dioxide underground is money not spent on medical research. Opportunity cost is a killer. The path not taken could be lined with happier, longer lives…

When Julia Gillard spends money on climate-related work instead of medical research, she is making a choice about the net benefits and it’s supposedly based on science. It’s true sooner or later medical research will get the answers right, but for someone who is sick with a deadly disease, sooner makes a life-and-death difference.

Jo Nova 2011:

“Which four-year-old in 2018 will die because Gillard introduced a carbon tax instead of increasing medical research funding? Which father will die in 2022 who would have lived if we had doubled our funding for medical research?

What would we rather export ten years from now? Ten-year-old second-hand Chinese solar panels or an Australian made cure for prostate cancer?”

Joe Hockey 2014:

“As a result, it may be an Australian who discovers better treatments and even cures for dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease or cancer.   If we start investing now, this new and historic commitment in medical research may well save your life, or that of your parents, or your child.”

The timing is right and the incentives lean in the right direction (mostly)

Medical research is blossoming at a phenomenal, historic pace

The exponential curve in gene therapy, telomerase research, genomics and glycobiology is barely beginning. Four significant breakthroughs were made in medical research in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000. These were the kinds of breakthroughs people had worked for decades to make, and some were not predicted even a few years beforehand. The human genome project was finished five years ahead of schedule and for a fraction of the expected price.

Right now, a year of medical research really does make a difference. These are the areas where we will be left behind and it will hurt. These are the industries where we need to stay at the head of the pack, not just to save lives but to save the economy as well. Access Economics estimated in 2003 that every dollar invested in the Australian health research and development sector returned at least $5 in national economic development.

When government-funded Australian researchers discover treatments, we own vital intellectual property. We not only export products the world wants, we avoid being beholden to foreign patent holders. Some effective cancer drugs cost $2000 a week. Isn’t that the kind of research we want to own?

If we lead the world in medicine, the world is our oyster. If it turns out clean carbon technology is useful, we can buy it with the spare change from the profits of medical research. We know we need a cure for cancer. We don’t know if the rest of the world will want to pump CO2 underground 10 years from now.

When we lead the world in putting inefficient solar panels on roofs, we only help Chinese manufacturers and we win a race no one wants to win. You can’t export second-hand solar panels or resell old pink batts.

The full article

Shouldn’t medical research be privately funded?

I’m all ears for ideas. Let’s talk. Publicly funded science has plenty of pitfalls and failures. Sinclair Davidson and I agree on almost all of them (see his Catalaxy post). I’m sure there is a better way, but private funding has drawbacks too. Big Pharma profits and patents mean that many natural molecules get ignored — they can’t be patented, and there is no profit.

Even when there are profits, that doesn’t mean it will be funded. When David (Evans — the other half) studied at Stanford and worked in Silicon Valley, he came back to Australia around 1990 hoping to use his talent, only to discover that the Australian chip industry had basically died in the 1980s. It was the heady days of computing, of hardware, networking, software and the birth of the Internet, but there was no private research here, and no real government funding either. Left to private industry, the silicon chip sector in Australia is what it is today. So be it — apparently the world only needs a few centers for such development, but none of them are now here.

So what is different about  privately funded medical research? Should the government do more to encourage it? Yes absolutely. The Australian Government undertakes to keep all its citizens healthy, through medicare and disability payments, and has a financial interest in the health of its citizens. It does not undertake to keep its citizens in silicon chips, and has no financial interest in the chip industry. We can debate whether the Australian Government should be providing health care, but given that it is, isn’t it so much better to  to own the rights for patents and so on? We know we’ll shelling out billions for pharmaceuticals and medical devices ad infinitum — if our researchers discover the products we need, it could stop the budget going pear shaped.

It’s nice if we can establish a bigger manufacturing base here too. Think Cochlear and multiply.

Based in Sydney, Cochlear was formed in 1981 with finance from the Australian government to commercialise the implants pioneered by Dr Graeme Clark.[3][4] Today, the company holds over two-thirds of the worldwide hearing implant market,[5][6] with more than 250,000 people receiving one of Cochlear’s implants since 1982.[2]

Medical funding — good; Governments managing “Funds” — not-so-much

I like the medical funding, but not necessarily the vehicle. If I was PM would I choose to use the funds to pay off debt or reduce tax instead of setting up the fund? Quite possibly. Would I still want to find funds to put towards public medical research (even as flawed and biased as it is?)  Yes. But I’d also want a competing private sector too, and a paid sector of critics as well — one’s who serve the public and not the government (like the ABC and BBC science units do). Should we set up a “Fund” where governments manage and invest (is that how it works?) $20 billion in perpetuity? No. Governments should not be holding money or investing money — leave that to the markets.

(Speaking of government-investors, our local council had our rates money “invested” in Triple A bonds (what could possibly go wrong? ) and it’s all ended in tears and litigation. The sharpest financial sharks won the bond wars and they don’t seem to be the same guys running for the shire council. Memo to the council: Please lower our rates instead of investing, next time, eh?)

All in all, the Medical Research Fund — combined with a cut in renewables research is a net Good Thing in my opinion. Would it be better still to find a way to give the taxes back to the people and get the people to voluntarily fund the medical research they want? Sure. Send in your suggestions. It’s an open can of worms.

(For those who don’t know — I did my honours in Y-Chromosome markers for Muscular Dystrophy research, and I used to speak professionally about the coming medical revolution and how it will affect our lifespans, not to mention — complicate our retirement plans, and destroy our annuity tables.) I have a dream…

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.3/10 (69 votes cast)
Abbott takes Jo's plan: dumps renewables, pumps medical research, 9.3 out of 10 based on 69 ratings

Tiny Url for this post: http://tinyurl.com/kk7t5op

91 comments to Abbott takes Jo’s plan: dumps renewables, pumps medical research

  • #
    turnedoutnice

    Good on yer, Jo.

    This battle against the carbon fascists is Worldwide. In the UK, we have a bunch of ignorant politicians who would rather destroy our medical research base so their mates can get a profit, and squander state income on windmills because in that way, other mates will get a profit.

    It’ll soon be knitting and tumbrils.

    180

    • #
      Rick Bradford

      Actually, I think it has a great deal to do with politicians wanting to be seen as Wise, and Noble, and Caring, instead of the grasping scumbags which people routinely regard them as.

      They get to play the part of the Fearless Hero in this moment of global crisis, though how sitting in comfortable meeting rooms all over the world along with their cronies, counts as heroism isn’t immediately apparent.

      70

  • #
    Yonniestone

    Hear hear! let’s get our priorities right and invest in our greatest asset OUR PEOPLE!
    A politician can lie, scam, backpedal, and act sincere all they want but without a functioning population their existence is moot.

    130

  • #
    MadJak

    Wow,

    REAL RESEARCH with REAL OUTCOMES by REAL SCIENTISTS with NO IDEOLOGY.

    A.W.E.S.O.M.E!

    170

    • #
      the Griss

      And this is where CSIRO has gone radically wrong.

      Its whole ethos now seems to be linked firmly to ideology.

      150

    • #
      bananabender

      The medical research community actually thinks the plan is totally bonkers according to the Weekend Australian 18/19 May. They want more basic science funding not applied research.

      Most medical breakthroughs such as X-rays, antiseptics, and anaesthetics were adopted by medicine years after been discovered elsewhere.

      00

  • #
    Bert Roberts

    Jo

    You have, with beautiful precision, summed up the situation. Congratulations.

    Bert Roberts

    120

  • #
    Catamon

    Lol, i love the inherent stupidity of much of the commentary on this budget.

    This is a Liberal Govt.

    About the time the “fund” is paying out research grants, they will cut the funds currently budgeted to medical research. Net result, no increase in funding.

    Face it people, educated and healthy populations are anathema to Tories. But they luuuurve the excitable Grumpy True Dis-believers. :)

    227

    • #
      Winston

      I think the only one demonstrating “inherent stupidity” is you Cat. Fortunately, I understand that the medical research fund will make finding a cure for your affliction one of its highest priorities.

      So, don’t give up hope, chum. Just hang in there.

      Realistically though, medical sciences are on the threshold of a potential golden era, with the main priorities likely to be most profitable and influential upon avoiding the worsening costs of the impending demographic bubble in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and various other neurodegenerative diseases. Investment in these areas is likely to save far more by orders of magnitude than the investment if properly targeted to these sorts of research areas which have not successfully yielded to private R&D. Similarly autism, autoimmune diseases, spinal and brain injury, etc are likely to reduce greatly the unsustainable burden of these conditions on an aging population with a dwindling taxpayer base.

