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Friday, 23 July 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - I shall notgo into the question of the necessity for the application of science to industry, because we all know that it exists, but the position is peculiar. Professor Orme Masson's action in resigning, and the interview with him which we have just heard read, proves how wise the Ministry were not to let him, and those associated with him, do whatever they thought fit, and spend money just as they liked. Unless responsibility in this matter is given to a Minister who is answerable to this House, I shall not support the proposal, because scientists, like military men, would spend money like water to bring into operation what they thought was correct. If they cannot assist without wanting to run the show, they will be useless so far as this idea is concerned. Like the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) I want to stop duplication. I am supporting the Bill generally on the second reading, but in Committee I shall vote against the duplication of any Department, although that is not because I think the State Departments are doing well. In my opinion they are not doing well, and need stirring up by the Federal Government. While it is necessary to have local bodies to deal with those things with which they are immediately concerned, there is no reason why the work cannot be done by the Commonwealth. There is much that concerns the whole of the States rather than any one in particular, and yet each is carrying on independently. This, of course, does not make for economy. My idea is, not that we should attempt to take from the States any of their powers, but that the Commonwealth should propose the conversion of all the various State activities into one Australian Department, thus relieving the taxpayers from having to find money for what is really a 'duplication. At a time when we hear so much outcry against extravagance and for economy, I think honorable members on both sides of the' House will agree that wherever duplication can be done away with ;there is warrantable opportunity to practise economy. I suggest to the Government that, having gauged the opinions of honorable members - which appear to be fairly unanimous - it should withdraw this Bill and introduce another that would, be more in conformity with the desires generally expressed during the debate. Of course, the present measure was introduced with the best intentions,, but difficulties have arisen, not the least of which has relation to Professor Orme Masson. The Government, when introducing a fresh Bill, should make clear to those who may be fearful about the matter that there is no desire to create a new Department, but to take over and coordinate the .present scattered activities. The sovereign rights of the States do not enter at this point at all. Surely the States would agree to the Commonwealth undertaking the work, seeing that it is the only way in which it can be done efficiently.

The committee of doctors over which, as a member of this Legislature, I had the honour to preside, when drawing up their reports on the causes of invalidity and death, suggested that the Commonwealth should Allocate certain moneys to the different States to combat those two fell diseases, tha white and the red plague.

Those professional gentlemen associated with me asked whether I thought the Government would be prepared to vote a specific amount. I replied that, in view of the nature of the proposal, the Government would probably not hesitate to do so. A sum of £10,000 was placed on the Estimates to deal with the red plague. But the . Government of New South Wales, which was attempting todeal with the subject independently, considered that it was doing well enough,, and that there was no reason why it should bind itself to the conditions suggested by the Commonwealth authorities.

Our quarantine laws would be much better administered solely by the Commonwealth Government. Last year we witnessed an example of how the States proved careless of the ruin that might have been brought upon Australia as anoutcome of their thinking first of their own petty interests.

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