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Thursday, 4 May 1961

Mr FOX (Henty) .- In the ten minutes allotted to me in this debate, I should like to raise matters affecting two of my constituents, because I believe that those matters involve important principles. The first concerns a young man who is at present a research student at the Melbourne University, and who has endeavoured unsuccessfully to date to obtain nomination by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for a nuclear science fellowship. These fellowships are awarded by the International Atomic Energy Commission, and they are administered in Australia by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the Department of External Affairs. They are awarded each year to candidates from member countries, of which Australia is one, for the purpose of training overseas as scientists in the field of atomic energy. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that there are at least 70 member countries.

A booklet relating to the fellowships, of which I have a copy, and which was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 1959, discloses that for the year ended 30th June, 1959, Australia pledged herself to contribute 10,000 United States dollars to the scheme. In that year, 36 countries pledged themselves to contribute a total of over 1,000,000 dollars. The booklet to which I have referred also discloses that in 1958 there were 287 nominations for scholarships from 30 countries, and that in 1959 there were 568 nominations from 44 countries. Although such small countries as the Dominican Republic and Monaco submitted nominations, and larger countries like the United States of America, Italy and Japan also nominated students, Australia did not nominate any one in either of those years.

My constituent has recently graduated as a Master of Science, but he has been told by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to make another application for nomination after he has obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree. The booklet to which

I have referred also mentions research grants, and states -

In addition to research training fellowships, the Agency will also grant a limited number of " research grants ". These grants will be awarded to scientists and engineers who have active research interests in the field of nuclear energy.

The aim of these grants is to give the holders opportunities to carry out original research, using facilities which are not yet fully developed in their own countries. Applicants for these grants should possess at least the equivalent of the M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree and extensive experience in a pertinent field of research substantiated by the quality of their published scientific papers.

Presumably, if the qualification for the more valuable research grant is a degree as Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy then that required for the fellowship should be something less, and my constituent naturally asks whether all of the 568 nominees in 1959 were Doctors of Philosophy. He believes that not all of them would possess a Master of Science degree. If the standard applied by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is that the applicant should be a Doctor of Philosophy, then these scholarships lose their value, because there is no lack of opportunities for overseas training for students possessing the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. In fact, some very lucrative scholarships are available to them. If Australia really needs nuclear scientists, as I believe she does, then the Australian Atomic Energy Commission should provide the opportunity for overseas training for those students possessing the degree of Master of Science who are interested enough to request nomination for these international fellowships.

The second matter to which I wish to refer relates to the Social Services Act. A lady in my electorate, whose only income is the age pension, has a husband who has been an inmate of a mental hospital for eighteen years. Although he is not a voluntary patient, he is allowed to come home each week-end, and his wife is happy to look after him each week from Friday morning until Monday afternoon. This means, in effect, that the wife keeps him for almost four days in every week.

The Social Services Act provides that where an age pensioner becomes an inmate of a mental hospital his pension shall be suspended. Unfortunately, the law prevents the payment of a pension to this man until such time as he is formally discharged from the mental hospital. As I have said, he has already been an inmate for eighteen years, and there is apparently no likelihood of his being discharged. The effect of this is that his wife, who is an age pensioner herself, and who has no income other than her pension from which she has to meet the instalments on the home in which she lives, has to keep her husband for virtually four days every week. She could, of course, elect to leave him in the mental hospital for seven days a week and so pass the cost of keeping her husband on to either the State Government directly or, through tax reimbursements, to the Commonwealth Government indirectly, but as she obviously places great value on her marriage vows, she prefers to struggle on in the way in which she is going now.

The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) clearly has no power under the act to authorize any payment with respect to this man, but I ask the Government to give serious consideration to amending the act, on purely humane grounds, to provide for cases such as this.

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