      Jo is spot on, the opportunity costs of pointless renewable boondoggles that don’t even address CAGW even if it were a problem (which it isn’t) are vast. The irony is that if left alone, true alternatives to fossil fuels will occur anyway, and possibly sooner, without the diversion of trillions of taxpayer dollars of deliberate malinvestment in outmoded technology that are not fit for purpose.That you supported this bilking of the populace under false pretenses makes you an accessory to theft and a prime obstacle to the very clear path to a healthier and more self-sufficient society.

      171

    • #
      the Griss

      yes,fur-brained one..

      We know you would much rather it be spent on pink batts and other useful stuff !!

      idiot !!

      121

    • #
      WhaleHunt Fun

      Net result … who cares if medical funding goes up, down or sideways. The important feature of the budget is that renewables funding goes down. They can buy salt with the money and dump it at sea for all I care. Just so long as the vile parasite greens are watching their hopes and dreams fouled, destroyed and buried, it is all upside. The chance that their descendents will live in a ruined world ekeing out a miserable existence boiling rats and grass for food because of my profligacy is faint, but still a very attractive possible future.

      191

      • #
        Catamon

        Ah, so you’d be a very focused, one issue subtype GTD then? :)

        There are some interesting complexities within the various Coalition voting demographics. Some deplorable consistencies also. Yet always entertaining to see the spin and jabber.

        015

        • #
          bullocky

          Mercifully, Catamon, you resisted the ‘Multiple lines of evidence’ epithet.

          10

        • #
          PhilJourdan

          Some deplorable consistencies also. Yet always entertaining to see the spin and jabber.

          That is why I tolerate reading your missives.

          10

    • #
      bullocky

      -
      “….But they luuuurve the excitable Grumpy True Dis-believers.”
      -
      Now who could this mysterious group of people be, who have got Catamon so excitable and grumpy? !!!

      80

    • #
      James Bradley

      Catamon,

      “Face it people, educated and healthy populations are anathema to Tories. But they luuuurve the excitable Grumpy True Dis-believers.”

      There is no healthier and better educated culture than the socialist welfare culture protesting for an increase to their entitlements on the way back from the dole office as they stop to pick up their state supplied syringes on the way to the state subsidised heroin injecting rooms.

      110

  • #
    Rogueelement451

    As my aussie mates would say ,” ’bout time medicine got a fair suck of the sav mate!”
    Well done Jo ,any diversion of funding from ludicrous greenie projects is to be welcomed and if Medicine is the main beneficiary all the better .
    Rage against the Machine!

    90

  • #
    King Geo

    Well done Tony – taking the axe to Renewables in the budget and no doubt there is more to come – there are only 2 viable sources of base load energy generation – fossil fuels & nuclear. The EU have failed to grasp this very basic concept with few exceptions e.g. France (dominantly nuclear). And boy are most of the EU member nations paying big time with their idealistic fast tracking to hopelessly uneconomic Renewables (Wind & Solar). Is it any wonder the EU is now so dysfunctional – and it will only get worse. Cost effective electricity generation is the key to economic success – clearly many of the eco / greenie obsessed EU member nations just don’t get it – their idealistic views regarding energy generation are wreaking total devastation of their already shrinking economies e.g. the 5 PIIGS and more to follow no doubt.

    120

  • #
    George McFly......I'm your density

    Good call in 2011 Jo. The best thing last night was when Christine Milne pointed out that “climate change” and “renewable energy” were not even mentioned in the budget speech.

    Thank God!

    140

    • #
      Lawrie Ayres

      I stifled the urge to gag and watched Question Time today. I don’t recall Shorten’s spiteful mob using climate and deceit in the same question either. I did hear Abbott refer to abolishing the Carbon Tax on numerous occasions though.

      When asked how he might get his legislation through a hostile senate and if he might use a double dissolution his answer was heartening. With the changes to senate voting, which is supported by Labor, it would be unlikely if any of the minor party (PUP and DLP) would win a seat in a general election. So if they forced him to a DD election they would be sacrificing their seats in all probability. He may have a point.

      150

      • #
        the Griss

        Yep, being in parliament through a small minority vote and then forcing a DD one month doesn’t seem very sensible does it.

        But hey.. its Clive Palmer’s mod. Who knows what they might want to try !!!!!

        oh.. and how would he fund his candidates in a DD election?

        The Chinese want most of what he took the first time, handed back. :-)

        50

  • #
    JJ

    Disagree with this piece.

    Why? This whole medical scam will be pimped just like the green scam under Labor. Surely, knowing all the crackpot schemes by govts, you can’t possibly believe this won’t be wasted.

    Giving an example like Cochlear is disingenuous because purely from randomness if enough money is thrown, some will stick. The probability of success does not. What about all those companies that went nowhere. I never intended the govt to be a VC on my behalf. We can do it ourselves.

    It’s far better to provide:
    * Tax incentives like aggressive depreciation and greater than 100% allowances. E.g. 300% deduction.
    * No income tax payable until business makes $Xm.
    * Remuneration using equity vs cash.
    * Simplification of selling debt and equity. No 300 page prospectuses.
    * Simplication of red-tape e.g. reams of monthly, quarterly, annual reporting when you’re not making money. Defer ALL of this until profits are made.
    * Limitation of our onerous industrial relations, i.e. hire/fire at will, pay below minimum wage, pay only equity, etc.

    Please give us back our money.

    81

    • #

      JJ,

      So we mostly agree — I pointed out that government funds are inevitably prone to being wasted and biased, that we needed private investment to compete with it, and real critics to minimize the wastage.

      Obviously it will not be 100% “wasteage” — so some useful discoveries will come. The useful question then, is what is the waste level, how much money is worth spending, and how well can we minimize the waste and which particular types of medical research the private sector would do better.

      For example – I explained that because of patent law, private research simply doesn’t make sense on many natural compounds – especially on common ones. Would we rather take chemically altered analogues of human hormones because they can be patented and sold for profit, or would we rather pay for research on natural hormones – but put up with extra costs for inefficiency and waste? [And obviously, being "natural" or "artificial" does not tell us which is better, but there's a bias in private funding against molecules that are hard to patent.] I want both types of research.

      If we can’t discuss Cochlear – a govt funded success to begin with, then mentioning government failures is no different. Public funded research is neither a 100% success nor a 100% failure. What we need are cost-benefit analysis and return on investment type data. And I did provide one quote – I’m sure there are other estimates which might be quite different:

      Access Economics estimated in 2003 that every dollar invested in the Australian health research and development sector returned at least $5 in national economic development.

      So lets discuss the voluntary funding options — tax concessions can help, but they get rorted too.

      And medicine is this Oh-so-strange-world. It is not remotely a free market. You don’t have permission to choose what medicine you take in yourself. It must be TGA and GP approved.

      Try this idea on — just to see how medicine is not easy to mould into a purely competitive world. What if people willing to pay for medical research were to buy in “shares” to get access to the results and the products (like buying market research, or investment advice)? Pretty soon half the population would view it as a form of insurance — they would contribute voluntarily so they didn’t miss out. That’s a free market solution. The shareholders could vote for the areas and the research that was most appealing and convincing, or they could sell up and buy a different research group. The incentives work — but it’s a cultural minefield. Who wants to live in a society where half the population can’t get access to new discoveries?

      We need the best of both worlds — the best private competition, and the best of government funding. Then we need the two sectors to compete… and we need science commentators shine a light on the waste in both sectors.

      50

      • #
        Joe

        “Some effective cancer drugs cost $2000 a week. Isn’t that the kind of research we want to own?”

        I can’t see why we would be rubbing our hands together with the prospect of Government funded medicine discovering and owning $2000-a-pop cures. Why too, would Government funded researchers be so altruistic as to pass up the patentable solutions (the $2000 ones) and pursue the non-patentable ones?

        While we might lament the demise of the Gov funded ‘silicon’ work in Australia, I think it is worth pointing out that much of the silicon development here was related to solar panels. There is still a huge amount of overlap in those areas as we explore non-silicon, organic materials and ever smaller material structures.

        Despite your sincere efforts, I really can’t see how medical science is vastly different from any other science and so deserving of Gov funding and is not prone to scamming and rorting. Australia was ‘stocking up’ on flu vaccines at a huge cost and it would seem that every year there was a new strain and new need to stock up and spend.

        If we do develop some new drug ourselves, are we somehow going to provide that cheaply to ourselves while making huge profits on exports of it? That’s a bit like expecting gas prices for our own gas to be cheap here.

        Do you think we are developing an unhealthy fear of dying? Or is it a natural Darwinian path we are following? Are our cures truly for the greater benefit of mankind or are they becoming very selective about who lives and who dies?

        00

        • #

          Why too, would Government funded researchers be so altruistic as to pass up the patentable solutions (the $2000 ones) and pursue the non-patentable ones?

          Because there are different incentives. They are not answering to shareholders. And the Government can offer grants to study something non-patentable.

          I really can’t see how medical science is vastly different from any other science and so deserving of Gov funding and is not prone to scamming and rorting.

