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Friday, 19 November 1965


Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- We do not have very much trouble with the scientists of the world today. It is the people who run most of the reactionary governments of the world who are causing a good deal of the trouble. There might be a case for some research into parliaments and how not to run them; but this afternoon we are a little pressed for time. We are told that this is an important measure but, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has pointed out, there is very meagre information before us and it is difficult to decide whether this proposal is a great step forward. I think it was the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) who stated that it represents little better than the gathering in of Commonwealth powers and handing them over to a non-responsible committee and pressing on with something else. I am afraid that the honorable member was right.

The measure before us will require an expenditure of a little less than £1 million of the Commonwealth's money. This represents approximately one thirtieth of the cost of the Government's decimal coinage scheme, about one twentieth of the cost of the Tullamarine airport and about one quarter of the cost of the Canberra lake. Therefore, it does not represent any great scattering of largesse; but it is, at least, a recognition by this Government and this Parliament that the Commonwealth itself must accept responsibility for conducting research everywhere. Both the Bill and the speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on it, represent important political and administrative steps.

What is the Liberal Party's doctrine in this field? The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) made a great speech about the question of liberality, the devolution of power, authority and responsibility. The Liberal Party's doctrine obviously is to let everybody else do things and not to have much to do with them oneself. The Liberal practice in the field of education, research and universities is to gather everything in to the Commonwealth itself. This proposal for an Australian Research Grants Committee is a very interesting demonstration of the inevitability, not so much of the centralisation of activity, but of what one might call the " acceptance of national responsibility ". This is a gathering in of the strings.

Our good friends opposite often refuse to accept the fact that these matters are national responsibilities so that we often come to them with great diffidence and, often, too late. Contained in the information before us is a long list of some 1 2 pages or more of names of people to whom sums of money are to be made available by way of grants for research and there are some very involved definitions of the various types of research. I submit that this Parliament could have been treated with a little more respect in connection with that matter. Towards the end of his speech, the Prime Minister said -

I am pleased to inform the House, that the Governments of five States have agreed to support the Committee's recommendations in full. The Government of New South Wales is still considering its position.

This is a rather novel experience for this Parliament. It has been almost universally true that when any dynamic action has been required in the past it has been the Labour Government of New South Wales which has led the way.

The honorable member for Bowman made a great play on the Socialist tendency towards centralisation. The Socialist tendency is not towards centralisation; it is towards the expansion of opportunity. The honorable member for Bowman is a man of great professional attainment in the body physic but in the body politic he seems to be most inaccurate, his inaccuracy reaching almost the point of quackery. He spoke of Great Britain under Conservative governments. All the Conservative governments of the past in Great Britain did was to talk about the brain drain from that country. The honorable member asserted that the Liberal Party's attitude on all these questions was flexible.

By not accepting the fact that the Commonwealth will have to take greater and more responsibilities in the field of research, education and so on, honorable members on the Government side are doing themselves and the Government of this country a great disservice. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth will have to be the major factor in the development of research in all fields. It will have to promote development by the encouragement of others and by the exercise of initiative on its own account. An examination of the documents available to us will disclose just how great its commitment is. Unfortunately, the Government is inclined to indulge in what might be called government by largesse. It scatters its largesse to committees and others and requires them to activate research.

This attitude is to be found in many fields such as non-State education, some fields of State education, research, the search for oil, and so on. The Commonwealth ought to be initiating much more of the work itself in very many fields. Reference has been made to the Socialist parties of the world. The record of the Australian Labour Party in these matters is one of putting faith and trust in the professional capacity of people to do things. I wonder whether the Australian National University, one of the most richly endowed institutions in this country, would have been in being at all if there had been no Labour government from 1945 onwards to organise and initiate it. I am pretty certain that it would not have been. I think that the way in which the A.N.U. was established, the way in which it was given a good deal of authority and ample resources to carry out its work without any interference from the government of the day is a clear indication of what we mean when we say that science, technology and all the other fields of cultural and academic development are the responsibility of government. It is merely a question of placing resources at the disposal of those in whose ability to carry out the work we have faith. I believe that is the philosophical basis of the approach by honorable members on this side of the House towards research.

Let me go further and remind honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Bowman, of the tremendous ramifications of research under governments in this country. I think it is chasing rainbows to expect that private industry will conduct much effective and useful research in this country. It certainly will not in the more abstract of the physical sciences. It will certainly do very little, indeed virtually nothing, in the social sciences and I believe that in the field of technology it will be so dedicated to private profit that its research will have very little application to the community at large. So it will be the government instrumentalities in Australia which will carry the main burden. I believe it is right that this should be so.

