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Friday, 11 June 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Home and Territories) .- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

It is very appropriate that following upon the consideration of the tariff which has such an important effect upon our primary and secondary industries, we should now be called upon to deal with a bill the object of which is to enable our primary and secondary industries to become more efficient, and so return to those engaged in them reasonable profits under reasonable wages and living conditions. Australia has a very high standard of living. Generally speaking, employees in this country enjoy high wages, and work short hours under good labour conditions. Since Australia depends almost entirely for her prosperity on the export of her primary products which have to be sold in the markets of the world, in competition with products from countries where the standard of living is not nearly so high as in Australia, Ave should neglect no opportunity to put our producers in a position to meet that competition. Experience has shown that only with proper organization and by attaining and maintaining the highest standard of efficiency, is it possible for primary production to be carried on successfully, with a high standard of wages and under reasonable labour conditions. We cannot extract from a quart pot more than is put into it. The prosperity of Australia cannot be ensured in association with any go-slow policy. This must spell ruin. I am one of those who believe that the Australian working man and the Australian primary producer have few equals and no superiors in the world. But, unfortunately, there is a tendency amongst a certain section of this community to deprecate the application of energy to the maintenance of efficiency in production, of which we have been so proud hitherto, and to preach the gospel of inefficiency, which, as I have said, must spell ruin if it has general acceptance in this country. In some countries that compete with Australia in the markets of the world, primary production is carried on by inefficient methods and with cheap labour working long hours. In certain countries, for example, the people still use the wooden plough drawn by oxen, and even by human beings. If they adopted modern methods, and could still command an abundant supply of cheap labour working longer hours, we should have to say goodbye to our present high standard of living. During the last few years it has been my privilege to preside over a department that is directly concerned in the development of the cotton industry. Cotton in many parts of the world is produced, by cheap, and, generally, coloured labour. It is true that a considerable portion of the American cotton is now grown by white labour, but possibly with that exception cotton is grown by coloured labour. This product varies greatly in quality and texture - two factors which determine its price. Now what is true of cotton is true of practically all primary industries. We have demonstrated that, provided that we aim at producing cotton of the highest quality, that product may be grown profitably in Australia by white labour under a high standard of living. The great bulk of our crop, however, must be of the very best quality. In this industry, as in many others, there is plenty of room at the top, though the bottom and the middle are exceedingly crowded. Our only hope, therefore, is to produce the very best quality cotton. Subject to this condition and to another essential, to which I shall refer later, the industry can be carried on by white labour under Australian conditions of living.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Without being bolstered up ?

