Launch of the 7 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

As a graduate of the University of Melbourne and Senator for Victoria, I am pleased to be back here today, this time to officially launch the 7 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner.

I’ve been here a few times in recent weeks and months, some may say more than I did as an Arts student.

It is a pleasure to represent the Commonwealth, and in particular the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Education Christopher Pyne.

As a direct result of the Australian Government’s investment and funds put aside by previous Coalition governments, the National Imaging Facility has installed the first two 7T whole body MRI systems in the Southern Hemisphere.

One is here at the University of Melbourne, and the other is at the University of Queensland.

The National Imaging Facility is funded under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme.  In this year’s Budget, the Government provided $150 million in 2015–16 for NCRIS, part of its $11 billion research investment in Australian universities.

I recently had the pleasure of addressing the showcase in Canberra, at which kindly it was not commented upon that that was in two parts, as the bells rang and I had to sprint out of the Great Hall back to the Senate chamber on two occasions. But it was a fantastic evening.

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy has enabled an estimated 30 000 Australian and international researchers to access world-leading research equipment and facilities. It supports more than 1500 technical experts, researchers and facility managers.

As well as Australian Government investment of $5.7 million, the purchase and installation of the 7T MRI here at the Melbourne Brain Centre was made possible with contributions from the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. I welcome them and thank them for their contributions.

The Australian Government’s investment of a total of $53.2 million in the National Imaging Facility has helped establish a national network of world-class imaging infrastructure for the Australian research community.

This investment has leveraged a further $79 million investment from state governments and partner institutions.

The 7T whole body MRI will provide researchers in Australia with access to world leading imaging technology.

In particular, the 7T systems will strengthen local research in the areas of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, motor neurone disease, brain tumours, and multiple sclerosis.

It is rare to find a person in our community who does not personally know someone affected by one of these debilitating illnesses.

This Government is taking on the challenge to support a world-leading research system.

The Government’s $11 billion investment in research in higher education also includes $139.5 million for the Future Fellowships Scheme for mid-career researchers who are so important to Australia’s research effort, as well as $200 million over five years to boost Australia’s dementia research capacity.

Dementia is now the third leading cause of death in Australia and no cure exists.

This is in addition to other support for research, including through the Medical Research Future Fund. This fund will deliver on the Government’s commitment to an efficient and effective health system that delivers quality care now and into the future.

Investing and supporting medical research is one of the best long-term investments that a government can make.

The Medical Research Future Fund illustrates this Government’s commitment to long-term investment in this area.

The ongoing development of the Government’s research agenda will be informed by the views of the university and research sectors, input from industry bodies and important reviews, such as the National Commission of Audit.

The Commission of Audit found that research infrastructure is critical to Australia’s research and development system, recommending that the Government commit to:

‘…ongoing funding for critical research infrastructure in Australia, informed by a reassessment of existing research infrastructure provision and requirements’

This recommendation stands out in the Commission’s report.

In line with this constructive approach, Minister Pyne has announced that a positive review of future research infrastructure needs will commence soon.

NCRIS has been very effective in giving more researchers access to better infrastructure, and in encouraging institutions to work together.

World class medical imaging instrumentation, such as the 7T MRI, will enable Australian researchers to compete globally.

The Government is safeguarding the future of Australia’s world-class research and research infrastructure, and helping prepare our nation for the long-term challenges before us.

I look forward to hearing about the important work that will be undertaken here at the Melbourne Brain Centre. It is with great pleasure that I officially launch the Melbourne Brain Centre 7T MRI scanner.

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