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Wednesday, 3 May 1939

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) . - I join with other honorable members in giving general approval to this proposal to extend the scope of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but I also utter a word of caution. Some honorable gentlemen have waxed almost lyrical in their praise of certain officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is no doubt that excellent work has been done by the council in its investigations of primary production problems, but I point out that the chief executive officer of this organization is a chemist, and not an engineer. We must remember that fact when we consider the wisdom of authorizing the council to extend its operations to secondary industries. I concede that some distinguished engineers are associated with the council,- but numerous officers of tho Customs Department are well equipped to supply the information necessary to enable many of our secondary industries to he developed on more scientific lines. As with all government and semigovernmental activities, it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on the expenditure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for a huge outlay could easily he made by this organization.

Mr Gregory - There is a little bit of outside political patronage.

Mr WHITE - Last year an additional £250,000 was made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I think we ought to exercise some caution on the taxpayers' -behalf in authorizing other heavy expenditure. I am in favour of doing everything possible to encourage the adoption of scientific methods in industry, and I am glad that the investigations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with the eradication of prickly pear by means of the cactoblastus and in regard to other matters have proved so effective. But State Departments of Agriculture are also carrying out experimental work of this nature. There should be the closest possible liaison between the council and Commonwealth and State departments engaged in these activities. The council is inclined to act independently of other departments, and I should be sorry to see any increased tendency to isolation. I suggest to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) that whatever is done under the provisions of this measure should be done in close consultation with the Customs "Department. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs I rarely, if ever, received any offers of co-operation from the other departments, notwithstanding that the Customs Department frequently made available to them the services of its skilled officers. If the best results are to be obtained at the least cost, there must be greater co-operation between departments.

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