          I repeat, I did say it would be scammed and rorted. I also talked about how we can minimize that.

          Health is vastly different from other areas of science because:
          1/ the government has to provide healthcare (but not silicon chips) to all its citizens.
          2/ Health is health. In the end is there anything more important apart from stopping an invader from a massacre (which is itself a subset of a “health” issue).
          3/ There are very real reasons why the free market profit driven private sector will not do basic research or investigate uncommon ailments (see Jaymez’s comment below) or look at non-patentable molecules.
          4/ Timing! There really is a medical revolution going on right now. Someone, somewhere is going to use those new tools to offer (eventually) 7 billion people the chance to have a better life — to spend more time with loved ones — to keep their vision, their independence, their mind. Do I need to explain why I’d like my sovereign nation to own the royalties on those products? Seriously – we can live in a nation that buys its health from other places, or we can have the freedom, control and wealth from being at the leading edge by putting in some money and effort now.

          If you knew how powerful these new tools were it would be easier to see the risk reward curve is shifting rapidly. This is like the development of the printing press in medicine. Current medical treatments will look barbaric, generalized, and rather random at some point this Century. I’d like that moment to come sooner…

          30

          • #
            Joe

            Jo, I hear what you are saying and I know you are not saying it is a shoo-in, but I can’t seem to share your optimism of how this all pans out in the long term. I know there are plenty of good things being worked on right now.

            A Government does effectively have to answer to shareholders – the taxpayers. More and more these days we are quoting figures like the Access Economics ones you quote about how much economic return we get for our Gov spends. Elections are won and lost on these figures.

            That is an interesting point of view to put death-by-warfare as a ‘subset of a health issue’. So perhaps this new fund will be funding biological warfare as well. Maybe we should be rolling the defence against enemies department into the defence against germs department and making some savings there too. It is all about saving lives – well at least our own.

            I have my doubts that this medical revolution you speak of will improve the lives of 7bn people on this planet. In fact, I could have sworn I heard Kumbaya being strummed and hummed as I read. I admire your optimism of world peace but at any one time we, like many other nations, have sanctions on some of this population or are actively at war with them. Maybe roll the overseas aid budget into this medical fund too? I can’t see how artificially growing this world population is a sustainable strategy. Aren’t we fighting against natural selection too hard and upsetting the balance? Or is this all part of the natural selection strategy that a large brained species might adopt?

            Don’t you think that the taxpayers are at some point going to be considering these issues of what they are ‘investing’ their taxes in and may have some reservations about what it is they are funding?

            00

      • #
        JJ

        For example – I explained that because of patent law, private research simply doesn’t make sense on many natural compounds – especially on common ones. Would we rather take chemically altered analogues of human hormones because they can be patented and sold for profit, or would we rather pay for research on natural hormones – but put up with extra costs for inefficiency and waste? [And obviously, being "natural" or "artificial" does not tell us which is better, but there's a bias in private funding against molecules that are hard to patent.] I want both types of research.

        — JN]

        Unfortunately I don’t agree with you on this (but I almost always agree on everything :) )

        Let’s start from first principles…

        1) In true free markets there would be no IP laws to prevent duplication of drugs because only real property can be protected. Property that is scarce. What makes something scarce is your ability to ‘homestead’ E.g. If own this land, then you don’t. Property rights existed even before property rights in a legal sense, was created. E.g. If I have placed a fence around a block of land, then I owned it —I homesteaded it.

        IP is not scarce. I can reproduce your chemical formula and it will not diminish your formula. In fact my knowing the formula itself does not diminish — this is clearly not possible with real property. We both can’t own real property (wholly that is).

        IP law is merely a legal construct to give ‘property’ rights to objects that did not have these sort of rights before. In a way intellectual property is a great name… it passes property rights to things that historically didn’t have these rights.

        2) Also ‘real’ property rights are forever. Your apartment is forever yours. IP law only gives it to you for a short period — why? Why not forever. The main reason is that IP rights are being created and granted rather are preexisting in the case of real property.

        3) IP law, especially patents give monopoly rights to the ‘first’ inventor even if another inventor without knowledge of the first inventor came up with same thing. Clearly this is violation of second inventor’s right to create or use what he created.

        4) Only a govt can give rights to IP through law! It’s govt fiat just like quantitative easing. Also IP rights give you a monopoly on the idea’s usage — you don’t actually get a right to the idea as such! This in fact is a power to stop other people from exercising their own property rights. If you were granted a patent and I came up with the same idea, then I can’y use my idea. Morally, this goes against the basic freedom of people — using aggression against people. Putting it another way, IP laws give a license to legally attack others.

        5) What about Innovation? Isn’t research going to grind to halt and no one will innovate…

        Innovation and progress happens in spite of patent law rather than because of it.

        Human beings are driven to create and will do so without the state…

        Now, let’s debunk the Pharmaceutical Patent myth. Big Pharma has arguably the strongest lobby group of all and has most of the world convinced that without patent protection there would be no new drugs. This could not be further from the truth.

        Here is an excerpt from ‘Against Intellectual Monopoly’ (GREAT BOOK)! The important thing to note is how the historical development of patent law diminished innovation as patent law spread from country to country – this historical anomaly created a unique situation where the effect of patent law could be seen as patent law spread its malaise. Patent is fairly homogenous across the world now…

        From the book… “Prior to the rise of the pharmaceutical industry, the most important form of chemical production was the paint and coloring industry. At its inception, the dye industry was a French-British business the same way that almost any industry was a French- British business until the second half of the nineteenth century. In both countries patent protection applied to all kinds of industrial products. In 1862 British firms controlled about 50% of the world market, and French firms another 40%, Swiss and German companies being marginal players. By 1873 German companies had 50% of the market, while French, Swiss and British firms controlled between 13% and 17% each. In 1913 German firms had a market share of more than 80%, the Swiss had about 8%, and firms in the rest of the world had largely disappeared. During this entire period there was no patent protection at all in Switzerland, while in Germany processes become patentable in 1877 but products did not. In France, the U.K. and the U.S. both products and processes had been patentable all along. Indeed, the strong patent protection for this industry in France and its absence in Switzerland was largely responsible for the development of the important Swiss chemical, and then pharmaceutical, industry after 1864.

        In that year, a judicial sentence favoring the French company “La Fuchsine”, in a fight over the scope of patents it held on the colorant by the same name, established its almost complete grip on the French dye industry. This put the many French companies constituting the paint and coloring industry on notice, resulting in a large movement of firms to Switzerland, where patents were instead illegal. From 1864 onward and for about two decades, “La Fuchsine” (“Poirrer”, after the 1868 acquisition) dominated the French market, thanks to its patents. During the same period it innovated little, if at all, while its Swiss and German competitors, unprotected by patents, did. “La Fuchsine” was therefore completely unable to compete outside of France and, once its patents expired, it disappeared into oblivion, together with its analogous patent-holders in Britain (among which, “Perkin” was the most well known). In case this reminds you of how the Hollywood movie industry was created by migrating entrepreneurs running away from Edison’s patents, you are beginning to see a pattern. The migrating French firms located in and around Basel and were rapidly followed by other chemical companies. The movement was so dramatic that just before the First World War, Haber observes that in France there was no production of chemical products, either organic or inorganic.14

        Haber explicitly attributes the absence of a French chemical industry to the presence of patents stifling competition and making innovation impossible. He points out that, in a similar way, the slow growth of the coloring industry in the U.S. before the First World War was largely due to patent protection: most patents were held by large German companies such as Bayer, BASF, Hoechst and IG Farben. The chemical industry in the US was so underdeveloped, that during the First World War the U.S. was forced to import dyes from Germany via submarines to bypass the British blockade.

        This would be humorous, if it were not sad: German chemical companies competed heavily at home and across most European markets, where chemical products could not be patented. This situation forced them to innovate frequently and to develop production processes able to guarantee a very high productivity. Such intense competition already gave them a “competitive edge” relative to the Anglo-Saxon companies living in a world of generalized patenting. To this initial advantage was added the opportunity to patent products in the U.K. and the U.S., allowing the German chemical companies to erect insurmountable barriers to entry in the chemical market. Do not get us wrong here; we are not claiming the German companies did not use patents in building up their worldwide dominance. They did, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the chemical industry worldwide was an assemblage of more or less loosely held together cartels until the late 1930s, cartels in which the German big chemical companies played a major leading and coordinating role. Still, the fact that they wiped out their French and Anglo-Saxon counterparts in the worldwide market, and that they did so in spite of having a lot less patent protection, speaks volumes in regard to the specific issue concerning us in this chapter.15

        Thus, before the First World War, medicines and other chemical products were scarce and expensive in England. This led, in 1919, to the modification of the English Patents Act of 1907 with the addition of section 38A which introduced mandatory licenses for medicines. Again, the report of the Sargent Committee of 1937 pointed out the shortage of medicines and its relation to strong patents in England. In the Patents Act of 1949, section 41, No. 2, a new special procedure was introduced to favor mandatory licensing of food and drug products. The British government spent about forty years reworking its patent laws, without ever abolishing them, in the vain hope of lowering the prices of medicines and creating incentives for its pharmaceutical industry to catch up with the Germans. It did not succeed, as we all know: the German companies kept innovating, even if their new products were not protected by patents at home, and the British pharmaceutical industry never came close to being competitive. Aspirin, that wonder drug, was a German invention, not a British one and, while it was patented in the U.S., Britain, and France, it could not be patented in Germany. Bayer was forced to relinquish its patent on aspirin in the rest of the world by the Treaty of Versailles. ”

        Maybe a far better policy would be to water down patent law (fat chance!).

