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Thursday, 18 October 1956

Mr CASEY - I am afraid I did not get the whole purport of the honorable gentleman's question, but I think I understand its general terms. There is a difference between research in respect of primary production and secondary industry research. I do not think it is really appropriate for individual primary producers, such as farm and station owners, to pursue research into their problems. The matter is too complicated and entails the use of facilities that are not available on a farm or a sheep or cattle station. That is not quite the case in respect of secondary industry research. I have always believed, and I still believe, that a great deal more research should be undertaken by individual units - at any rate, medium scale and large scale units - of industry in Australia, particularly in respect of what might be called day-to-day and week-lo-week research. Fundamental research in respect of secondary industry, of course, must be a government preoccupation. I have said on more than one occasion that 1 deplore the fact that industry in Australia is not more research-minded than it is. I believe, as the honorable gentleman has said, that the increasingly competitive nature of industry on a worldwide basis means that Australian industry has not to rely on overseas research, as there is an appreciable delay in the results of that research reaching Australia and being put into operation, but has to become very much more research-minded. I am speaking particularly of secondary industry.

I know very well that there are a good many notable exceptions, and that responsible units of industry do conduct their own research, some of them in a big way. But I believe that research is not nearly as widespread as it should be and as it is with industries of similar size in other industrialized countries. Speaking of research in general, I think it is widely known that a government cannot make a better investment than to undertake intelligently directed scientific research.

The dividends we have had from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and its predecessors are quite phenomenal. We could, of course, use appreciably more money if the economic situation made that possible. But, as I have said before in this House, another bottleneck is the shortage of trained research personnel. They do not grow on every tree by a long way. We are now attracting research workers from overseas. That has happened in the last couple of years, but had not happened before. I make no complaint about the amount of money that is allocated in the budget to research. We could, of course, quite we use double that amount, but research, as well as everything else, has to take cognizance of the economic situation generally and the size of the budget that is determined by the Government.

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