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Friday, 11 June 1926

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - Like the previous speaker, I extend a hearty welcome to this bill, a welcome perhaps the more hearty because I have so long expected it. Now that the measure has arrived, I am very glad to see that it is in a form which is exceedingly acceptable to me. I should be a very unappreciative man if I were not pleased with it, because nearly three years ago, in this chamber, I advocated for this institute the exact form of control which is embodied in this bill. Not that alone; but a little over twelve months ago, at the request of certain Ministers, I expressed in writing my views regarding the best way by which this institute should be controlled. For some reason the Government was not satisfied with my recommendation. It called a conference, to which Senator Pearce has already alluded. Although invited to attend the conference, I was, unfortunately, precluded bv other duties from doing so. The conference decided on a method of control which would have cost in overhead expenses about £23,000 per annum before anything was done. The Government recognized the futility of such a system. Then Sir Frank Heath, at the invitation of the Government, came here. This bill has been formulated on the reports submitted by him. It is a peculiar coincidence, which I discovered only the night before he left when discussing this matter with him, that Sir Frank Heath's report and my recommendations were absolutely identical, even to the amount of money which we recommended should be paid to the gentlemen who would constitute the executive council to control the institute.

Senator McLachlan - It is another case of great minds thinking alike.

Senator KINGSMILL - I do not say that; but I, as a humble individual who has taken more than a passing interest in this matter, feel that I have occasion to congratulate myself upon finding my opinion, formed quite independently, endorsed by so high an authority as Sir Frank Heath, who, for many years, has been engaged in controlling the same class of institution in England.

Senator J B Hayes - Probably he read the honorable senator's speeches before making his report.