        20

        • #
          Geoff Sherrington

          JJ,
          Thank you for the essay.
          Background: About 1990 I (corporately) staged a private get-together on Property Rights and flew in some overseas luminaries like Richard Epstein from Chicago. (Where were you when you were needed, JJ?). One main outcome, as expected, was that the topic is incredibly rich, diverse and poorly undersood by many, me in particular. Yet it leads to thought paths that are very useful in problem solving and policy setting.

          This leads me to comment on Jo’s piece, particularly with her further words blogged at length above. While one can agree that medical science is on the verge of a golden age, or in to it, the best way to gain from it is not yet well; established. The main concern I have is private versus public funding, together with the ever-present incentives and disincentives that the Feds manage to insert with boring predictability. I do wish hey would realise that regulation has been damaging lead in the saddle more times than it has been a benefit.

          It should not be an inevitable conclusion that private research will avoid some desirable paths. We will never know unless it is tried. One can hope for a removal of disincentives like taxation provisions. There should be no shortage of private interest if the playing field is genuinely level.

          Government sponshorship of research here is not a happy story. There are some research sectors where private has performed much better. There are other sectors where it dominates, like CSIRO, where the rate of return is looking bleak given the long intervals between good breakthroughs. It is obvious I have a preference for private to be given a fair go.

          Whomever does the major work, there are recent concerns arising from contamination of good science by the sloppiness and new morality of climate work. The Establishment has made major blunders in health before, e.g. the non-appearance of a global cancer epidemic forecast in the late 70s-early 80s with huge government funding and support in the US in particular. The mistake was the wrong and early assumption that tests in animals for cancer causing chemicals would relate well to humans. They did not, as billions of wasted dollars showed. Message: do not let the Establishment run fast and loose with your tax money. Checks are needed as Jo notes.

          If we were asked to choose which sector was best for enhanced research funding, medical would have to be up there, so overall I agree with Jo, if that matters. And renewable energy would be in the dregs. Interesting thread, this.

          20

          • #
            JJ

            Geoff,
            If it wasn’t for bailouts and QE, I would have never sought to understand or discover that there is a an opposing view that makes so much more sense (at least to me). Once you learn about the Austrians, it’s a slippery slope to outright anarcho-capitalism. :) It’s always interesting to assess a problem from that perspective — it’s never going to be implementable but you see BS with crystal clarity.

            I’ll have to disagree on medical research stuff. Not all research is about profit. Why do people donate their money, time and energy for no benefit to themselves, except for to satisfy a duty to serve their fellow human. Jo’s blog is prime example of that… she is serving humanity – I doubt she makes much much in monetary sense.

            Based on some dated research
            1) Govt charity absorbs 2/3 of rvery dollar vs private absorbs about 1/3. Private is 100% more efficient. Plus in pubic funding, favoured groups get the money vs projects that are most beneficial. And there is no accountability (pink batts, NBN, solar, etc, etc). Govts can not allocate capital.

            2) Global private charity is about $8-$10 trillion per year (a bit over 1% of global GDP on average). We don’t have a money problem.

            3) Wealthier nations give more and wealthier suburbs give more than poor suburbs by multiple times over.

            4) Less tax = more wealth = more charity.

            5) Water down patent law = more innovation (see post above, i.e. Swiss medical industry etc). Patent law is now globally stripling competition and collaboration. More money is spend on lawsuits than R&D now. (Good book: Against Intellectual Monopoly.)

            6) We need less regulation so more innovation and flexible structures can be created/implemented between money and research. Right now, it’s very expensive for someone with a great idea and ability to create to be able to go directly to market. E.g. Crowd funding with an equity component etc.

            But of course who doesn’t love a monopoly. This is a feature, not a bug of our kleptocracy. Humanity has never seen democracy — that’s a myth.

            00

      • #
        Peter C

        Let’s discuss Cochlear. I remember some of the story.

        Prof Graham Clarke gave us a special lecture, in medical school, long before his eventual success with the implant. He attached two slinky springs end to end, a fat one and a thin one. He stretched them out on the floor at the front of the lecture theatre and wiggled one end. At low frequency the waves only propagated through one spring. When he increased the frequency the waves passed into the second spring!

        The purpose of,his demonstration was to explain to us that frequency is encoded as position in the choclea ( the hearing organ in the inner ear), which is a tapered spiral.

        I still remember it. It was basic University research, hence Government funded. Hence I have to agree, perhaps a bit grudgingly , that goverment funded research can sometimes be beneficial.

        I now have two friends with cochlear implants. The implants are quite crude in some ways, but they say that it has transformed their lives for the better.

        00

      • #
        JJ

        Hi Jo,

        The only counter-argument I’d put up is that not all research is profit-based. Otherwise we would not have an open source community which has helped possibly millions out of poverty. The rate of progress and collaboration is a big problem for corporates.

        Why can’t we have open source medicine? 3D printing etc. We need to embrace this.

        Access Economics is a Keynesian house so I’d take their data with a grain of salt! According to most mainstream economists, pink batts is also positive ROI and even saved us from the GFC! Spending is not value. Get one bloke to dig and another to fill it up will show up as economic activity!

        Thanks for your comments.

        10

    • #
      PhilJourdan

      JJ – I agree…but (a friend once called that the big but).

      What you say is true. However since Australia nationalized health care a long time ago, the only source for R&D has to come from the government (they pay for it, they own it) or the generosity of other nations (in the past, the US).

      So ignoring the debate of whether they should own health care, and sticking to the fact they do, then the wisest course of action is for the government to fund it properly.

      That still brings up several points.

      #1 – how much is the right amount? There is no P&L to determine that with government as there is with private enterprise.
      #2 – When the final “cost” of health care is reported, these figures will not be in it, which is misleading of course. But it is a part of politics.

      00

      • #
        JJ

        Hi Phil,

        Thanks for your comments. I don’t disagree with you. I’m merely trying to point out that we need to have a debate about this and see if the pendulum can be moved a bit more towards decentralisation. Australian generally ranks #1 in per capita charity (see Global Giving Index). We will happily divert more than AB’s $20bn once the tax burden on us is reduced. Plus I prefer 5 million of us giving $400 each ($20bn) which creates a market of competing health requirements. Truly a well diversified medical research hedge fund. Even with rorts, the rate of efficiency will be much higher. No one loves your money more than you, even when you’re giving it away.

        Universal healthcare is not sustainable — that i think we can all accept (I hope).

        Our biggest problem is not moving away from universal healthcare to a more free market… [at this point someone always interjects and mentions the US. The US a extremely regulated and is in some respects even more socialised than our own system (but that's a discussion for another day)], BUT, the multitude of free loaders depending on this setup. And I’m not referring to the final receiptants of healthcare but the army of corporate welfare receiptants. The corporate cartels: pharmacy, various collages of specialisation, GPs, the unions, insurance companies etc etc. No one is going to let go of this free lunch.

        10

        • #
          PhilJourdan

          JJ – I am intrigued by a couple of comments you make. If you will bear with me, I would like to explore them further. I am a colonial, so what I know about your system has been gleaned through discussions here and on other blogs and reading accounts from your media (I do not trust the American Media). I fully admit I do not listen to any other colonial when they discuss your system as they probably know less than myself.

          First, I will agree with your assessment of the US, so we can remove that from discussion (it is a thesis upon itself). But the first statement that intrigues me is:

          if the pendulum can be moved a bit more towards decentralisation.

          Can you expand on that? I understand this is your own thoughts and not necessarily representative of others of your nation.

          Second,

          Universal healthcare is not sustainable — that i think we can all accept (I hope).

          While I tend to be in agreement, from an economical point of view, I am surprised to see it written by someone who has that type of system (or at least what America thinks is that type of system). So I will ask why do you think that?

          And then, how would you incorporate the free market into the system?

          I appreciate your response.

          10

          • #
            JJ

            Hi Phil,

            Thanks for your questions.

