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Wednesday, 28 July 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) . - I interjected, when the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was speaking, that his amendment was utterly impracticable. I propose to indicate why it is so. The honorable member has stated that the intention behind his amendment !is that the Institute should consist, not only of a Director, but of certain local advisory councils from each State. The number of members to be appointed to each of these councils was not mentioned. They are, apparently, to be an indefinite number totalling, perhaps, from five to twenty persons in each locality. The Director, together with this indefinite number of members of State councils, is to form the Institute. This body, having been constituted, will find itself in such a position that the simplest contract cannot be entered into, nor the smallest job undertaken, unless and until the whole of the members of the Institute have been called together. It would prove too unwieldy for proper executive work. The fact is that the Institute will be unable to act until its members have been called together to consider the points, great or small, which are at issue. Let us suppose that there are ten members of each council. The' Institute, then, will comprise between sixty and seventy persons. All of these will have to be notified and their expenses paid to Melbourne, or to wherever they are to meet. In addition to the item of travelling expenses, the members of the Institute, I presume, will be entitled to fees amounting to £2 2s. or £3 3s. a day.

Mr Jowett - That is not my intention.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I want to tell the honorable member what his amendment means.

Mr Jowett - Is it not possible .to pass an Act which would enable the Institute to delegate necessary authority in small matters to the Director?

Sir ROBERT BEST - The honorable member, then, wants to substitute one individual for a selected body of men. The Bill does that more effectively than his amendment. I call his attention to the phrase in the Bill, " which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, and capable of suing and being sued."

Mr Jowett - That phrase could be left out.

Sir ROBERT BEST - It cannot, or certainly should not be left out. The scheme propounded by the amendment will not only prove utterly impracticable, but, at the same time, most expensive. If the duties and responsibilities of tho Institute are to be delegated to 'the Director

Mr Jowett - No; only in respect of such matters as the signing of contracts and of other small considerations, which would not necessitate the calling together of the full membership of the Institute.

Sir ROBERT BEST - It is not the signing of contracts that is so important as the matter of the Institute first deliberating on the question which involves the signing of a contract. I only mentioned contracts as a simple instance.

Mr Jowett - The honorable member's objections are frivolous and technical, and could be overcome in ' redrafting the Bill.

Sir ROBERT BEST - If the honorable member had any knowledge of kindred institutions he would not speak as he is doing. My objections are not frivolous, but arc of absolute substance, and particularly so from a legal standpoint. All that the honorable member seeks to obtain could be secured by the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Greene). It is very desirable that there should be local councils, so that the Institute shall work in conjunction with them. The original Bill contained a proposal for the establishment of councils to consist of three members each; but these members were not to form the membership of the Bureau or Institute.

Mr Jowett - They had no power, and, therefore, they resigned.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I may be making a mistake, but" I believe that suggestions of the kind now being propounded by the honorable member are identical with those which have been so favorably entertained by the professors themselves.

These latter gentlemen are naturally exasperated because the Government are determined upon the appointment of practical industrial scientists to the various positions. I have the highest personal regard for our University professors, for whose studies in the realms of pure science we should all be prepared to extend our appreciation.

Mr Ryan - What does the honorable member suggest that these professors want?

Sir ROBERT BEST - They want, of course, to dominate the Institute.

Mr Tudor - They want all their own way.

Mr Ryan - Does the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) say that that is what is underlying the amendment ?

Sir ROBERT BEST - I do not know at whose instance the honorable member proposed the amendment.

Mr Jowett - At my own instance. I am not a tool to be .put forward by other people.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The honorable member's amendment is singularly in harmony with the aspirations of the University professors.

Mr Jowett - I have some respect for them, anyhow.

Sir ROBERT BEST - So have I,. in their own sphere. At the same time, if we are to get solid, practical work from the Institute, it must be constituted of practical industrial scientists, men with u knowledge of industry. The University professors have taken offence at the terms of this Bill, because it is not the class of measure that they contemplated. But I congratulate the Government on their determination that the Institute shall be constituted of practical men.

Mr Ryan - If there is any evidence that the professors wanted to get control of the Institute we should hear it.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The local councils proposed by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would give control to the University professors. They dominate the existing Advisory Council, and the work performed by that body has not been completely satisfactory so far as practical results are concerned. No industries seem to have benefited largely by any advice offered by tho council; work has been of a theoretical rather than of a practical character. I have not a word to say against the professors in their own line of .pure scientific research, but I say that their University qualifications do not necessarily make them capable of undertaking the work we hope to achieve under this Bill. Nothing I say must be regarded as any reflection upon them and their distinguished services at their several Universities. But an Institute such as is proposed must have help from every source, and its best energies must be applied in an industrial direction. Therefore the amendment, which aims at making the Institute more representative, is not only impracticable, but would be very expensive. The same results can be more effectively achieved by the constitution of local councils of an advisory character as have been suggested by the Minister.

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