Senator KINGSMILL - I do not think so. The essence of this bill is the method of control. It is in that direction that the institution has failed so far. In the first instance, the control was vested in a comparatively large body of men possessing high academic qualifications, nearly all of them being university professors. I have some knowledge of that method of control, because some years ago, when the bill which we are now amending was being formulated, I was asked by the Government of Western Australia to visit Melbourne to put the case for that State in relation to a certain clause of the bill which would have had the effect of nullifying the little progress we had made. I visited Melbourne, and, thanks to the energy of the Minister then controlling the department - I refer to Senator Greene - the desired amendments were incorporated in the measure. I had then an opportunity of meeting the learned gentlemen who comprised the Executive Council of the Institute of Science and Industry. I formed the impression that the institute was rather top-heavy - it was a parliament, rather than a committee, of science and industry. The bill, when passed, put an end to that state of affairs. But we then went to the other extreme, and centred all the authority and responsibility in one man. I do not propose now to repeat what I have previously said regarding that period. It has passed, and I hope that we are now at the dawn of a new era. The control of the institution will in future be in the hands of a body of men who will be, as it were, midway between the two extremes which I have mentioned. I believe that the constitution of the council will make for workable conditions, and result in useful and practical work being done. I do not think that the practical nature of the work of the institute can be too highly emphasized. Personally, I should have liked to see that aspect emphasized in the title to the bill. I should have preferred the body of gentlemen to be appointed to have been termed the Council of Applied Science. That title would have placed definitely before the people of Australia the difference between this body and other scientific bodies. Pure science and applied science are different; although pure science is absolutely necessary to applied science, the two fields should be kept separate. Pure science can be left to the universities of whose curriculum it forms a part. Applied science has made the most progressive countries of the world what they are. From these countries we have gained, second hand, a great deal of advantage. What applied science can achieve is best exemplified in the United States of America, which, if considered only from the point of view of science, is indeed a wonderful country. If the people of the United States of America, who are commercially minded and not disposed to spend their money in ventures from which there will be no return, consider it wise to spend millions upon this branch of development, we should, so far as is possible, follow their example. We should confine the subjects to be considered by this institution to those which enter into the daily and economic life of the inhabitants of this country. This Parliament has an inestimable benefit in considering the bill in that, contrary to the usual practice, it is aware of the personality of the men who are to be appointed to control this institute. I think a very wise choice of chairman has been made. I do not know the other gentlemen very well - I know Dr. Rivett slightly - but I have known Mr. Julius for many years, and have studied him carefully. I have always considered him to be a scientist whose life holds one controlling passion, and that is the passion for research. When he was employed in Western Australia, in the mechanical engineering branch of our railway workshops there, he conducted, entirely on his own initiative, with the consent, of course, of his department, investigations into timber physics - that is, the breaking, strains, stresses, and composition of timbers - not only those of Western Australia, but also those of Australia generally. The result of his investigations stands out to-day as a text-book for engineers, and if that work was done, so to speak, in the green leaf, I look for a great deal in the grown tree. Another important factor is that two of the gentlemen who are to control the research to be undertaken are engineers. Every one knows that engineering is the most practical side of science. There is a great deal yet to be said about the subjects to be considered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Undoubtedly there will be a good deal of overlapping in regard to certain matters, and I think it is unfortunate that the honorable senator who preceded me chose as a task for this council nearly all the subjects upon which the greatest overlapping will occur. A great deal of the work which he indicated as being fit and proper and, indeed, necessary for the council to undertake is already being carried out to a greater or less extent by the agricultural departments of the various States. Undoubtedly the work done by those agricultural departments will be of very great assistance to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, just as the work of the Council will be of assistance to the scientists of the various agricultural departments of the State. But we must walk warily in this connexion, and it was that necessity, I presume, which influenced the Government in paying so much attention to the setting up of State advisory committees. Those bodies must hold the balance between the purely State activities and those which are to be undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There are, however, many subjects, some of which are not mentioned, and have not been mentioned yet, that are entirely new, and with which the prosperity, comfort, and life of the people of Australia are greatly bound up. These ought to be, and can be, considered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. When Senator Barwell first entered this chamber, he spoke about the future financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and no doubt his remarks will be recollected by honorable senators when, later on, we are considering certain financial proposals which will shortly come before us. But what he said was perfectly true - that in the years to come the Commonwealth will become more and more prosperous, and the States less and less so. In those circumstances, work which can be undertaken by a State will have the attention of the State confined to it, and subjects of a debatable character will fall, I think, -within the financial purview of the Commonwealth. Practical scientific research, coming, as I think it does, in the latter category, can, and will be, reasonably undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The process must be gradual. Any work which can be carried out by the State should be left to it for the time being; it must come the way of the Commonwealth later on. Nevertheless, there are various other comparatively new subjects.

Senator McLachlan - Some of the matters now in hand are very urgent. Consider the loss occasioned by the blowfly pest.

Senator KINGSMILL - Exactly. At a moderate estimate, the Institute has been considering that matter for four or five years.

Senator Reid - And the sheep are still dying.

Senator KINGSMILL - Unfortunately, they are, but that may be due to lack of funds on the part of the Institute or lack of concentrated effort in the right direction. At any. rate, the matter has not been| lost sight of. There are subjects that are of even greater urgency. There is one branch of industry intimately connected with the daily food supply, and, may I say, with the daily health of the people of Australia - I allude to the fishing industry - which

I think should receive far more prominence as regards its products than it has at present. To the shame of all the other States, be it said that in our State alone, that of New South Wales, has any effort been made to do the best to make use of the advantages on our coasts, which, although they are not so great as those in other parts of the world, nevertheless exist, and should be made use of. Our fishermen cannot extend their operations beyond 20 or 30 fathoms, whereas the fish supply of the greater part of Europe comes, in many cases, from depths of from 100 to 150 fathoms. We know from the small effort already made that at these depths on our coast immense quantities of fish are available, and fishing grounds of vast extent exist. Yet we are, so' to speak, sleeping on the matter. It is too big a subject- for the States to tackle. They have all made little pecks at the encouragement of trawling, and have spent a certain amount of money in that direction, but very little compared with the results which should be obtained from our fishing industry. It now remains for the Commonwealth to resume those operations which were cut off by the sad death of the gentleman who was at the time in charge of the Commonwealth fisheries, and who, in respect of his knowledge of fisheries, was one of the finest men we have had in Australia. I refer to Dr. Dannevig, and the untimely loss of the trawler Endeavour, which he had under his control. Although the subject of fisheries was not mentioned by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when he was moving the second reading of the bill, I hope that almost the first subject which will be undertaken by the council will be the prosecution of fishery research on our const. When I talk of the prosecution of fishery research, I do not mean engaging in State trawling, running fish shops, or doing any of those disastrous things which have contributed to the loss in New South Wales of the sum of £350,000.