            First, I will agree with your assessment of the US, so we can remove that from discussion (it is a thesis upon itself). But the first statement that intrigues me is:
            if the pendulum can be moved a bit more towards decentralisation.
            Can you expand on that? I understand this is your own thoughts and not necessarily representative of others of your nation.

            Great question by the way… :)
            The short answer to this question has to do with the profit motive. I’ll explain that soon but let’s discuss what the profit motive isn’t or more importantly, as it is more commonly misunderstood as.

            It has been my experience that most people freak out when exploring an economic system where everything should be private and there should be no state/govt etc. It will be evil corporations etc etc. That’s an incorrect extrapolation based on our current mishmash of a system which can more accurately be described as crony capitalism in a kleptocracy. (We don’t have a democracy).

            As an example, Qantas and car manufacturers can go begging to the Australian govt for funding/subsidising their businesses. But, your local thai restaurant can’t. You could even group 50 thai restaurants that equal the same number of employees involved and you still wouldn’t even get in front of a minister. But one call from Alan Joyce, and the govt considers a subsidised debt package. This asymmetric access is crony capitalism. On the other hand, union bosses having access is another form of it. This is not left or right thing, it’s an asymmetric thing. It’s the ability to get hold of your tax dollars for a particular noble purpose (usually sold as ‘saving jobs’).

            And I agree wholly that if govt regulations were removed/diluted in this kleptocratic world, we would suffer and probably a few dominant corporations would actually rule the world. This is NOT a free market.

            In a free market, you are responsible for your job, not the govt. Why is this important? Because there is a least one person at any point in time who could argue that some form of a free lunch is going to benefit him/her, i.e. demand is unlimited while supply is limited. Who doesn’t want a free lunch? So, it’s impossible to distribute capital on this basis because when demand is unlimited (free lunches) and supply extremely limited (tax dollars).
            So this leads us to the profit motive. The ability to forecast profit in a uncertain risky world can only be done by the owner of money. He might not succeed but it’s his property to do he chooses. You decide what you want to do with your money. This is not possible with money that has been accumulated from other people’s production. This leads to another fallacy, that it’s the govt’s money. There is NO govt money as such. Every dollar has either been taken (taxes), borrowed or printed.

            And this leads to decentralisation… which is basically you choose to invest in whatever cause that you fancy. Here’s we’re talking about medical research but it can be anything.

            Let’s assume that 5 mil Australian have a spare $400 (total: $20 bn). Now, let’s create a free market here for medical research. Each doctor and/or medical institute now has to fight for your dollar. Each has to present a case on why their research will have profound effects on humanity.

            On the other hand, you might have some causes that you want to support resulting from a family tragedy or whatever (it doesn’t really matter).

            How you divert your dollar is up to you. You give all of it to one doctor or split a $1 among 400. This is decentralisation. The result is a richness created by millions of decisions of individuals that only free market can produce. It’s free from cronyism. In reality, this form of a market will provide information providers like a rating system etc to help you make informed decisions. The profit motive here is entirely up to you — and as you can see profit is not necessarily always about making a buck! In this case, the profit motive is about you deciding how humanity will benefit the most from your $400.
            But you also need to be pragmatic… this world does not exist… but we can move the pendulum towards it. Hope this helps.

            Universal healthcare is not sustainable — that i think we can all accept (I hope).
            While I tend to be in agreement, from an economical point of view, I am surprised to see it written by someone who has that type of system (or at least what America thinks is that type of system). So I will ask why do you think that?
            And then, how would you incorporate the free market into the system?

            I’ll let these 2 references address your first question (basically, crony capital would a good word to describe the US system. Obamacare has made it worse). Central planning does not work. The rich tapestry of millions of decisions is missing.

            http://reason.com/reasontv/2012/11/15/the-obamacare-revolt-oklahoma-doctors-fi

            Here is a good example of how crony capitalism can be used to give yourself a monopoly:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certificate_of_need

            How to incorporate the free market?

            1) Open up multiple doctor and drug registration bodies, sort of like 5 different types of AMAs (or 100), TGAs etc.

            2) Open up universities so that can offer as many or little places as they want.

            3) Get rid of the provider number nonsense (that just there to restrict supply).

            4) Open local market to allow overseas practitioners. Locals would demand insurance and the insurance companies would undertake the checks and balances.

            5) Abolish the various collages of medical specialisation. They’re just cartels that restrict supply (and keep the price high).

            6) Allow any/all pricing.

            7) Make tort litigation cheap and quick — this keeps the bastards honest.

            8) Abolish mandatory insurance coverage. You want insurance companies to discriminate. If you’re high risk, you pay more. And if you eat healthy, exercise, you pay less. Here the pricing mechanism acts as an incentive and disincentive. You want to smoke and eat junk, pay the price.

            I’m sure there are other things but essentially, this increases the supply and drops the price. It also caters to the services demanded by customers.

            The most important takeaway: You matter and are in control, not some central planner. We want millions of micro-decisions to inform our suppliers of what we need. There is not way this can be captured any other way.

            Thanks for your great questions.

            10

            • #
              PhilJourdan

              I greatly appreciate the response. You stated nothing surprising, and most of what I already knew or believed. There is a ton in there to discuss, but I will leave it since this is Joanne’s blog and that would take it far off topic.

              I especially agree about Crony Capitalism. The irony of Crony Capitalism is that many who hate capitalism hold that up for their reason for hating it, when in reality it is the government corruption of capitalism, not capitalism itself.

              Great answers. Thanks for the response.

              00

  • #

    A problem with any Government-funded research is that it can lack focus, and not be results-orientated. An extra billion dollars of money does not go very far so it is easy to produce nothing, or very little. An example from the UK that I looked at a few years ago was into secondary smoking. The British researchers seemed to ignore the work in other countries, had very poor research methodolgies, and researchers spent a lot of their time at conferences.

    50

  • #
    Manfred

    Thank you Jo.
    The extraordinary and vacuous squandering of hard earned money in politicised Alice-in-Wonderland weather modeling has been and is the bane of the age. I have two brothers with muscular dystrophy (MD), one who has spent his life persuading folk to donate to charity that eases the daily difficulties of those children and adults afflicted with MD. The arena of charitable donation resembles the Darwinian world of business at its rawest, the competition for funding, for the limited charitable dollar is fierce and arguably desperate, in stark contrast to the cascade of infinite resources into Progressive “climate research,” which seems to me to be a parody of all that is good, and as we have so often witnessed, a travesty of science that as you have highlighted, deprives humanity of wonderful possibilities and probabilities.

    That which leads to betterment and progress is I think bound in the end to succeed. The the rank and file of Progressive, unsustainable de-development will head for the dank cover of the nearest rock, doubtless dreaming up their next scam.

    70

  • #

    Jo, all that a man hath he will give for his life.

    If you want medical research to be privately funded, create a foundation to study rejuvenation, or life extension, and encourage some credible names to support it.

    There are plenty of rich old people who would trade everything they have for another good decade of life.

    There is even a place to start – in laboratory experiments, calorie restriction diets extend life by 30%, 50%, serious increases in life expectancy. The results are so impressive, some scientists are doing this to themselves, to see what happens. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction

    If research produces a pill which can produce the same medical benefits as starving yourself, that would be a remarkable breakthrough.

    And it stands to reason, that if you want to live forever, you have to fix every other medical problem people are likely to encounter along the way.

    20

    • #
      bobl

      Actually Eric, it’s even simpler than that. All you need to do is set up a foundation that allows people to nominate how, and to what purpose their funds should be put. A modest advertising campaign asking Australians to will 1% (or more) of their estate into the foundation.

      If someone is seriously sick, at the moment there is really no way that that person can pay into research for their particular complaint. For example if you had Glioblastoma (a nearly always fatal brain cancer), and a few million dollars in the bank, would you be willing to donate a couple of hundred K? What do you reckon you would want it spent on?

      As for public funding ARC used to do an OK job, but recently it’s been derailed by politics. Clearly ARC needs reforming to be more objective, for one they must stop expecting researchers to tell them the results of research in order to get the grants to do the research (this is the model that produced “The Consensus”). How can you specify an outcome if you haven’t done the research yet?. How things work at the moment is that grant applications are written for research that is already done, that money is then used to fund the next project. That’s wrong, it’s backwards.

      I suggest a technical committee structure using a range of experts with different committees for different specialties. The government can allocate the funding between the committees (giving more to priority areas of research) while avoiding starvation of unpopular topics.

      Rules around the committee composition can avoid politics and ensure industry representation by requiring industry committee members.

