Address at the Sohn Hearts and Minds Investment Leaders Conference

November 17, 2017



What a week! What a week for love, for respect, for marriage equality.


80 per cent of Australians chose to vote in that postal survey – 80 per cent. Massive turnout, showed Australians really wanted to have their say.

That’s what we said, that’s what we promised. We gave them their say – 80 per cent had their say and 61.6 per cent said ‘yes’.

And they said ‘yes’ to marriage equality, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to commitment, ‘yes’ to fairness, the Australian fair go returned in those ballots.

It’s been a great week for love, it’s certainly in the air today.

And it’s a great pleasure too, to join you for the second Sohn Hearts and Minds conference.

Matthew Grounds and Gary Weiss – congratulations.


I want to give a special shout-out to Paul Ainsworth who is here representing his father Len, they are phenomenal supporters of medical research through the Ainsworth foundation.

And I want to also acknowledge Michael Traill and of course, Simon Freeman of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, another Foundation sponsor.

Now to everyone - thank you for being here, thank you to the speakers who’ve devoted their time and ideas and also financially.

You are here to support a great cause - Australian medical research - and you are motivated by the greatest thing of all – love - the desire, the passion to help others.

Now Lucy and I are passionate believers in the power of philanthropy. It’s been said, or said by no less than Rambam Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher, that the most virtuous philanthropy is where not only the donor but also the beneficiary, is anonymous.

With great respect to Rambam, he clearly never had a lot to do with fundraising.


Anonymous giving is great in theory but it hardly inspires others to be generous. So when you ‘fess up about your generosity, it encourages other people to follow your lead - and if they’re inspired by a little competitive jealousy to increase their donation, that’s ok too.

Now philanthropy is a critically important part of our community, of our social integrity, our social cohesion.

You know I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the big medical research projects the Federal Government is funding.

And some of you will ask, what’s the difference between the money that comes from the Government’s coffers and what comes out of your wallets voluntarily?

Of course the money that goes into the government’s coffers comes out of your wallets involuntarily. 


And I want to tell you, that there’s all the difference in the world.

The Government’s got the biggest cheque book because it’s got access to yours – involuntarily. But here’s the thing. A dollar from the Government buys as much as a dollar from a philanthropist. That’s true.

But the difference is that when you make a commitment yourself, when as a philanthropist – which means after all love of humanity – when you make that commitment it comes with your love.

It comes with you, a piece of you, it is your advocacy. You become an ambassador, you become a partner, you become a shareholder in the venture that you’re supporting because you’re doing so with your love.

So leadership in philanthropy is more important than ever. And I want to thank you all for being leaders. It’s critically important we need strong leaders who are generous, who are filled with the love of philanthropy and are then going to inspire others to do the same.

So everyone here will consider themselves an advocate for the organisations that are benefitting from this conference - the Black Dog Institute, the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, MS Research Australia and the JDRF.

Now you’ve heard from researchers whose work will be funded by the money raised today and I’m sure it has driven home to you how vital your generosity is – give more, give more.

This is always the last pitch, you know, give more, double your donation.

I want to give you an insight now from the people at the other end of this thread of philanthropy, the people whose lives are changed forever by that research.

Now one of the best parts of my job is meeting people and hearing their stories. They talk to me with real candour about their lives, often revealing great courage without meaning to.

I recently hosted with Lucy an afternoon at Kirribilli House with JDRF.

I met Ruth, who’s had twice-daily insulin injections for most of her adult life. Since receiving an islet transplant, she no longer depends on insulin and is free from those dreaded needles.

Then there was Rilan Barbour, just eight years old, who used to have four or five injections a day. Not many of us like needles, but imagine you are a small child and you have to have that many, every day, to stay alive.

Rilan now has a subsidised insulin pump through our own Insulin Pump Program, and only needs one injection every three days. Much easier for him, and his parents. His mum Jodie told me she can now work a bit more because she doesn’t have to go to school every lunchtime to give her son his injection.

I also caught up with Tanna, the young boy who had asked me a few years ago what I could do to make Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices available to kids like him.

I told him I’d see what I could do and am proud to report that our Government now subsidises CGM devices for all people under 21 years of age.

Tanna showed me how the app on his phone monitors his blood glucose day and night, and how his parents can track it in real time.

It’s meant less risk of hypo episodes, fewer trips to emergency, it means he can go on sleepovers with his friends like other kids his age.

These are just a few examples, but there isn’t an Australian alive today who hasn’t benefited, directly or indirectly, from medical research.

Australian medical researchers are the heroes of our nation—not entirely unsung, but certainly not sung about enough.

Each of the $35 million the Federal Government has allocated to JDRF for the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network goes towards transforming the lives of people like Tanna—enabling researchers to undertake vital international clinical trials to understand Type 1 diabetes better.

Just last month, we announced more than $200 million worth of new commitments from the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Medical Research Future Fund.

$29 million of that will go to one of the leading contributors to the burden of disease—mental illness.

Now a very good friend of mine and of many of you here today I am sure, Professor Ian Hickie, refers to something he calls the ‘mental wealth of nations’ – apologies to Adam Smith. What he means by that is that all of us have a responsibility for everybody’s mental health. We all have a vested interest in each other’s mental health and that tackling mental illness should be a national endeavour.

I agree with him, and it’s great to see that the Black Dog Institute is one of the beneficiaries today.

The Federal Government is also supporting cardiovascular disease research through our recent $23 million investment in new research projects.

Since 2000, more than $1.4 billion worth of National Health and Medical Research Council grants have been channelled towards cardiovascular disease research, which has seen cardiovascular disease mortality rates drop by more than 70 per cent over just three decades.

And I must say, my own heart almost stopped when I was just outside in the wings and I saw a pile of cigarette packs on the table in there and then I realised it was part of the set for the show that’s normally on this stage.


Just yesterday, the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt announced a further $70 million from the Medical Research Future Fund to support the next generation of Australia’s researchers.

Building the capacity of our researchers is vital to our continued success as a global health and medical research leader and innovator. We are committed to supporting them in the early to middle stages of their careers to remain in this very, very competitive and very exciting field.

Taking research from the lab to the bedside of course needs an essential third ingredient—business.

Maintaining our research excellence relies on a willingness to invest, and a strong culture of industry and private sector collaboration.

Our Medical Research Future Fund and the Biomedical Translation Fund are designed to strengthen the culture of collaboration, and stimulate the translation of great Australian ideas into innovative commercial ventures.

We’re not always good or at least not good enough at turning those eureka moments into money, into investment. I’m determined to change that track record, so that every Australian researcher and scientist can know the satisfaction of seeing their hard work transform lives and build great businesses in Australia.

Tax breaks for early stage investors, tax offsets for capital invested in new Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships, and support for incubators, means that start-ups have access to the resources, the knowledge and the networks necessary to transform their ideas into globally scalable businesses.

We’ve also created MTP Connect, our MedTech and Pharma Growth Centre, to help deliver a clear plan to establish Australia as an Asia-Pacific hub for MTP companies.

So thank you again for being here today. Thank you for your generosity.

Australia needs investors like you—people willing to reach beyond what we think is possible, in science, in business and in philanthropy.

Above all, people who invest in our greatest asset, which is our fellow Australians.

Thank you all very much and congratulations for your generosity.

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