Senator Findley - It was a loss and a gain.

Senator KINGSMILL - It was certainly a loss. With regard to the gain, as I pointed out last night, on the ruins of that structure there has arisen an effort by private enterprise, which bought at a very cheap rate the trawlers that cost the New South Wales Government such an inordinate sum of money, and the effort has resulted in materially cheapening the price of fish in the city of Sydney.

Senator Findley - The New South Wales Government is responsible for the cheap fish supply in Sydney

Senator KINGSMILL - The Government is only indirectly responsible for it. This little effort certainly has as its genesis the huge failure of a State enterprise! In that regard I can congratulate the Government of New South Wales, because most State enterprises that I have seen in Australia have not even resulted in what one might call residual success.

Senator Findley - Our institute will be, as it were, a government enterprise, because it will be supported by the people's money.

Senator KINGSMILL - Yes ; but I do not think that its purpose will be gain. At any rate I hope it will not be. I trust that its purpose will be to educate and give advice to people who desire to embark in new walks and avenues of industry. Its purpose should be to replace individual by collective experiments. Senator Lynch, when speaking, alluded to the lack of plant acclimatization. As a matter of fact, plant acclimatization has been carried on in Australia for many years 'by individuals, who have imported various plants from other countries and grown them here, some with success, and others with no success. That effort was started under the old system of control by the Institute of Science and Industry. I was chairman of a committee in Western Australia, whose purpose it was to acclimatize useful plants. It promised from its personnel the highest things. It had on it the Conservator of Forests, The Director of Agriculture, the Professor of Agriculture at the Perth University, as well as other ardent members. At any rate they were ardent for a while. Unfortunately the committee went out of existence because the Commonwealth would not give it enough money to pay for its postage stamps.

Senator Lynch - How many plants did it acclimatize ?

Senator KINGSMILL - We acclimatized a lot, and we did it on our credit and through the kindness of the Bureau of Agriculture in America, which was good enough to send us fairly large quantities of seed. We distributed these to farmers throughout Western Australia, in some cases with considerable benefit to them. But these were results that were not cried from the housetops; because before we could get them the postage stamp bill that extinguished us came along. I forget what the amount was, it was very trifling, but we could not get money from the central executive to pay the account. Perhaps it was just as well, because all the work we did was in an honorary and ungrudging capacity. Very much of the best work clone in the world has been done in an honorary capacity. I place fishery research second only to research into the production of oil fuel and motive power in various forms in Australia. That is our crying need for the future. If we are to have any existence of our own, or to be a worthy part of the Empire, or to keep pace with the other nations, we must develop within ourselves the motive power for our industries. That can be done only by having the cheapest available power, and the best and most effective way of getting it is from the resources within Australia itself. It will never do for this country in times to come, if there is more trouble, as assuredly there will be, to depend on other nations - commercially-minded nations, perhaps - for the power to carry on either our own peaceful avocations, or those warlike avocations in which we may be embroiled. It is worth while for the Government to spend large sums of money in an effort to perfect some of the processes which have been begun, or to bring to fruition some of the things which have already been started, so that we may be, indeed, a self-supporting and self-contained nation, and, as I have already said, a worthy part of the Empire, which, through its very diffusion throughout the earth, has so many points of attack.

Senator McLachlan - How will the proposed Council of Scientific and Industrial Research deal with the fishing industry? The extent of our fishing grounds is well known.