      21

    • #
      Winston

      Eric,

      I have a large practice of 90+ year olds, some of whom are remarkably vital while some long for death. Life extension is not what our priority should be at all. Even cures for cancer should be a secondary priority to those of degenerative conditions affecting cognition, mobility, balance and the preservation of our various senses. These issues cause people to exist as mere shells of human beings, unable to be proper functioning humans for the length of life they have attained. There is no magic diet supplement, herbal remedy or dietary regime which materially alters these problems, and our treatments are thus far pathetically lacking in efficacy. Survival is relative, and while reducing premature death is laudable, aimless life extension without first addressing the ravages of ageing is not only counterproductive, but cruel.

      60

      • #
        Andrew McRae

        As someone with tinnitus, I have to agree there, Winston.
        Quality of life is more important than quantity.

        Jo, when you’re PM, put money into a tinnitus cure while you’re about it. The treatment most recently rumoured by scientists to work at all is to drop some MDMA. Considering most people my age with tinnitus got it from nightclubbing it’s more evidence that the universe has a sense of irony.

        20

    • #

      Eric says:

      If you want medical research to be privately funded, create a foundation to study rejuvenation, or life extension, and encourage some credible names to support it.

      Eric, there already is one. If you want to donate, consider the SENS Research Foundation. I know some people involved with it, admire Aubrey de Grey, and recommend their scientific approach. They are very very well aware of the research on calorie restriction. I followed the CR approach before I had kids.

      30

      • #
        Yonniestone

        Jo here’s a thought, after your post on the VLCD method of losing weight Mrs Yonnie and I decided to try it, I lost 20kgs and Mrs has lost 25kgs so far with no side effects or ill health, it was just good sensible information that I researched before trying.
        My point is your blog should be getting government funding for scientific research and education, it runs circles around some quasi scientific organizations that recursively produce bizarre claims and ideals as facts.

        00

      • #
        Geoff Sherrington

        Were they high calorie or low calorie kids?

        00

  • #
    bobl

    As you all know one of my main gripes has been this misdirection of billions of dollars to green homage while the previous government trimmed palliative care support for terminally ill patients to pay for it. This travesty has now been erased, however I now call on PM Abbott to redirect the $4 Bn earmarked for direct action and the 2 Billion windfall from the green delaying the carbon tax repeal for 6 months into the fund to make it 26 Billion.

    I also call upon him for the government to put up $100 Million to build a proton beam cancer treatment facility in Australia.

    40

  • #
    PhilJourdan

    If they have to spend it, it is best to be spent wisely.

    That is the key. The Australian chip industry died because of private competition. Not lack of government funding. Intel and Motorola were not government subsidized (socialists will argue they are since they get tax deductions, but that is a red herring).

    Government funding of medical research in Australia was initiated with your government health care. There is no room for private research. So pumping more money into it is merely spending more on health care. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. But it will distort comparisons to other countries.

    Research in the US for the most part is private. That is why drugs are so expensive. for every one that does good, you get hundreds that are worthless or harmful (just look at Yaz – a few years ago touted as the new miracle contraceptive, and now the subject of huge lawsuits). Private companies have to recoup the costs. Governments merely increase taxes.

    Diverting government spending from wasteful endeavors like green energy to medical research is a reallocation of resources to what the government is already in the business of. We can have a debate about socialized medicine at another time, but the simple fact remains that at least the government is spending money on ITS business now. And not wasting it on mythical bogeymen.

    40

    • #
      JJ

      The best answer so far… profit is the ultimate equaliser. And with Govt money, it so easy to send a lobbyist to get your ‘fair share’. Just look at FBT scam – non-profits’ employees getting pretax lunches, weddings etc. What a rort!

      Amazingly, FBT is not being touched by this govt… :)

      10

    • #
      bananabender

      US tech companies get an enormous amount of government largesse because they are part of the military industrial complex. The subsidies are usually hidden (eg massive overpayment for defence contracts) rather than upfront.

      00

  • #
    michael hart

    First, funding inefficient solar panels is dead money — there is no upside

    A key point. Much funding in “green” issues is just funding all the down sides: If you pay someone to continuously research misery and tell you to stop whatever you are doing, then that is what you will get. There is no upper limit to the number of imaginary problems in the world. Where is the sense in funding someone to seek new problems?

    60

    • #
      Catamon

      [ Where is the sense in funding someone to seek new problems? ]

      Its a way of reducing the probability that something horrid will bite you in the arse down the track. Although such a concept is somewhat beyond the scope of this Governments “thought” processes.

      23

      • #
        michael hart

        It is a mindset shared with those who like to seek scapegoats. It also means trying to research the ‘unknown unknowns’ at the cost of devoting less resources to solving known problems.

        Hunting for dragons to slay is only a useful activity if you can recognise and make something useful from the other things you may serendipitously discover along the road. What new knowledge has Greenpeace generated?

        30

  • #
    Newport_Mac

    Congrats Joanne!!!

    Its the renewables which should be privately funded not scientific research. Government subsidies are the only thing keeping many of the renewables alive, or better said, keeping renewables from improving.

    In theory, publicly funded research should pay for the R&D up front and thus bring down the cost of delivery to the consumer. Its a nice theory ; )

    30

  • #
    James Strom

    Another approach, which is still not libertarian but is less dirigiste, is to offer a substantial monetary prize for well-defined achievements in research. It’s plausible that “society” knows the outcomes it wants somewhat better than the precise methods to achieve them, and a prize, which is awarded only on success, is less likely than a government selected research program to waste taxpayers resources on dead ends.

    30

  • #
    Tim

    I agree wholeheartedly that lives should and could be saved through better medical research. But, to me, this is the real problem:

    “Big Pharma profits and patents mean that many natural molecules get ignored — they can’t be patented, and there is no profit.”

    Scientific fraud by Big Pharma is well documented. Natural therapies badly need formal recognition and have brilliant, documented results. If the government was fair dinkum, they would put money into natural therapies.

    No political donations from that sector? What a shame…Could that have anything to do with it?

    30

  • #

    The extraordinary letter from Lennart Bengtsson announcing his resignation from the GWPF is posted on its own thread.

    I’ve moved (I hope) comments from PeterPetrum and from Rogue…

    10

  • #
    Jaymez

    Government funded medical research does not just mean medical research carried out by Government employed scientists. I expect there will be a range of models used by the Government from providing seed capital, and venture funding to joint venture projects to fully funded research projects.

    The key challenge will be for the Government not to crowd out or duplicate what the private sector are doing. This generally shouldn’t be a problem if we accept that private sector medical research is generally interested in quick turnaround results and end products or treatments which can be patented and applied in the market as soon as possible. So they will cherry pick the common illnesses and diseases not requiring long term medications to manage.

    The Government on the other hand would look at medical research holistically from an organisational perspective, repairing injuries for best results, and address illnesses which aren’t being looked at by private enterprise because the discovery time is too long and there aren’t enough sufferers. Or because the result of the illness, teach a patient to manage with the damage caused by the illness.

    I have a personal interest in a disease I have had since 1998. It is attracting little to no funding from private industry because there are only 1.9 sufferers out of 200,000, they are mostly males and largely old. Most are between 55yr and 65 yrs of age. Primary polycythemia and polycythemia rubra vera) is a myeloproliferative blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.It may also result in the overproduction of white blood cells and platelets. Platelets in my case.

    Most of the health concerns associated with polycythemia vera are caused by the blood being thicker as a result of the increased red blood cells. The fail to carry oxygen and nutrient efficiently, and trigger lactic acid as soon as pressure is brought ti bear on a musclr. It is more common in the elderly, signs and symptoms include itching (pruritus), and severe burning pain in the hands or feet that is usually accompanied by a reddish or bluish coloration of the skin. Patients with polycythemia vera are more likely to have gouty arthritis. Treatment consists primarily of phlebotomy, (blood thinning to reduce pressure as required), pain killers to control the pain which can vary daily and from one person to another.

    One study found the median age at diagnosis to be 60 years, while a Mayo Clinic study in Olmsted County, Minnesota found that the highest incidence was in people aged 70–79 years. The overall incidence in the Minnesota population was 1.9 per 100,000 person-years, and the disease was more common in men than women. A cluster around a toxic site was confirmed in northeast Pennsylvania in 2008.

    A classic symptom of polycythemia vera is pruritus or itching, particularly after exposure to warm water (such as when taking a bath),which may be due to abnormal histamine release or prostaglandin production. Such itching is present in approximately 40% of patients with polycythemia vera.Gouty arthritis may be present in up to 20% of patients. Peptic ulcer disease is also common in patients with polycythemia vera; most likely due to increased histamine from mast cells, but may be related to an increased susceptibility to infection with the ulcer-causing bacterium H. pylori. Another possible mechanism for the development for peptic ulcer is increased histamine release and gastric hyperacidity related with polycythemia vera.

    Patients with polycythemia vera are prone to the development of blood clots (thrombosis). A major thrombotic complication (e.g. heart attack, stroke, deep venous thrombosis, or Budd-Chiari syndrome) may sometimes be the first symptom or indication that a person has polycythemia vera.

