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Friday, 19 November 1965


Mr GILES (Angas) .-1 regret that I have to rise at this hour of the afternoon, but if I do not conclude my speech on this occasion perhaps I shall be given an opportunity to do so later. I have a great deal of material to refer to, and it will be difficult to do that properly in the few minutes that are left to us this afternoon. I thought there was a great deal of substance and a great deal to the credit of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in the remarks that he made. I do not think, however, that I can agree quite so easily with what was said by other speakers in this debate.

The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to the problem of matching grants. This has become one of the major problems affecting the States. Later in my speech I intend to be more specific in dealing with the difficulties that matching grants appear to have caused in South Australia. In passing, may I say that in this field South Australia has accepted its responsibility, up to a point, in finding the funds necessary to match the Commonwealth's contribution. The allocation to South Australia for research workers recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee is £297,000. I think it was due to pressure from within the university and from the Opposition in South Australia that finally the Minister for Education found the extra £60,000 required to enable the State to take up its grant. I should like to go into that matter later. However, let me say now that the Commonwealth appears to have given the State Ministers for Education, who I think are looking for an excuse, an opportunity to voice their discontent with the amount of warning that they have had of the departure from the formula relating to the allocation of £1 million per annum.

The honorable member for Fremantle appeared to me to make the point that matching grants did hot altogether provide a solution to the problem of the allocation of funds for this purpose. I do not agree with him. I think there has been a good response from all sections of government. I do not know that I would go as far as the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) went. He lined up the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle with a desire for a completely uniform approach to research, with a rigidity that reminded him of what is happening in certain countries. As I have said, I do not know that I would carry my argument to that extent, but it is quite obvious that in relation to the allocation of research funds there is a very real difference between the approach of the Government and that of the Opposition.

I have had a cursory glance at reports of remarks by some members of the Opposition on this topic. From my point of view, I congratulate the Government very much on its grants for these purposes. Let me say here that the honorable member for Wills, I think, rather insinuated that this was the only source of funds for these purposes. That is not so. The measure provides for the allocation of the £2 million available to the Australian Research Grants Committee. I would not like to think that anyone in this House or indeed anyone in Australia would believe that this was the only source of funds for these purposes. We are dealing today, however, only with matching grants from this fund. This disposes - to my satisfaction at any rate - of the argument that any newer method of financing this type of research at university level should be brought into effect in the future. Frankly, I believe that the system of matching grants by the Commonwealth is the correct and responsible way of tackling the problem.

The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), early in his speech, claimed that universities were unhappy. A little later he said that they were very happy. I found myself unable to decide exactly what he thought was the attitude of the universities. Therefore I should like to put before the House the South Australian viewpoint as expressed by some members of the professorial staff of the University of Adelaide, by the University Council itself, and by the people of South Australia - certainly it is the view of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament. All are very happy with the increased allocation of funds to the University of Adelaide and indeed to the new university which I gather is to be called the Flinders University. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that the proportionate increase is such that obviously the Robertson Committee, which is composed of highly qualified and highly respected intellects, has a very high opinion of the standard of research work in these two universities. I think this is greatly to the credit of the research workers.

The honorable member for Barton also made the point that he could not see the reason for setting up the Robertson Committee. I think the reason was probably made quite clear in the announcement made by Senator Gorton on 31st August of this year. Senator Gorton said that he would recommend the distribution of the next £2 million on the basis of the merit of the projects and the quality of the investigators. Here is a clear cut difference in principle which I am sure the honorable member for Barton appreciates.


Mr Reynolds - Why was the allocation changed from what the Australian Universities Commission recommended?


Mr GILES - That is not the point. My point is that there are different ways of looking at the problem and, therefore, different methods of allocating the grants. We could debate for some length of time whether this is a good idea or not, but there is sufficient reason, I think, to point out this afternoon that the allocation of funds for purposes of this type must be fluid. It would not be wise to become bogged down by uniformity of approach. Personally I back up the decision of the Government to appoint this highly qualified expert Committee in order to bring a new viewpoint and a new emphasis to the type of research that should be carried out for the benefit of the country.

I now come to the main reason why I rose to discuss this measure. There was some doubt in South Australia as to whether the State Government could find the extra £60,000 in order to take full advantage of the Commonwealth's allocation of funds under the research grants scheme. Roughly what occurred - and quite a deal of play has been made on this in South Australia - was that the South Australian Minister for Education decided that the Federal Government had not completely played fair in relation to the increase of funds to the State. This is a most surprising attitude and one from which I wish to dissociate myself. It is obviously very much to the advantage of the State, the University of Adelaide and the people of South Australia that this grant should be increased. If I were to be political at this stage I would say that the fault is possibly due to the fact that there is a new government in South Australia of the same political colour as the Opposition in this House. That Government, perhaps, has made the mistake of allocating too much of its budgetary funds to non-productive sources. Already this is quite apparent.







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