Senator KINGSMILL - That is not so. I have already stated that our fishing operations are confined to the waters within a short distance from the coast. The totally inadequate supply of fish available in Victoria comes principally from the bays and estuaries off this coast.

Senator McLachlan - And some from South Australia.

Senator KINGSMILL - -Exactly. The limit of our present fishing grounds is absolutely inadequate.

Senator McLachlan - I understand that the whole of the east coast is charted for deep-sea fishing.

Senator KINGSMILL - I have been in close touch with the fisheries authorities in New South Wales, which is the only State in which a reasonable attempt has been made to do what I have indicated, and know that the position is not as the honorable senator states. Our appliances, are obsolete. A month or two ago a certain fishing appliance was brought to Australia, which I dare say very few in this country have heard of, but which has been extensively used on the European coast for some years. I allude to what is known as the Danish seine. It overcomes difficulties of trawling, and can be worked with very effective results from a boat onehalf or one-third of the size of an ordinary trawler. This appliance is ideal for deep fishing in the open seas. In Australia we have a boundary line at the 25 fathom limit, all of which has not been actually explored, and if that were extended to a limit of 100 fathoms, as is quite possible, excellent results should follow, particularly if modern appliances wore employed. No effective step in this direction has been taken by the governments or the people of Australia.

Senator McLachlan - Is it to be one of the functions of the council to obtain appliances which are well known in Europe ?

Senator KINGSMILL - We should, in the first place, do what has been done in other civilized countries, and that is, define the suitable fishing grounds available, and also determine whether drifting - the method adopted in capturing mackerel, herring, and other small fish off the British coast - can be undertaken here. No experiments have been made to sec whether fish can be caught off the Australian coast by the drifting process. We know that such fish exist; but we do not know to what extent. A proper bottom survey should also be made of the trawlable waters. This would possibly disclose extensive fishing grounds at a workable depth, and within reasonable distance. We know only of the existence of some grounds, but we do not know the difficulties with which those who work them have to contend. That is part of the work which has yet to he done. There are many edible fish in Australian waters concerning which we know little or nothing. A short time before the Endeavour foundered, she was engaged on a fishing bank off the south coast of Western Australia - a bank which runs for 300 or 400 miles, lias an average width of 20 miles, and a depth of water of from 60 to 160 fathom3. During her investigations there, the existence of magnificent edible fish was established. Three new species were discovered, the presence of which was previously unknown, and the remarkable edible quality of which is undoubted. The science of marine biology has been almost neglected in Australia; it is practically an unknown quantity. The information obtained by the proposed council should be placed at the service of the community, and should be the means of giving to it a food supply which at present is abnormally lacking. The State of New South Wales, which is now engaged in one of the most vital branches of this research, is trying to establish a proper method of land distribution, which is not, [ .submit, so much the work of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research as of those who know exactly how to handle it.

Senator McLachlan - Will the destruction of rabbits be considered by the council 1

Senator KINGSMILL - That is quite possible. If the honorable senator will submit as many kind, helpful suggestions to the council as he is submitting to me I am sure its time will be very fully and usefully occupied. There are other matters, more especially in connexion with plant pathology, that are attended to in some of the States and are neglected in others. This branch of research is actively conducted in nearly every part of the world. Some years ago I had. a very interesting trip to the Federated Malay States. There I found, in a comparatively small population of a little over 1,000,000 people of all colours, a Department of Agriculture, resembling the proposed Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, in which 23 skilled scientists were working out the agricultural problems of that country. I doubt if we have 23 agricultural scientists in the whole of Australia. Wherever we go, even in countries which are considered to be far behind us, we find similar departments in existence. In Australia we appear to be so cocksure as to think we do not need the benefit of the experience and wisdom of the outside world. It is time these problems, which abound on every side, received consideration. I welcome the bill, because I think, naturally enough, perhaps, that the method of control is sensible and practical, and will achieve its objective. We have in Australia many millions of acres of waste land of low productive capacity, and it would be to our advantage, as it has been to that of America and other countries, to send abroad men who have the requisite knowledge and experience to ascertain how the poorer lands are being developed. We are not making the best use of what may be termed our waste lands. This is a matter which involves individual and collective action, and so much so that I think it should engage the attention of the council as soon as possible. There are other avenues of research almost too numerous to particularize, but now that we have made a good start we should proceed vigorously, and all do what we can to help. It is upon collective effort that the success of an enterprisesuch as this depends. I am pleased to see that Parliament is now adopting Quite a different attitude from that to which we have been accustomed. On the occasion to which I have already alluded, when I came to Melbourne in connexion with a measure which became the act we are now amending, I attended several sittings of the Parliament, and to me the apathy displayed by some honorable members was a appalling. In those days they did not seem to have any idea of the functions or prospective use of the institute; but today they are interested and eager to bo up and doing in this new field which promises so much. The only portion of the bill which may cause a little trouble is the attention, too much, perhaps, which has been given to the States. If the council renders good service to the States, we can depend upon receiving their support. I am not too sure of how these State activities will operate, but I am hoping for the best.