Senator PEARCE -It will need support in its earlier years, just as many other primary industries - notably the butter industry - have required assistance. Australia must ask itself how it can obtain products of the highest quality, and a system of marketing by which it can secure for its products the highest prices on the markets of the world. There is always room at the top, and if our producers can obtain the best prices in the world's markets, it will be possible for this country to maintain its present high standard of living. Only under such conditions can progress be made. There are two factors to be considered. The first is the human element-labour and capital - and the second the mechanical factor - the application of science to industry As to the human factor, this, and the bill accompanying it, do not touch it ; but the Government has other legislation that it hopes will have an important effect in that regard. In the present bill we are dealing with the application of science to industry. No matter at which of our industries we look, we see many handicaps that could be removed by the application of science and scientific research. The wool industry stands above all other primary industries in Australia as the great producer of wealth. But, successful as it has been, it could have been more successful, and could have produced more wealth, had it not been for certain hindrances in the shape of pests and disabilities that either depreciate the quantity or the quality of our wool. One thinks at once of the blowfly pest, and similar evils. Science, in the last 25 years, has been doing wonderful things for the world at large; but to be successful it must be organized. Sporadic, casual, and even voluntary efforts by scientists suffer the same disabilities as spasmodic efforts in any other activities. The application of the human mind to scientific research gives no guarantee of profit to the individual. Some of the greatest benefactors of the human race have died in abject poverty, while others who never raised a little finger to assist the community have made huge fortunes as a result of the scientific researches of such people. If, therefore, science - the handmaid of industry - is to be organized and directed along right channels, the Government, acting for the whole of the people, has an obligation upon it to assist scientific men, and to set them apart for their particular duties, in order that they may not suffer, and that their work shall bring them some recompense, and be done in an orderly fashion. Australia possesses many advantages. Only those who have travelled in other countries realize how blessed by Providence Australians are. It is true we have some natural enemies of our flocks and herds, but, as compared with other countries, we enjoy a magnificent heritage in our freedom from pests and diseases of animal and vegetable life. The pests that are here have been introduced as the result of malevolent negligence, stupidity, or mere caprice. The scientists who specially study insect life have in the last quarter of a century discovered that, whereas the old system of dealing with insect pests was that of destruction by what I may call human agencies, the new system - that of combating them by means of parasites of the pests themselves - offers greater prospects of success. All who have even an elementary knowledge of primary industries are aware that, although in the past fungus pests in orchards have been mainly combated by means of sprays, the introduction of a particular variety of the ladybird has done more for the orchardists than all the sprays and human labour combined. This was due to scientific discovery. There is not one of our primary industries that has not already received incalculable benefit from the application of science to industry, and not one of them that will not in future receive even greater benefit, if we direct scientific research along the right channels, and assist scientific men to carry on their beneficent work. Consider the success in wheat production that has followed the introduction of superphosphates. This was a purely scientific discovery. I was born inSouth Australia, and I lived for some years in the agricultural districts of that State. I remember the time when the average wheat crop in one of the richest districts of South Australia was 4 bushels to the acre. I saw a crop that, judging by appearances, such as the growth of the flag and the thickness and height of the stalk, looked as if it might yield 30 or 40 bushels to the acre. It was as high as the fence surrounding it and as level as a billiard table. To the eye of the uninitiated there was every prospect of an excellent harvest. But when the stripper was put into the crop it gave the miserable return of 4 bushels to the acre. Why? Because the red rust and other diseases had taken from the farmer the reward of his labour. I saw harvests fail in that district, not because there was insufficient moisture in the ground - although that was thought to be the cause at the time - but because, as the application of fertilizers has since proved, the soil had been exhausted through the farmer not having put back into it what he had taken out. In 1885, in the district of Yorke Peninsula, where I lived, there was not one solvent farmer. They were prevented from going through the bankruptcy courts only because the banks to whom they were hopelessly mortgaged dared not make them insolvent. Had they done so, it would have brought down the whole commercial fabric of the State. When I left there, farms could be purchased at 25s. an acre on the walkinwalkout principle. Then superphosphates were discovered, and in 1898, when I returned, I found the whole place pulsating with prosperity. The farmers had built new houses, and the average return in the district had increased from 4 to 12 bushels an acre. I believe the returns are even higher at the present time.

Senator Grant - To what extent did the land increase in value?

Senator PEARCE - It increased from 25s. to £12 and £15 an acre. Contrary to Senator Grant's beautiful theory, however, the increment did not go to some greedy, grasping landlord, but to the men who during those hard years had worked and starved, and they richly deserved the success that they eventually achieved. The increase in crop was not obtained because they worked harder or longer than other people, but simply because the chemist had discovered the secret of the application of chemical fertilizers to the soil. One could quote numerous instances to show how the application of science to industry has brought splendid rewards.

This, I think every honorable senator will admit, is a belated bill. During the war the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) saw the necessity to do something in this direction, and he introduced the measure establishing the original Institute of Science and Industry. I am not going to place blame on any shoulders for what has happened since. It is easy to blame, but it is no use repining over the past. Although the institute has had an unfortunate history, it must be admitted that it has rendered very useful service. While it has had many disappointments, it has some laurels. It has not had that financial support that it should have received. It was unfortunate in the first instance in losing the late Dr. Gellatley at a time When he was putting it into operation.

