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Friday, 19 November 1965

Dr GIBBS (Bowman) . - I support the Bill. There are times when I find myself almost lost in admiration for this Government. It has been in office for no little time and I think one of its strengths and the reason why it has remained in office is that from time to time it can bring a new, fresh and progressive approach to continuing problems. The Bill we are considering now is one example of this. Here we have a measure that makes for greater flexibility in the provision of assistance for research. It specifies that research is not to be restricted to any one organisation or one place, that even independent bodies not connected with the universities or other institutions will be assisted. In fact, the recommendations of the Australian Research Grants Committee show that a private research project in Victoria is being subsidised. Another pleasing feature is that research will not be limited to any one narrow field; the whole gamut of human activity may be covered. In the list of approved grants, we see everything from the most abstruse physics and biochemical research, through historical research to research into social behaviour. I believe that this is the right attitude. Science and technology are admittedly important, but it would be most unwise to exclude the humanities from this assistance. I am very pleased that the Government has taken this attitude.

I am heartened and re-assured that the grant will be put to the best possible use when I look at the members of the Australian Research Grants Committee. These are all men of the highest calibre, who may be relied upon to give an informed, intelligent and independent opinion as to the projects that have most merit and should therefore rank for assistance. Research will be assisted far more in this way than under a more rigid scheme. I think that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) gave a hint of the type of scheme that would be adopted by the Australian Labour Party when he suggested that the Commonwealth Government should go it alone. He was not quite happy about the Commonwealth providing matching grants with the States. This seems to be a wish for more uniformity in the channelling of money for research. If we look at the platform of the Australian Labour Party with respect to medical research, we find that this is so. The eleventh paragraph of Labour's policy on health contained in this little manifesto, under the heading " Research ", states -

The promotion of health research under the overall aegis of the National Science Foundation.

The Australian Labour Party would 'have a more uniform approach to research. I do not believe that this would be in the best interests of productive research. It has an affinity with schemes such as that adopted by Russia, Russia has two great scientific bodies, the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Medical Sciences. Research is completely unified. It is taken away even from the universities. Medical science has been taken away entirely and other sciences have been very largely taken away. Research is very strictly and rigidly controlled by the academies and I believe that this control is to the detriment of research.

Remarkable little has been done in Russia in the way of productive medical research since the Russian revolution in 1917. This is in contrast to the enormously productive research that was done in Russia before the revolution. Russia then had a large number of very famous people who were absolute giants in the field of medical research. They made many fundamental contributions to this important field. But since the revolution, once the initial momentum of these great giants died down, there has been very little contribution at all in this field. In fact the Russians have made no really worth while contribution to the science of medicine in latter years, except in corneal grafting, where their work has been very good. Although I would not be in a position to judge, I have been assured by reputable people in the physical sciences and other sciences that Russia these days is not in the vanguard in these fields. I believe that one factor contributing to this situation is that research is too much centralised and too much subjected to central control. Research is a very delicate plant and its usefulness will be greatly limited when it is limited itself or centralised.

Mr Beazley - How can the honorable member spend bis time arguing that I suggested centralised research when I asked that private enterprise should finance more research?

Dr GIBBS - I was really not speaking to what the honorable member had said. I was referring to a statement I found in the official platform of the Australian Labour Party with respect to medical research. If we look at any country that is presently socialised, such as Britain, we can draw the inference that this is the underlying philosophy of the Socialists. They believe in centralised, rigid controls. They believe in controlling all aspects of human endeavour. Consequently, I believe I am justified in making this assumption, particularly when I find the statement in a manifesto of the Australian Labour Party. I was not specifically aiming my remarks at the honorable member for Fremantle, although I caught the general inference from what he said that he largely supports this. If he also supports private enterprise in this matter, I am with him every inch of the way. Private enterprise, of course, is the sector where the most productive practical research is done. Britain made great strides in industry and went far ahead of other countries until the dead hand of Socialism was placed on her. Many of the large industrial undertakings in Britain employ a research staff. They were probably ahead of the rest of the world in doing this, and there, is no doubt that this is the reason why Britain had an early lead in these matters. Britain was well ahead of the United States, especially in such matters as industrial chemical research. I believe that the centralisation of research into narrower channels is a function of Socialist government. If we look at Britain we see that research is now being taken as much as possible from the universities and is being centralised in medical research councils.

Mr Duthie - Why does not the honorable member criticise the Prime Minister and stop all this humbug?

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