Senator Needham - The proposal is worth a trial.

Senator KINGSMILL - Almost anything is worth a trial.

Senator McLachlan - Surely scientists work harmoniously together!

Senator KINGSMILL - Strange to say, I have not noticed it in all instances, but that might have been due to my lack of observation. I should like the Minister to explain how the existing branches engaged in scientific work will be placed under this proposal. I am keenly anxious about the Forestry Department. I do not suppose the Government will pass over the control of what is already an established department, in actuality, if not legally, to a council such as is proposed, whose duties will consist of only research work. The Commonwealth Forestry Department is most capably and efficiently controlled, and, as I have already stated, is dealing with subjects which are in most cases beyond the need of research. I hope its identity will be preserved, and that it will not be placed under any body, however good, to the detriment of those gentlemen now exercising control over it. It is a very important point. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will be quite justified in carrying out experiments in regard to forestry products, timber physics, and the various branches of research connected with forestry; but I trust that the control of forests and territories, the Forestry School, and the advice that the Federal Forestry Department gives to the States will not be handed over to the proposed council, and thereby unduly increase its responsibilities. If the work of the council is unduly increased, it will be unable to effectively carry on its scientific operations. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.

SenatorREID (Queensland) [3.0].- I congratulate Senator Kingsmill upon the very interesting address which he has just delivered. A great deal has been said by previous speakers concerning the work that will be undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial

