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Wednesday, 21 July 1920

Debate resumedfrom . 7th July (vide page2578), 'on;motion by Mr. Greene-

That thisBill be now read asecond time.

Mr.TUDOR.(Yarrai)[8.8].- I am mot quite sure !how many times -thisBill has beenbefore the House, but certainly we have considered it more than once.It has already been passed by the Senate, but such important alterations -have been made in the form of the measure as originally introduced, that Professor Orme Masson, the chairman of the Advisory Council, has . resigned. His resignation was announced in the Melbourne Herald of 'the8th. inst. According to the report of that journal ProfessorMasson states that-

The present.Bill has, however, departed from the scheme in two important respects; omitting a provision for the appointment of advisory councils and substituting one single director for the three directors originally proposed.

The Prime Minister's view is that these two alterations are not vital, and do not substantially affect the position; but, even if that view be correct, it is urged that he was not justified in making alterations without consulting the members of the Committee.

In explaining the reasons for his action, Professor Masson expressed the view that the alterations made by the Government would utterly ruin the entire scheme. He said that late in 1915 the Government had started upon this work. He then proceeded -

The movement for the establishment of an Institute of Science, and Industry was the outcome of the formation of a similar body in Great Britain in 1915. The then Victorian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hagelthorn) sent on to the Melbourne University Council the papers in connexion . with it which he received- from the Colonial Office, with . a suggestion that the scheme might be widened so as to benefit Australia. The Council; however, took the view that- Australian" problems should be attacked in Australia, and that the English action should be followed on Australian lines. At about the. same time the InterState Commission made a similar suggestion.

At the end of the year the University Council urged the Prime Minister,' Mr. Hughes', to bring together representatives of science and of industry, and such a Conference took place in the following January, when a Committee was appointed to draft a scheme of operations.

There were in this scheme three essential features - entire freedom from' political control (a provision with which the Prime . Minister expressed ready agreement) ; the placing of the direction in the hands of three men, of whom two were' to bemen of scientific attainments and one a "practical" man (a provision with which also, after some discussion, Mr. Hughes expressed agreement) ; and the establishment of an advisory council to consist of representatives of various branches of science and of industry. The only important variation afterwards suggested by the Committee in the proposals then put forward was in the direction of replacing the single advisory council for the entire Commonwealth by a number of such councils, one for each State. ' When, however, after 4½ years, the Government had brought down a measure for the formation of a permanent institute, these provisions, deemed essential by the Committee, had been thrown aside without the Committee being in any way consulted.

I look on' the alterations made as vital. That such a step has been taken . without consultation with the Committee is typical of the whole trend of action on the part of the Government. As a net result of four and a half years' work, I have no faith in politicians. During that time, the Committee has met once a week or of tener, . and, as an outcome of its labours, it has advised 'the Government re garding various developments; but the treatment of its recommendations has been such as to induce and increase the conviction that the politicians are not in sympathy with the Committee in its desire to lay down lines along which science can profitably be applied to industry. '

Those are Professor Masson's comments on the alterations which have been made in the Bill as originally introduced. I do not entirely agree with the view which he has expressed. I do not believe that the proposed Institute can be entirely divorced from political control. If Professor Masson is of opinion that all we have to do is to find themoney for the Institute, and that the Advisory Council is to spend it just as that body likes, or that it is to appoint whom it chooses, and to conduct as many investigations as it thinks fit, I do not agree with him. But I do believe that the Commonwealth Government should have utilized the machinery at present existing in the different States which are already doing work along somewhat similar lines, and that it should have placed the Commonwealth laboratory at their disposal, so as to aid them in that work. I do not think that we are justified in building up another institute, which, if divorced from political control, may become a spending department. When speaking upon this subject, upon a former occasion, I was asked by the honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine) whether the Institute was intended to undertake the destruction of such pests as the prickly pear and the blowfly. Certainly we should accomplish a great work if we rid Australia of the prickly pear, and I have no doubt . that many honorable members are- in a position to give us a similar assurance in regard to the blowfly, which has inflicted enormous injury upon stock in this country. Does any honorable member think that the work of the Institute has brought nearer the solution of the problems caused by the existence of these pests ? I have, from the start, objected to the unpractical nature of what has been done. I have nothing to say against "University men,but theorists have been put into positions which should have been held by practical men. I do not advocate the claims of any particular person, but Parliament should hesitate before giving to anybody power to appoint as many officers as he pleased, without control. The Bill does not fix any amount as the cost of the Institute.

Mr Groom - Special scientific work requires the appointment of specially skilled persons.

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