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Wednesday, 28 July 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I regret the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), though of course, in the initiation of a large and important institution there may be many matters worthy of criticism. It istrue that the various States are conducting experiments on lines similar to those which will be undertaken by a Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry,' but we ought to remember the many schools of surgery and medicine which are operating in England. It is the rival investigations of the universities of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales which serve to stimulate those bodies to higher and greater efforts. Science must rule in this present day. The old time of bows, arrows, and spears has gone by the board, if I may use a war-time allusion. The machine gun would mow them down in thousands. In the old days grappling irons were used in the course of naval encounters. Only in comparatively recent years have boarding pikes been abolished in the British Navy. To-day it is not so much the rank and file of the men on our ships as the one controlling brain which counts. And so it is in the matter of scientific application to agriculture. Only the other day the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) informed me that he would cable to England to ascertain particulars following on an intimation in the press that a new variety of wheat had been discovered which would give more than ninety bushels to the acre. We know how lucky a. farmer feels to-day if he can average twenty-five bushels for three years. Would we not be a wealthy community if our farmers could secure a return of ninety bushels to the acre ? The honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay), and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) delivered speeches on this subject which are well worthy of perusal if honorable members failed to hear them. Those honorable members spoke of the benefits accruing from experiments in the growth of wheat. Scientists to-day are hopeful of producing a variety which will contain elements such as to eliminate the need for eating meat. The time may come when we shall all be grain eaters, and will have forsaken the eating of flesh foods. How much would thickly populated Europe give to-day if it could only obtain additional territory equal to that in Australia which has been rendered useless by the prickly pear ? Do what we will, that pest is extending, and only science can arrest its progress.

In inaugurating this important new organization we must closely watch expenditure. It is my intention to move, in respect of the salary to be paid the Director of the Institute, that it shall be not more than £1,000 per annum. I want to see established in Australia the principle that the salary paid to a member' of Parliament shall be the highest paid to any head of a Department.

I intend to vote for this Bill. I hope and expect great results from it. The central body should be the Commonwealth Institute, linking up with State activities and utilizing them for particular experimental and investigation purposes within their own States. A central body established in Melbourne cannot as satisfactorily carry out investigations, for example, in the north of Queensland as could a body established in that State. But the Commonwealth Bureau should be the dominant authority, linking up each and all of the States. Moreover, the Government should have the power to put before the central body specific questions of policy. A sum of £5,000 has been spent upon rain stimulating experiments, which most people laugh at. Before such an outlay was agreed upon the actual question itself should have been placed before some such scientific and expert authority as the Institute will become. This should have been done before Mr. Balsillie was permitted to fool away £5,000. Our manufacturers are suffering to-day from certain striking disabilities. They may not own the machines with which they are working, but are only permitted to rent them. The central authority should be asked some such questions as these : - "Are these patented machines necessary ' to carry on Australian industrial life? If so, what do you suggest to protect the manufacturer and the public from these trusts and combines which hold the patentrights and are thus prolific of trouble and expense to Australian industry ?"

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