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Thursday, 22 July 1920

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I rise to support the second reading of this Bill, because I fully indorse the principle -that it embodies.- But, like the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), I hope to see' some considerable alteration in the substance of the measure when it is in Committee. . I was sorry to read an announcement in the newspapers quite recently to the effect that Professor Orme Masson has resigned, because if there is not to be a cooperation of. practice and science in this connexion our efforts .will be in vain, and the results, as negligible, as some of the opponents of this Bill hope.

I desire to congratulate the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) on the excellent speech he delivered in connexion with this proposal, and especially would like to. mention the fact that he. has embodied .in. actual practice the value of science when applied to primary production, and even to the secondary -industries of this country.. , He has demonstrated in 1 practice that the application of science to industry - especially to primary industries - is of great benefit'. He has also shown us' a method to burst up big estates, with satisfaction to the original owners and. profit to the country. On' his. own estate 100 freeholders are working happily and prosperously "under the most improved methods, simply be1 cause he has done what the Government is asking this House to enable it to do for the farmers throughout Australia - apply science and better methods to farming.

I am pleased to be able to support the Bill, because I realize that , the existence of .such an Institute will bc of great benefit", to the Commonwealth. During the past four years the Institute has, unfortunately, been dragging on 'in 'a most unsatisfactory way, simply because it has been unable to receive proper consideration. ;at. the hands , of : the' Government and of Parliament. If the -Institute succeeds the people of Australia will be able to take a proper perspective of our national needs. Recently I noticed a report in an Empire number entitled Finance'? andBullionist of last July, which showed that there has been in existence in Canada for the last eight or ten years a Commission, which, to all practical purposes, -is similar to the Institute we propose establishing. The work of this scientific Commission consists of .a proper tabulation of the country's resources, and in the issue of the publication to which I have referred, one page was allowed each Dominion to enable it to advertise its resources. Canada utilized its page by showing the number of million horse-power that could be developed by harnessing its wasting waters and the horse-power that had been developed. On the page allotted to Australia appeared a picture of Australia House in London, and underneath it a photograph of our High Commissioner. That seems to typify the different outlook that obtains in Australia in regard to these matters.

Much of the" opposition that has been hurled at this measure is due. to the fact that we have grown to regard - both in the press and in politics - the political rather than the essential side of our development as of most importance. Those who are opposing propositions such as this are always urging that it is economy not to spend money in this way, but they must remember that true economy is not to be effected by reducing wages, but by eliminating waste and securing the maximum efficiency from every effort that is put forward to increase development and production. To obtain the maximum efficiency from effort it is necessary that we should have full and complete knowledge of all the facts, and there is no way in which that oan be done other than by means of organized research. I noticed that the A ffg newspaper five or six months ago referred to what it called the failures of this Institute. It showed how bread could be baked under an improved system, but took six hours longer; and how plates could be produced from a substitute for tin, but at a much higher price. These failures are due merely to inefficient methods and to insufficient support and under' different circumstances the more satisfactory results could be achieved; This is one of the most important measures that could occupy the attention of this Parliament, and it can be shown that on it not only depends the national development and prosperity of the Commonwealth and comfort of every indivi-dual, but the security of the Empire.

Travelling throughout the country, as I have had the opportunity of doing during the whole of my life, I have noticed the needless drudgery and waste that occur on farm, in mine, in every shop, simply because there has been no 'proper tabulation or indexing of the country's resources that would have enabled wasting powers to be harnessed to the service, of man. It seems scandalous that there should not be a means of bringing before the young minds of this country the opportunities of national prosperity simply because we have no such institution as that now proposed.

Take the' question of electricity. One can go to Japan, Canada, or Western America and then he will find that the water-power resources are tabulated, and in practically the smallest hamlet electricity is harnessed for the service of the people. In Australia that is almost unknown even in fair-sized towns, simply because the latent power in our waters has not been exploited. Our mineral beds have not been fully explored, their possibilities . have not been indexed, neither have they been brought before ' the responsible authorities. If ever there was a time when our national resources should be recorded it is surely now, when the war is over and we are on the verge of a new era. It is more than necessary at the present juncture that. we should have a national Institute to enable the whole of the facts to be placed before the people.

When I was in Canada I found that owing to the activities of the Federal Government ten or twelve years ago in establishing a national physical laboratory they had been able to convert iron ore, which contained a high percentage of sulphur, and which had been regarded as absolutely useless, into the best steel through the use of electric furnaces. That was accomplished as a result of the work of a scientific institute similar to that which we propose establishing here. The remarkable fact is that, although this was brought about by the activities of the' Dominion Government in Canada, by reason of the failure of private enterprise in the country to follow the Government's lead, Germany and the United States benefited. There are .other instances which could be quoted. For example, in the mines of Spain they found, that they had been .wasting 7,000,000 tons of sulphur valued at £14,000,000 simply because of the faulty methods employed in handling the ore. ' That has been corrected, "and now their sulphur is a marketable commodity. Only this morning a gentleman informed me that sulphur was not produced in- Australia, and he was desirous of having certain amendments embodied in the Tariff on that account. At Mount Lyell, and at many other copper mines in the Commonwealth, the whole of the . surrounding country is devoid of vegetation simply because the sulphur fumes are allowed to escape instead of being converted into a marketable product. The same is happening in the tin districts of Tingah, where they are also at the disadvantage of being unable to handle low-grade ores. Because of the want of co-ordinated Government activity which would supply our mines with cheap power, they are unable to handle ores which otherwise they could treat profitably. .Six or eight, months ago the owners of mines in the tin districts of New South Wales told the Government ,©f the State that if water-power were supplied to them from the Clarence, at a place about 70 miles away, they could employ 6,000 additional men, work three shifts, and save £125,000 a year in expenses, at the same time handling profitably " dirt " of about a quarter of the value of that with which they were dealing. There is continual waste for lack of the coordinate development of oUr resources. What is needed is a National Bureau for the tabulation, and indexing of the natural resources of the Commonwealth. , The war demonstrated, if demonstration were needed, the absolute and imperative, necessity for such an inventory-. . As .the war pro,gressed .we found ourselves getting short of all sorts of things, many of which we could have supplied ourselves with very easily had applied science been used to come to our aid; At the present, time paper is costing perhaps 700 per centmore than it cost before the war, and it could be produced here at a quarter the price with proper encouragement. Now, associated with the production of. paper is a host pf minor industries, none of which has been established, here, but alL of which we should have were we producing news print on a proper, basis. Then, a few weeks ago, a big firm, that had a million of capital to invest, came to Australia, but, finding that there was here no tabulated index and record of our resources and situation of necessary materials such as is obtainable in the United States of America, Canada, and other parts of the world, went away, instead of establishing, works that would have been of great benefit to the community.