Perhaps one of the problems that faces us as administrators and legislators is the setting up of legislative and administrative machinery to allow people to develop their individual initiative and press on with the work without too much overall surveillance. That is the important thing about research.

If honorable members care to examine the book " Scientific and Technical Research Centres in Australia" published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial

Research Organisation last year, they will be rather amazed at the proliferation of scientific and research centres. For example, there are 91 Commonwealth research and technical centres listed in the book. Others listed are 19 for New South Wales, 11 for Queensland, 10 for South Australia, 4 for Tasmania, 29 for Victoria, 13 for Western Australia, and 169 for the various faculties and research organisations of universities. There is a total of 353 such centres. It would be far from the truth to suggest that we on this side would want to bring all those into some mammoth government department. What we want is to see that they are enabled to carry their work forward without any undue restrictions being put upon their work. I therefore believe that, when considering the measure before us, it is not a bad idea to look at those things which are being sponsored by the provision of approximately £1 million.

With the honorable member for Barton, I believe that not nearly enough is being done in the field of social research. On examination of the book to which I have referred, 1 find that Queensland has in hand 22 projects. Three are related to history, 1 is connected with the social service sciences, 16 have to do with physics and 2 are concerned with medicine. I emphasise that I am giving only my interpretation of the rather difficult titles with which these projects are endowed.

Although he may not have mentioned it specifically, I gathered that the honorable member for Bowman thought that there ought to be more medical research. If he does not hold that view, then he should hold it. I believe that there is not enough concentration on the ordinary human frame. Many fields of study and research are still open into humanity's own bodywork. As to social sciences, even the ones listed, there appears to be very little appreciation of the necessity for research into current social problems. I am pleased to see that in Western Australia there appears to be a research project for planning Aboriginal economic advancement in that State. I make the appeal that wider opportunities be offered in the field of the social sciences, that they be given more resources and perhaps a little more ginger. I believe that a good deal of this money should be used to solve the current and developing problems in an increasingly complex community.

I agree with the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) - perhaps this arises from our professional employment before we came to this place - that education is a field which needs very close scrutiny. A great deal of examination is needed over the whole of that field. Education is, one might say, the machine belt by which the community passes on its culture from generation to generation. Education is inevitably conservative, but we are living in a new world. I would like to see a thorough examination made of teaching methods and of the capacities that students must take to universities. Is the matriculation system appropriate? Is our teaching of languages first class, mediocre or poor? My own impression is that, compared with overseas countries, the teaching of languages here is rather mediocre. The impression I have gained from travelling in other countries is that in those countries young people of 16 or 17 years handle the English language much better than the average Australian student handles a foreign language.

I think there is great work to be done in the field of sociology, certainly in the field of anthropology both in the Australian community and in the Territories. There is much work to be done also in the field of psychology. I should like to sound a note of warning here. There is a field of inquiry - perhaps that is hardly the correct way to describe it- called Scientology, and I think an effort is to be made to inhibit the development of Scientology to the point of banning it. It has been brought to my notice by highly placed people in the fields of sociology and psychology that a bill currently before the Victorian Parliament may well inhibit to the point of prohibition some sociological research. This is something which should cause great concern to those of us who have to deal with these maters. I hope that the Victorian Parliament will think long before it passes any measure which steps into this field in such a way as to inhibit or prohibit research work.

I would ask the Government, on the next time it produces legislation of this kind, to do the things that have been requested by the honorable member for Barton. He has requested that an analysis be made of what is involved in the various scientific fields. He has requested also that a more detailed statement be given of what is involved in each of the grants that are to be made, and that an expert analysis be made of the direction in which such grants will take Australian research and technological development. It is all very well to bring legislation of this kind before the Parliament for us to put a rubber stamp on it, but if the legislation is to go out with our imprimatur I think we are entitled to know exactly what is in it. We have a responsibility for the future development of this community, and we can discharge that responsibility only if we have adequate information. I speak for myself now, but I think this would apply to most honorable members, when I say that it is beyond our personal capacity to examine every item that is in the schedule. With the best will in the world, in view of the time that is available I do not think any of us could make a proper analysis of this measure and decide whether it is one-sided, lop-sided or is something that most of us would desire. I suggest that the Minister, even at this late hour, ask his colleagues whether he can place before us, as convenient, a table showing exactly what is involved over the whole field, together with some analysis, so that we can work out exactly what it is we are seeking to do this afternoon.







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