    Headaches, lack of concentration and fatigue are common symptoms that occur in patients with polycythemia vera as well.

    In primary polycythemia, there may be 8 to 9 million and occasionally 11 million erythrocytes per cubic millimeter of blood (a normal range for adults is 4-6), and the hematocrit may be as high as 70 to 80%. In addition, the total blood volume sometimes increases to as much as twice normal. The entire vascular system can become markedly engorged with blood, and circulation times for blood throughout the body can increase up to twice the normal value. The increased numbers of erythrocytes can cause the viscosity of the blood to increase as much as five times normal. Capillaries can become plugged by the very viscous blood, and the flow of blood through the vessels tends to be extremely sluggish.

    As a consequence of the above, people with untreated polycythemia vera are at a risk of various thrombotic events (deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism), heart attack and stroke, and have a substantial risk of Budd-Chiari syndrome (hepatic vein thrombosis), or myelofibrosis. The condition is considered chronic; no cure exists. Symptomatic treatment can normalize the blood count and most patients can live a relatively normal life for years. (If you consider constant pain and fatigue normal).

    The disease appears more common in Jews of European extraction than in most non-Jewish populations. Some familial forms of polycythemia vera are noted, but the mode of inheritance is not clear.

    Recently, in 2005, a mutation in the JAK2 kinase (V617F) was found by multiple research groups to be strongly associated with polycythemia vera. JAK2 is a member of the Janus kinase family and makes the erythroid precursors hypersensitive to erythropoietin (EPO). This mutation may be helpful in making a diagnosis or as a target for future therapy.

    Treatment
    Untreated, polycythemia vera can be fatal. Research has found that the “1.5-3 years of median survival in the absence of therapy has been extended to at least 10-20 years because of new therapeutic tools.” Unfortunately the quality of life for that 10-20 years, may not be great because of constant pain and fatigue.

    As the condition cannot be cured, treatment focuses on treating symptoms and reducing thrombotic complications by reducing the erythrocyte levels.

    Bloodletting (called venesection or phlebotomy) is one form of treatment, which often may be combined with other therapies. The removal of blood from the body reduces the blood volume and brings down the hematocrit levels; in patients with polycythemia vera, this reduces the risk of blood clots. Venesection is typically performed in people with polycythemia vera to bring their hematocrit (red blood cell percentage) down below 45 for men or 42 for women. It has been observed that phlebotomy also improves cognitive impairment.

    Low dose aspirin (75–81 mg daily) is often prescribed. Research has shown that aspirin reduces the risk for various thrombotic complications.

    Chemotherapy for polycythemia may be used, either for maintenance, or when the rate of bloodlettings required to maintain normal hematocrit is not acceptable, or when there is significant thrombocytosis or intractable pruritus. This is usually with a “cytoreductive agent” (hydroxyurea, also known as hydroxycarbamide).

    The tendency of some practitioners to avoid chemotherapy if possible, especially in young patients, is a result of research indicating possible increased risk of transformation to acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). While hydroxyurea is considered safer in this aspect, there is still some debate about its long-term safety.

    In the past, injection of radioactive isotopes (principally phosphorus-32) was used as another means to suppress the bone marrow. Such treatment is now avoided due to a high rate of AML transformation.

    Other therapies include interferon injections, and in cases where secondary thrombocytosis (high platelet count) is present, anagrelide may be prescribed.

    Bone marrow transplants are rarely undertaken in polycythemia patients; since this condition is non-fatal if treated and monitored, the benefits rarely outweigh the risks involved in such a procedure. multiplicative functions.

    Polycythemia is a chronic, debilitating disease which robs you of many years of quality useful life. I would be delighted to see medical researchers take an interest seeking a cure. Any discovery may not recoup the Government in research costs on that particular project, but there may be other illnesses the same protocols would help.

    At least there is a search for worthwhile medical research targets and not inefficient energy targets!

    30

  • #
    Roy Hogue

    But I can feel the barbs of skeptical libertarians already — saying the money should have been used to pay off the debt or returned to the people who earned it — and I’m sympathetic. Public medical research funds get corrupted and wasted as efficiently as any other public kind. Hear me out — even if this could have been better, it’s a magnitude better than what went before, and if there ever was a case for public funded science research it surely starts with medicine.

    Jo,

    Even if you get a few shots taken at you at least the money isn’t going to climate research. So rejoice. It’s a step in a better direction even with the negative aspects you noted. :-)

    And by the way, old solar panels do have one reasonable use. You can build fairly decent carports out of them, even if they don’t provide any electricity. So they aren’t a total loss. Of course, they would be a constant reminder of failed, foolish policies of the past.

    20

  • #
    Roy Hogue

    On the question, should medical research be privately funded?

    I have the same internal debate. There are many causes demanding attention and competing for research grants whether private or public. And frankly I think it takes the wisdom of Solomon to sort it all out. And I don’t see that guy hanging around in the wings just waiting to appear. I wish he was.

    Accordingly, I’m thoroughly convinced of one thing. And readers can judge this any way they want to. I am convinced that no one, including government, owes anyone a cure for their disease, whatever it may be. Otherwise we have the mindset that allows selling human organs to the highest bidder and a case I’m personally familiar with where a 15 year old girl was allowed to “die” who could probably have been saved in order to harvest her organs for transplant. I knew her mother personally and was told the details of her daughter’s, in my view, murder by medical malpractice. Her mother filed a multi million dollar suit. I lost track of the mother through circumstances and don’t know the outcome of the case. But I know this — human society cannot and must not tolerate this.

    I would like everyone to have access to state of the art medical care. But the foolish idea that it should be free or that I should be forced pay for the care of someone else who, through whatever cause, does not have it, is the road to ruin for everyone. Life does not come with a warranty about anything. We need to be wise enough to respect that fact.

    20

  • #
    Peter Cunningham

    At bloody last – A pragmatic, sensible political direction on this issue.
    I can’t add anything to what others have said, ‘cept for: DITTO! PC

    00

  • #
    Robert O

    A few days a ago there was some pronouncement that it has been getting drier in southern Australia as the winds moved south and got stronger over the past 1000 odd years or so, and of course with climate change, due to increases in levels of CO2, it was going to get worse. There was no justification for the latter statement and the first premise seemed to be a very long bow based on indirect observations. Of course it received coverage from the ABC, but my point is wouldn’t this money have been better spent on medical research instead? I just put it down to the fact that funding for anything related to climate change/global warming has received government funding priority which hopefully has now past.

    I disagree with the comment about solar panels which are a useful adjunct to electricity supply, particularly for remote communities. I have a 3kw. system and use about 6-8 kw. per day, which isn’t much, and produce anything from 7- 14kw. daily at this time of year. Of course it is low density power and you have to have mains power as well, but with a National power grid with coal, gas and hydro generation one should be able to smooth out the supply and demand peaks.

    00

  • #

    Medical research: these words are enough to send shivers down your spine, particularly if you have indulged in even a little research yourself.

    Medical research does not happen without a big budget even before any experiments are performed or trials begun because you need to first meet all the ethical requirements and risk assessments before you can start and even then you might have just blown your money.

    I have been developing a product for the last 10 years which could help reduce hospital acquired infections if applied appropriately, but without the backing of a large corporation, university or hospital it is impossible to obtain grants or entice investors to meet the costs of research, then development of a finding into a product.

    20

  • #
    Eliza

    is Abbot going to close down all the “climate” organizations, departments etc.. Let’s hope so and get rid of the carbon tax??? is it going to happen or not???

    10

  • #
    Peter Bysouth

    Jo,
    Your worries re a Government Fund may not be warranted. While yet to read how the Govt will operate the Medical Fund, it would be logical to place it within, and be managed by, the Future Fund (FF) rather than set up another QUANGO. Current policy is to reduce them. The FF is, and will, continue to do a good job, something beyond the capabilities of Urban and Shire Councils. The FF uses multiple, competing, asset managers as do all our larger superannuation funds to achieve long-term rational outcomes within their defined objectives. Increasing the size of the FF, effectively a Sovereign Wealth Fund, will have other economic/societal benefits outside of Medical Research as well.

    00

  • #
    crakar24

    Obviously Tony is masquerading as one of your regulars heeding all of your advice……………..but which one is the question, when i read RW’s comments (i read all of them) i sometimes wonder………….

    00

  • #
    bananabender

    Medical research is just as corrupt and incompetent as climate research. Have a look at stem cell research as an example.

    I was told in first year bochemistry that most biomedical experiments are unrepeatable. That fact has stuck with me for nearly 30 years.

    Tony Abbott should have read the following paper about medical research (1273 citations) before committing billions to the greatest rent seekers in history – medical researchers.

    Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

    John P. A. Ioannidis

    Published: August 30, 2005
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

    http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0020124 (free full text)

    The fact is that most Western diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and most cancers are caused by unhealthy lifestyles and cannot be effectively treated by drugs. This makes the majority of research pointless.

    A leading Australian medical researcher explained a couple of years ago that medical research exists “to produce PhDs – not to cure diseases. ”

    In fact the last 40 years have produced very few major breakthroughs despite trillions of dollars (adjusted for inflation) being spent. The US National Institutes of Health declared Richard Nixons ‘War on Cancer’ a 25 year multibillion dollar fiasco. The greatest treatment breakthrough of the 21st century – antidepressants – are now considered to be litle more than placebos and research into the area has massively declined.

    10

    • #
      Geoff Sherrington

      Banana,
      But we have made great strides in my lifetime despite the defects you stress.
      One bad banana does not spoil the bunch.
      The key is to take the best on offer and build on it.
      There is no joy in damning the sector then looking for alternative ways to make progres. That way you end up with your best bananas sponsoring sport or a similarly inappropriate sector.

      00

      • #
        bananabender

        The problem is that medical science is not asking the right questions. It is seeking cures without properly looking for the causes.

        In Western countries our health problems are mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles. Yet medical students are taught almost nothing about the vast literature on the health benefits of diet or exercise. Instead we look for a pill to solve our problems. This is an approach that leads nowhere because the human body is far too complex for crude pharmacological solutions. Using a pill to treat heart disease is like using a hammer to tune a Formula One car.

        00

  • #
    NikFromNYC

    The real irony of climate alarm now that it’s still being promoted despite so many scandals and falsifications is that a *real* emergency is emerging that will possibly render all hospitals toxic due to complete antibiotic resistance of bacteria. I read a recent story in Surgery Today of a doctor who himself was cured of cancer but he said he took as little pain medication as possible since it reduces immunity to infection. If a doctor was so worried of hospital infections, it is a warning to us all. This will render common STDs deadly, and we are also about due for yet another deadly form of influenza to evolve such as the one in 1918 that killed nearly 100 million people even before widespread air travel.

    -=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in organic synthesis, who finds it astounding that recent graduates in chemistry and biology are facing a tough American job market just as the tools of both synthetic chemistry and of biology are making things very interesting for creative types who would be only too happy to explore new antibiotics. Another thing that is tragic is how Drug War red tape has shut down study of anti-addictive agents and antidepressants in human volunteers because many of the most promising leads involve hallucinogenic drugs and their derivatives, and though it’s common to study LSD in animal brains, real research into human psychology has been drastically curtailed for fear of recreational drug spinoffs.

    00

  • #
    NikFromNYC

    Correction: It was General Surgery News, a free trade magazine I still get since my old girlfriend’s sister once changed her address here when she moved to Australia to have a baby with the medical device sales guy she married after dropping out of her final year of residency.

    00

  • #
    DonS

    This medical research fund is all very nice but it is a bit of a motherhood thing for governments isn’t it? Who would argue with increasing medical research funding? As I understand it medical research already gets about 80% of the government research funds and add to that all the charities raising money for research institutes and it seems like a well funded area already. Development of the results of the research is probably where the money is needed.

    What I’d like to see is a similar fund for agricultural research. Agriculture is on the verge of a new revolution, driven by genetics, that will make the fertiliser driven “green” revolution of the 1950s look relatively small. Australia has the potential to be a leader in this area and become a major supplier of quality food into the growing Asian markets. Not as sexy as announcements on more medical research funding but the health benefits of being well fed are reduction in disease and increased life expectancy. Something we’ve had in the Western economies for so long that we take it for granted. If you’ve got no food then no amount of medicine will keep you alive.

    If you doubt that agriculture can give us an economic boost then look at New Zealand. They just posted a big budget surplus based largely on agricultural exports to Asia. We had over 10 years of the biggest mining boom in our history and all we have to show for it is a 123 billon dollar deficit. People will always need to eat but demand for minerals will vary wildly over time.

    Just food for thought.

    00

  • #
    KinkyKeith

    A good news post.

    Many consider this Medical Research to be wrong spending; perhaps in the same way that sending a man to the moon was “wrong spending”.

    But just reflect on the number of people who have been inspired by the Moon challenge where people conceived of the idea, planned and devised a method to do it, and then boldly did it.

    You cant put a price on the value of new knowledge and the positive vibes that come from exploring science rather than abusing it as in the Global Warming shambles.

    KK

    01

  • #
    Michael S

    You must be bummed Abbott did not mention your masterful plan in his speech.

    00

    • #
      the Griss

      OMG, the trolls get stupider and stupider as they appear.

      My earlier comment about PEAK AGW STUPID being nowhere near.. keeps being reinforced.

      00

  • #
    MRW

    Jo, the next thing you need to get an education about is how your monetary system works. This is an absolute lie: the money should have been used to pay off the debt.

    Australia, like Japan, the US, Canada, and Britain, are monetarily sovereign. You (AU) issue your own dollars. If you pay off the ‘national debt’, no one in Australia will have a penny in their pocket.

    [The Europeans are not so lucky. The 17 countries that gave up their sovereign currency for the Euro are subject to unelected technocrats in Brussels. That's why Spain is experiencing 54% youth unemployment, and why Greece is beyond underwater. Wait until they get the Ukraine to dump its dough, and the bond vigilantes swoop in to lend in return for natural resources collateral. The bond vigilantes can't do that to Japan, because Japan is monetarily sovereign.]

    00

    • #
      bananabender

      Exactly.

      The ‘deficit’ is monopoly money. It cost us nothing to print more money and nothing to service the (imaginary) ‘debt’. The US has been doing this since the Civil War and they haven’t gone broke yet. The only negative is that you eventually create inflation.

      00

    • #
      the Griss

      Like anything, if you over-produce, the price goes down.

      So yeah.. just keep printing and printing and see how the country ends up in 10-20 years time. !

      00

  • #

    Congratulations!
    Take a bow Jo!

    00

  • #
    Mattb

    O/T, but it is interesting that Abbott and Hockey are demonising the economy that seems to be doing ok, then introducing draconian actions in the budget that really target ideological issues (welfare, health), then saying ” if they do not want to help fix the budget now, it is “only going to get harder”.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-19/hockey-warns-against-delaying-budget-pain-as-coalition-slumps/5460994

    It’s a rather familiar tactic, no?

    01

    • #
      Mattb

      noting that the crisis only seems to exist if you are of a particular ideology. Mind you it has ALWAYS been acceptable to manufacture data to suit ideology in soft areas (lets not call it a science) like economics.

      01

      • #
        the Griss

        “noting that the crisis only seems to exist if you are of a particular ideology.”

        ie a climate scientist or green agenda apostle.

        “Mind you it has ALWAYS been acceptable to manufacture data to suit ideology in soft areas”

        ie a climate scientist or green agenda apostle.

        00

      • #
        PhilJourdan

        Please show us where it is ok to manufacture data in ANY science, hard or soft. Not that it has not been done, but where it is announced to be acceptable (outside of climate science that is).

        And the word(s) are Let’s or Let us. it is a contraction, not a single word.

        00

    • #
      vic g gallus

      Its only draconian if you are persuaded by a particular ideology.

      Draconian means a heavy punishment if you break the law. $7 to visit a GP is not draconian. It is less for those on social security, well below a pack of cigarettes or a pint at the local. Cuts to health and education are to the bureaucracy rather than those on the ground, and I know that the latter definitely needs a trim (actually, a royal commission).

      Why do we need to be in debt to rich people and make them richer with interest, especially if it is merely to have a bloated public service with many on 6 figure salaries?

      00

      • #
        Mattb

        Charging poor people $7 to get their kids immunised… pretty shortsighted effort to save money. As I say if they are fair and reasonable and low impact changes then why the scaremongering about the defecit. For once Palmer is correct here.

        11

    • #
      the Griss

      “O/T, but it is interesting that Abbott and Hockey are demonising the economy that seems to be doing ok”

      Yeah right.. heading towards many billion dollar deficits is “doing alright”.

      You seriously do live in a fools’ paradise , don’t you. !!!!

      01

      • #
        Mattb

        our defecit is insignificant. And if it was significant you’d not bother wasting $20billion on medical research on a whim.

        11

        • #
          Mattb

          and you’d not bother handing out massive maternity leave cheques.

          11

          • #
            the Griss

            I agree completely.

            They should have removed the ludicrous maternity entitlements from the Public Service, ABC etc and bought them down to what the rest of society accepts..

            …rather than expecting society to actually have the same maternity leave standards of the Public Service.

            Oh, but that’s right.. you are in the public service, aren’t you. !!!

            00

        • #
          PhilJourdan

          Every deficit (note the spelling) is significant. One may have a different IMPACT, but the deficit itself is significant. It shows that the government is incapable of handling money.

          00