Gina Anderson | CSI Blog

Healthcare is a global issue, not just a local problem. Virus and pandemic, chronic illness and disability: they don’t generally have any respect for geography.  As such, they often have common symptoms and common outcomes; death, lifelong disability, spiraling healthcare costs and increasing impacts on those who can least afford it.

Australian research organisations like The George Institute for Global Health, Baker IDI, Burnet Institute, and many others, undertake global projects specifically designed to provide evidence that will directly inform decisions about health policy and help change practice. That is health policy anywhere in the world. They don’t guard their research results because stroke, obesity, road trauma or diabetes don’t only affect Australians. You can suffer from diabetes in Mumbai as in Melbourne.

However this international medical research work is under a threat with proposed ‘In-Australia’ legislative tax changes for charities. The proposed changes include an ‘operated solely in Australia’ restriction, designed to ensure that tax deductible donations are used for the benefit of the Australian public. Unfortunately these changes appear to put the deductible gift recipient status of medical research institutes that undertake work internationally at risk because their research trials and activities are not conducted ‘solely in Australia’.  

For instance, as a world-class Australian-based medical research institute, The George Institute undertakes critically important clinical research into the causes, prevention and treatment of the most common diseases affecting Australians. In addition, the work of  The George Institute has also already changed the healthcare received by millions of people worldwide. 

To continue to undertake this critical work, The George Institute needs to reliably ascertain the causes of disease and the effects of various interventions. This requires large numbers of participants in studies and trials, the most important of which will typically need to be run internationally to gather the greatest knowledge and insights. Indeed most high-impact research requires some form of international activity or collaboration. It is through this work that they contribute to improving the health of people around the world, including major advances in the healthcare of Australians.

The proposed legislation would be a backward step that would punish successful Australian research institutes by denying them deductible gift recipient status on the basis that some of their work is international.

While it appears the proposed changes were not intended to target medical research institutes, if passed as they stand, these changes would have an extremely damaging impact on the sector, and consequently on the health of Australians going forward.

Let’s hope common sense prevails so medical research institutes like The George Institute, can achieve their mission to “improve the health of millions worldwide”.

Gina Anderson is a member of The George Institute Board and was Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Philanthropy Australia from 2005- 2010. This article first appeared on the CSI Blog.