Senator Needham - His death was a great loss to the Commonwealth.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. Our duty now is to try to make amends and do better in future. This bill is an. honest effort on the part of the Government to establish the institution on right lines, and I feel sure it will receive the unanimous support of the Senate, although honorable senators may differ on some of the points. The need for the establishment of a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been discussed on many occasions, and the arguments for national research are well known. In all civilized countries it is recognized that from time to time national problems arise, the solution of which can not be left to private enterprise. Theproblems are of such magnitude and of such general interest and importance that their investigation is appropriately regarded as a matter for governmental action. Thus, Great Britain has her Department of Scientific and Industrial Research endowed with a capital fund of £1,000,000, and enjoying an additional vote of nearly £400,000. Germany has her Kaiser Wilhelm Research Institute, France her various national research organizations, America her numerous federal research bureaux, Canada her Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and so on. In common with all those countries, Australia also has her own special problems, for the solution of which she cannot rely on scientific work in other countries. Research by governments is therefore just as necessary in Australia as it is in other countries. It is hoped that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, as constituted by this present bill, will contribute in no small measure to that end. lt is not intended that the new organization shall in any way be of the nature of another large department or organization, superimposed on the scientific institutions which already exist in this country. Many individuals and organizations are, of course, undertaking research work in Australia; but, generally, they are working with local ends in view. There is no machinery or organization readily available to give them a national character. In May, 1925, iu order to obtain further advice on the future work of the Institute, the Government convened a conference of leading scientific and business men drawn from all the States of the Commonwealth. They advised that work could appropriately be concentrated upon a few major problems such as liquid fuels, cold storage, forest products, animal pests and diseases, plant pests and diseases, and secondary industries, and that such a programme would involve the expenditure of about £100,000 per annum.

Senator Kingsmill - Including £23,000 per annum for overhead expenses.

Senator PEARCE - Further advice was obtained as a result of the visit to Australia of Sir Frank Heath, Secretary of the British Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This visit took place towards the end of 1925, and arose out of an invitation issued by the government. Sir Frank Heath furnished a report, which has been printed as Parliamentary Paper No. 20. Briefly, this report after suggesting certain specific functions for the reconstituted Institute, recommended that the latter should be controlled by a minister through an advisory council, and that State committees should also be formed. In regard to actual investigations, it further recommended that various sections of the Institute - agricultural, food, forestry, fuels, and fisheries, each under the control of special scientific officers - should be established. In view of the foregoing recommendations, the Government has decided to reorganize the Institute and to place its control in the hands of a council, assisted by State committees. The council will consist of (a) Three members nominated and appointed by the Commonwealth Government, one of whom shall be chairman; (6) the chairman of each State committee; and (c) such other members as may be co-opted on account of their special scientific knowledge. The Government has already taken action in this direction and has appointed three members - Mr. Julius, Mr. Newbiginand Dr. Rivett - who will form the Executive Committee, and who have already held a number of meetings in order to pave the way for the work of the council. Sir Frank Heath proposed that the chairmen of the State committees should be elected by the members of the State committees themselves. "While this course would have many advantages, i\ would have the great disadvantage that a council elected in that manner might not adequately represent the various branches of science and industry, and other interests concerned. The bill therefore provides that the method of appointment of the chairman of the State committees shall be " as prescribed." Honorable senators will see that if each State committee elected its own chairman it might easily happen that each would appoint a man of the same type, in which case there would be no diversity of interest.

Senator Kingsmill - We have had some experience of that.