Members generally are, no doubt, ire' agreement on the principles of the- Bill ; but in considering it the question arises r Is the problem that we have to settle being .attacked in the best way? Have we already in existence agencies that can. do the work that needs to be done? If we have these agencies, are they adequate and properly equipped, and are they doing what should be done? To ascertain the exact position, we must find out what is being done by the States and by the Commonwealth, and obtain the opinion of independent experts who have studied the question that we have to face. The report of the Dominions Royal Commission, which was presented three or four years ago, is, in this regard, a very valuable document. Our next consideration must be the methods of procedure- followed in countries like Canada and the United States of America, where, as here, Governments control enormous territories. A moment's reflection "-must convince any one that what is needed is aFederal institution. The problems that, will require investigation are not bounded by 'State borders. Insect and other- pests' do not regard artificial lines of demarcation, but spread over wide regions, unhindered by the boundaries which mark the limits of State control. In the district which I represent pests are doing great damage to industries that are com- mon to both New South "Wales and Queensland. There are diseases affecting the sugar cane and the banana plants, and there is the tick disease infecting the cattle.. No doubt the State Departments are doing useful work; but a Federal institution is needed to gather up and coordinate the present departmental activities of the States, so that they may be utilized to the fullest extent. For want of co-ordination there is a shocking waste of effort, even in the Departments of a single State. We have scientific ' or highly trained men in the Departments of Agriculture, Works, Mines, and so on, collecting and tabulating data, and yet we experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining a complete and comprehensive statement of the resources of a . State. . About two years ago, when the paper shortage became acute, Mr. Holman, who was then Premier of New South Wales, suggested that paper might be manufactured in that State ; but no one Department of Government could supply information which could settle the question, and he had to appoint a Commission, whose members were drawn from five different Departments. There could not have been a more striking illustration of the need for coordination of the activities of the Departments of the State Governments.

In support of the measure, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has read the opinion of the late Premier of South Australia (Mr. Peake), the Premier of this State (Mr. Lawson), and others, all of whom have asserted that the proposed Institute must be national in character if die .best results are to be secured from its establishment. Some four years ago scientific men from all parts of Australia met together and insisted that the proposed Institute should be national, and not provincial. I should be loath' to see established' an Institute which would be, to a large extent, administrative. Those connected with the proposed Institute will be engaged largely iri research work, and I hope it will be made completely independent of political interference. -.This, I understand, is provided for, though die machinery of the Bill seems- to me inadequately' outlined. We need, as the' honorable member- for Adelaide- (Mr. -Blundell) lias said, to co operate first with the State Departments, and secondly with the Universities. The Institute ' will not require legislative powers, and will want very few administrative powers. Its work will be the collection of exact information, and its experts will have to deliberate upon, digest and assimilate that information, so as to make it of practical benefit to the country. They will have to advise on all questions of policy ' which may arise in connexion with the active administration of our natural resources, their effective conservation, and economic use. But to obtain any satisfactory result the Government must be in possession of reliable data upon which to base their conclusions. In this connexion a comparison between the Commonwealth and the two great Federations of the United States and Canada will prove interesting. The middle western and far western States of America were settled at periods which exactly correspond with, those of our Australian settlement. A similar remark is applicable to Canada. The development of science has been so rapid during the past few years that even late-comers like ourselves are still able to get in on the ground floor if we act promptly. In 1906 or 1907 it was decided that a thorough inventory should be taken of the whole of the resources of the United States of America. Incidentally, I may remark that this was the first inventory ever taken of a nation's resources. The President of the United States called together the Governors of the various States, as .well as representative scientific men of those States; and these persons affirmed that the first practical step in the direction suggested by this Bill was to obtain a proper inventory of their own resources. They recognised that the question of scientific development and progress is one which concerns not only the country which is being developed, but also, its neighbours, and, indeed, the whole world. As a result, they asked that a North American Congress should be summoned. After a united conference, both Canada and Mexico moved in the same direction, with a view to securing Institutes' of Science and Industry, which are practically on all-fours with that sought to be created under this" Bill: Only the.. other, day the 'Americans-, decided to' summon a pan-Pacific Congress to meet at Honolulu next month, at which the whole of the scientific research workers on the shores of the Pacific, who are vitally interested in this matter, will be represented. I ask leave tocontinue my remarks on a future date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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