Research. We have just passed a tariff bill designed to encourage the development of our secondary industries, and we have also done a great deal for the assistance of ourprimary industries. The function of this re-organized scientific institution will be to investigate the many problems that confront Australian industry. In my opinion, the most serious difficulty that Australia has to face - at all events, in connexion with primary production - is the cycle of dry spells to which a great area of this continent is periodically subject. I have not had either the time or the opportunity to ascertain what these dry spells cost Australia. All I know is that they come in cycles, and very seriously affect primary production. Senator Kingsmill said that, under our present methods of production, we are not making the best use of our poorer lands, and he suggested that' attention to plant pathology might help. From my knowledge of Queensland - and I think the same remark may be applied to the other States - the frequency with which dry cycles recur prevents us from making the fullest use even of our best lands. At present, central and north-western Queensland are suffering severely from drought conditions. I am informed, on reliable authority, that we have lost between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 sheep. Other States suffer similarly in their turn. It is not incorrect to say that the whole of the pastoral areas in Australia are subject to periodical droughts; but, up to the present, no attempt has been made to deal with the problem from a scientific point of view. Actually, we have not done a great deal in the way of water conservation, and, unfortunately, in the western parts of Queensland the nature of the country - for thousands of miles at a stretch it is as flat as a billiardtable - and the heavy evaporation due to semi-tropical conditions, make conservation schemes extremely expensive and difficult. However, if Australia is to develop and to maintain a large population, we must face and solve this difficulty. I have seen large areas, apparently settled successfully, entirely wiped out during a series of drought years. But I am not unduly pessimistic. I believe that if the problem is tackled from the proper scientific angle we shall overcome these difficulties. We all know what immense losses are occasioned by the blowfly pest, and how the prickly pear has taken possession of millions of acres of good, cultivatable land in Queensland. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a member of the Queensland Parliament, I urged that steps should be taken to check the spread of prickly pear; but I was only laughed at for my pains. Since then the pear has spread over millions of acres in that State, and has also made its appearance in the northern part of New South Wales. These matters, as well as the recurring droughts, press for immediate attention. I have seen millions of sheep and thousands of cattle dying during a prolonged dry spell. Every one appears to know when a drought is due. The present dry spell in central and north-western Queensland was expected by people who are familiar with weather conditions there; but up to the present no one has been able to advise what should be done. I have no suggestions to make, except that scientists should endeavour to ascertain the cause, and then advise as to the remedy. It has been contended that the construction of railways in order to shift starving stock from drought-stricken areas to other districts is the best remedy. That is being done now in Queensland. Fortunately, there is ample pasture in the southern part of that State; but, if we encourage settlement, and if all pastoral areas are occupied, as we hope they will be, there will then be no vacant pasture lands for starving stock, so railways then will be of no avail. Even the Barkly Tableland, which is not subject to drought conditions, will not be available if it becomes settled. The water difficulty has been overcome by the sinking of wells for artesian supplies, but water without feed is of no value. This problem has been handled satisfactorily in. the United States of America, so there is no reason why areas subject to droughts should not be successfully occupied in Australia. At present, our population is almost entirely restricted to the coastal areas, though most of our best land is in the interior. Under favorable conditions it will grow almost anything. I have cut cabbages 28 lb. and 30 lb. in weight from gardens in the north-west * of Queensland where they were looked after. It is not too much to expect that even the " Never-Never " country will one day be profitably settled. I hope that this subject will receive early attention.

Senator FINDLEY(Victoria) [3.121. - I shall not detain the Senate for more than a few minutes. I do not know that I should have arisen to speak had it not been for the remarks of the two last speakers. Senator Reid congratulated Senator Kingsmill upon what he regarded as an extremely interesting address, and expressed not only his appreciation, but also his thanks, for the information which that honorable senator had given the Senate. As I listened to Senator Kingsmill, I could not help thinking that he was on a fishing expedition. He told us that the New South Wales Government, which, to his regret probably, is not a Nationalist Government, had pioneered the way by supplying the people of New South Wales with cheap fish. It is commonly known that the article sold in the State fish-shops of New South Wales was of the finest quality, and it was supplied at a cheaper rate than that at which it was obtainable prior to the advent of the Labour Government in that State. I do not know that the institute will be called upon to make an investigation into the fishing industry. If Senator Kingsmill believes that the development of that industry is of greater importance than the eradication of the blowfly and other pests, I say that he has not given the subject serious consideration Fish is in abundance in Australian waters, but the supply of that food is apparently controlled by a ring. Scientific men tell us that there is more danger to health from common houseflies than from snakes, and that people should not partake of food over which flies have traversed. Is the success of the fishing industry of greater importance than the investigation of the causes of the serious damage done by pests of every description in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture? Is it of greater importance than the eradication of the borer pest that has done harm to the extent of millions of pounds? The war of the future, possibly, will not be between, man and man, but between man and the insect pests. According to statements made from time to time, thousands of houses, as well as the furniture in them, have been attacked by borers. Senator Reid contends that the solution of the prickly-pear problem is one of the most important that faces Australia ; but I disagree with him. Although the eradication of that pest may bring wealth to Queeusland, the health of the whole of the people is of paramount importance. According to Senator Kingsmill, the institute should send its emissaries north, south, east, and west in order to discover new fishing grounds, and, after the way has been paved for the development of the industry, private enterprise should step in and reap the reward. If a supply of fish were made available as the result of the efforts of the institute, the public would be entitled to the benefit of the low prices.

Senator Crawford - State enterprise has never provided cheap commodities.

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