Senator PEARCE - The Government's proposal to appoint the chairmen of the State committees should not be regarded as expressing any lack of faith in the ability of the State committees. Its only object is to ensure that the council shall be representative of as many diversified interests as possible. It is of very great importance that the council shall be a thoroughly representative and wellbalanced body, and it is hoped that a council which is representative not only of the main divisions of industry - pastoral, agricultural, manufacturing, mining, &c. - but also of the main branches of science will be secured. In the event of its being found, when the council has been appointed, that there are any branches of science of special importance not represented on the council, the bill provides for the cooption of further members on account of their special scientific knowledge. It is not, however, intended to exercise that power except in special circumstances. Lt is proposed that the council shall meet at such times and places as the Minister may determine. Obviously, it would be inconvenient and expensive for the whole council to meet at frequent intervals. It is proposed that it shall meet not more than two or three times a year. The main business to be conducted at the council meetings will be the formulation each year of the policy of the Institute, and the preparation of annual estimates of expenditure. Part IIIa provides for the creation of a committee in each State. These committees will be a most important part of the organization. As already stated, the chairmen will be appointed directly by the Commonwealth Government. It is proposed that three members shall be nominated by the respective State Governments from the staff of their scientific and technical departments, such as the Agricultural and Mines Departments, and that three others - probably members of the staff of the State universities - shall be representative of science. The chairman and the six members thus appointed will then co-opt two or three other members who are representatives of industries or other interests of special importance in the particular States. The Government desires to reorganize the institute on a national and co-operative basis. Obviously, therefore, the extent to which this object can be attained must in a very great measure depend on the advice and assistance rendered by the State committees, and on securing as members of these committees men who are closely associated with scientific problems, and are prepared to assist whole-heartedly in the work. The main functions of the State committees will be: - (a) To advise the council as to problems to be investigated; (6) to keep in close touch, and to co-operate with various bodies and interests which are concerned in the work; (c) to assist the council in organizing the work carried out in the respective States; and (<2) to make inquiries and furnish reports on matters referred to- them by the council. It is not intended to establish centralized laboratories, but to utilize existing State facilities so far as practicable. Under existing conditions, men carrying on valuable research work in the States are sometimes hampered by the burden of routine work, inadequate facilities or staff, or the fact that they have to devote their attention to several problems at the same time. In such cases the Commonwealth organization will endeavour to assist in such ways as will be most appropriate in the special circumstances. It will be seen, therefore, that the State committees, acting in co-operation with State Governments and university and other authorities concerned, are essential to the scheme which the Government proposes. One of the important matters to which attention was drawn by Sir Frank Heath was the necessity for training men in research work. The general educational facilities available at Australian universities are, in many fields, probably equal to those in any other country. In the past, however, the inducements offered to men to take up post-graduate training with a view to qualifying themselves for research work have been small. Moreover, with certain exceptions, Australia has not yet been able to establish special laboratories, equipped for intensive research in special fields, such as now exist in European countries and in America. For example, in England a Fuel Research Station has been established at Greenwich at a capital cost of over £200,000, and an annual expenditure of £60,000; while at Cambridge there is a low-temperature Research Station which cost £30,000. The Government, therefore, proposes to send a number of selected men abroad for special training at one or other of these institutions. It is intended to pay these men at the rate of about £300 per annum for two years, and to give them a lump sum of £150 towards the cost of their passages from Australia and back again. On their return the Commonwealth will have an option over their services at specified salaries for a period of three years. .Inthis way it is hoped to fill the gap which at present exists, and to build up a body of highly qualified Australian research workers.

Senator Needham - Will that be the subject of agreement?

Senator PEARCE - Yes.

Senator Andrew - Is it proposed to link up medical science with the wak of the Institute?

Senator PEARCE - No. In view of the change in the organization of the institute, the Government has decided to alter the title to " The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research." This appears to be the most suitable title, for the reasons that it is explicit, that it will not lead to confusion with any other existing institution, and that it is similar te the titles of corresponding organizations in other countries. England has her Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and Canada her Honorary Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. While the scope of the investigations which may be undertaken under the bill includes practically every branch of applied science and industry, the Government proposes that, for the present, cbe investigations undertaken shall be concentrated mainly on the following groups of problems: - (i) Liquid fuels, (ii) cold storage and preservation of foodstuffs, (iii) forest products, (iv) animal diseases and pests, (v) plant diseases and pests, and (vi) fruit-growing problems. The field of work requiring attention is by no means completely covered by the above groups, but it is considered that valuable results are more likely to be achieved by concentration than by diffusion of effort. The bill also appropriates the sum of £250,000, which is to be paid into a trust fund for the purposes of the institute. Expenditure from such trust fund will be controlled by the estimates submitted to and approved by Parliament. This amount is additional "to a sum of £100,000 to be appropriated under another bill for special purposes of the institute. The amount set aside this year will be £350,000. The £250,000 which this bill appropriates is to constitute a fund from which the institute will draw to meet the expenditure incurred in connexion, with its various research activities. The other £100,000 is for other purposes, which I shall explain in connexion with a subsequent measure.

Senator Lynch - Will it be an annual grant ?

Senator PEARCE - No. It is to guarantee to the institute an. amount upon which it can draw during the next two years. The expenditure from this fund will come up for review by Parliament.

I feel sure that the main principles of the bill will commend themselves to honorable senators; and in view of the nature of the business that confronts us next week I ask them to agree to this measure being considered forthwith.

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