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Thursday, 22 July 1920


Mr BLUNDELL (Adelaide) .- While T indorse what every honorable member who has spoken to the measure has said in regard to the great need for applying science to our industries, both primary and secondary, I arn not satisfied that we are doing the best we possibly can to give assistance to those industries by the establishment of an efficient institute of science and industry unless we are assured by the Minister (Mr. Greene) that there is some clear understanding between the States and the Commonwealth Government as to the work it will carry out. It is idle to say that we ought to have co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. We all realize the necessity for that. If we pass this Bill we shall be establishing another Department; and, as honorable members must know, there will be no limitation to its extension. At present we have in the States all the institutions necessary for the development of our industries; and I want to know what scheme the Minister has in mind for the co-ordination of all this very important work. It is idle to say that this country is faced with a very heavy financial responsibility, if we are not prepared in connexion with this Bill to prevent the establishment of another Commonwealth Department, because this will not' only involve the Commonwealth in unnecessary expenditure, but will cause friction between State institutions and this proposed Commonwealth Institute. I believe the Minister's intention is to secure coordination, but we know what happens in practice when we .set up a new Department. I feel sure it will not be long before the Commonwealth Institute will be working side by side with the State institutions of a similar nature.


Mr Jowett - In opposition to them.


Mr BLUNDELL - Yes; that will be the position, unfortunately, whereas the object really should be to link up all those activities, so as to insure the assistance of State scientists.


Mr Jowett - And at present they complain that they are being flouted.


Mr BLUNDELL - What the honorable member says is quite true. If we cannot get their co-operation in the development of this scheme it will not be a success. Therefore, it would not be wise to passthe Bill before we arrive at some understanding on this important matter. It would be much better if the Minister would agree to take the Bill up to the Committee stage, and then, in cooperation with State representatives, devise a scheme that will not overlap the work that is at present being done.


Mr Austin Chapman - We want one main institution, and, preferably, at Canberra.


Mr BLUNDELL - I am not quite so sure about its location, but we do want one main institution; and I make the suggestion to the Minister, not in a spirit of antagonism to the Bill, but in order to insure the success of the scheme. In the State which I have the honour to represent we have established a Department of Chemistry, which is doing very good work indeed. The creation of that Department was an administrative act of my own, when a member of the State Government, so honorable members will realize that I have a keen appreciation of the work of scientists, and if I offer opposition to the Bill in its present form, it is because I foresee the danger of proceeding with the scheme in the absence of an understanding with the various State Governments. Clause 12 provides that the Governor-General may - not shall - arrange with the Government of any of the States for the utilization of State research departments.


Mr Riley - We cannot make it mandatary.


Mr BLUNDELL - Perhaps not; but surely we can come to some arrangement and provide for it in the Bill. That is my only reason for opposing the measure. I shall vote against it. because I am opposed to the establishment of a huge Commonwealth Department, which will, in all probability, come into competition with State institutions, instead of co-operating with them.


Mr Richard Foster - The Premier of South Australia has informed me he believes that the scheme will.be quite satisfactory.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The Premiers have already considered it and indorsed its main principles.


Mr BLUNDELL - But we ought to make sure of their co-operation.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - It is impossible to make sure, in advance, on items which we have not definitely decided upon.


Mr Riley - Thissuggestion to make sure of co-operation is only another way of killing the Bill.


Mr BLUNDELL - I have no desire to kill the Bill, but I believe it is absolutely essential that we secure co-ordination. At present, there is grave danger of duplication. Even now, in South Australia, there are two similar Departments, one controlled by the Commonwealth and the other by the State Government, building soldiers' homes, and by their competition making it more difficult for the men to secure homes.

Mr.Richard Foster. - You are quite right.


Mr BLUNDELL - And I fear the experience will be repeated in connexion with this proposed Institute of Science and Industry.

I also draw attention to the duplication of information contained in the scientific bulletins that are issued from time to time. Nearly every honorable member has an accumulation of these publications, which are really a nuisance, unless one can take them home for use in a bathheater.


Mr Richard Foster - Give the farmer one instead of six, and he will read it more diligently than his Bible.


Mr BLUNDELL - If one takes up these publications, one will find the same information in many of them, because they cull one from the other. If we could eliminate the heavy expenditure involved in the publication and distribution of these pamphlets, the position would be much more satisfactory.


Mr Tudor - Twelve months ago I was told that the pamphlets cost1s. 8½d. each to produce, and they were selling for1s.


Mr BLUNDELL - The paper upon which the science bulletin is issued is altogether too costly for pamphlets of this description.

I also direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the Director is to be appointed for a period of five years. Can we expect any man with scientific attainments to accept a position for five years- only?


Mr Jowett - That is the term offered to the High Commissioner.


Mr BLUNDELL - With all deference to the High Commissioner, I suggest that the position of Director of the proposed Institute will be more important than that of the High Commissioner in London, and I doubt whether any leading scientist, occupying a secure position under a State Government, will sever his connexion for a five years' Commonwealth appointment.


Mr Richard Foster - If the man . is good enough for this position, we shall find .that all the world will want him.


Mr BLUNDELL - That is so, and. I have in mind a really good scientific man in South Australia, Dr. Hargreaves. He does not- live in the clouds altogether, but is a practical as well as a scientific man.


Mr Richard Foster - A brilliant man wasted.


Mr BLUNDELL - That is so. It is not likely that a competent Government official who has a. guaranteed position until he is, say, seventy years of age, would vacate it for the privilege of .taking up the directorship of the proposed Institute for a period of five years. I -direct the attention'" of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.' Greene) to that aspect of. the question, because, if the Government do establish the Department .they are not likely to secure a suitable Director unless there is some security of tenure.


Mr Tudor - If an applicant is not in a good position, he will not be worthy of the job.


Mr BLUNDELL - No ; a suitable man is not likely to ' be found wanting around the streets with his toes out of his boots'. Of course, there is :a possibility of the Director's-, term being extended.

I am sorry that- I shall Have to record my vote in opposition to the Bill unless- 1 receive. some assurance from the Government that amendments w>ill -be made in -the direction I; have' indicated. Although it is my intention to -oppose the --.measure, I do ' not wish' it: to" be thought that I do not recognise the need for effective scientific research; but I cannot support the Bill until I am ' as- ,sured that the Government do not intend duplicating the work -that is already being done by the State authorities.







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