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Wednesday, 23 September 1936


Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I am sorry that I had not studied the fishing industry sufficiently to have realized that the utilization of sardines and pilchards would rob whales of their natural food. However, I am not greatly perturbed by the remarks which have been provoked by my statement, because in some of the waters of the world, though pilchards and sardines have been harvested for centuries, they are still present in large numbers. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has asked why private enterprise should be given the benefit of the research carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Senator Leckie has said that industrialists to-day are very jealous of the secrets of their particular industries. It is true, .however, that over the last 25 years a great change has been taking place, due, perhaps;, largely to the attitude adopted by Mr. Henry Ford, who has never kept a secret in his industry. Immediately Mr. Ford discovered some revolutionary process in connexion with his vast activities the door was thrown open to all his competitors to witness its operation and, if they thought desirable, to adopt it. One of the aims of industrialists at the present time is to protect the worker from injury. Modern engineering establishments employ huge machines capable of crushing a worker or amputating his limbs, and frequently heavy weights are moved about which, if anything went wrong, would be likely to injure employees. Therefore, it has become increasingly necessary that adequate measures should be taken to protect the worker against accident. Recently, I had an opportunity to go through one of the most remarkable manufacturing plants in Australia - that controlled by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In several of the machines which I examined in the works of this firm, protection was automatically afforded to the operator with the movement of the machine. I said to the works manager that I thought it remarkable that I had never seen such a device before. He replied that the use of that sort of mechanical protector was confined to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and that that firm had for many years been investigating devices designed for the protection of its employees, being guided in this policy largely by the necessity for introducing a degree of safety which would permit a man to concentrate on the particular job on which he was engaged. The safety of the operator, however, was regarded as the first principle. I asked him if the device was covered by patent rights; he replied that it was not the policy of the firm to cover such devices by patent rights, and that, as a matter of fact, the firm had offered the design to the Department of Labour and Industry of New South Wales, so that it could be utilized by any firm. He pointed out that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was not interested in any profits which might be derived from the sale of the device. That attitude, I might remark, is quite a new development in industry, and worthy of commendation. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is doing much good work, though, as Senator Leckie has said, probably honorable senators are unaware of much that it is achieving.

Senator Hardyreferred to the research work conducted into means for combating the blowfly pest. It is a remarkable fact that the most outstanding contribution made to the successful elimination of the blowfly pest has been made by a layman, Mr. J. H. W. Mules. Sir

Frederick McMaster, who gave £20,000 to the University of Sydney for the establishment of a laboratory to conduct research into animal health, said that, although the means suggested by Mr. Mules for the elimination of the blowfly pest were revolutionary, a statement upon which the experts agreed, he proposed to use them as a preventive measure in connexion with many thousands of his sheep. I refer to this merely to show that suggestions which have practical value are not always made by scientists. We should not be over-influenced by the academic mind. Though we should get from science all we can, we should not overlook the assistance which may como from the layman. It must be remembered that the layman usually arrives at his opinions after years of practical experience. Throughout the ages, however, there has always been conflict between the layman and the academic expert. I have already referred to what has been achieved by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. One of the men most prominently associated with the success of that company is Mr. Fisk. Mr. Fisk has taken out of the universities of Australia young men with scientific training, and has utilized them at his works; but, at the same time, he has placed alongside them men of practical experience. In other words, he has seen the need for leavening the scientific loaf. The academic man travels only the road which he knows. The layman traverses the same road but he is willing to explore a new path, and in that way he becomes a pioneer. A few weeks ago I read a book in the Parliamentary Library, entitled The Microbe Fighters, giving the lives of men who had spent the greater part of their lives in fighting diseases common to mankind. The hook shows that in every instance they are opposed by the scientific or academic mind. One has only to sec the moving picture or read the story of the life of Pasteur to realize the remarkable opposition shown to men who wish to explore a new trail. The steam locomotive invented by Stephenson was ridiculed by so-called experts, and his locomotive had been running on a short line at Kenilworth for ten years before engineers admitted that it would- actually do what was claimed for it. That error has persisted, with the result that the centenary of the introduction of steam locomotives was celebrated a few years ago, 110 years after the day on which one was first used by its illustrious inventor.


Senator Abbott - Government geologists condemned the Broken Hill mining field.


Senator ARKINS - Exactly. I admit that scientists have made some wonderful discoveries, hut so also have laymen, and the value of the practical mind should, never be discounted. We should impress upon the scientists that in many matters the opinions of laymen should be considered most carefully. As learning becomes more general, laymen can give even greater assistance to scientists.


Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator comparing the untrained mind with the trained mind?


Senator ARKINS - I am referring more particularly to those who receive their training in universities or similar institutions, and will not admit that knowledge of equal value to the community may also be possessed by laymen. There should be an admixture of the practical and the scientific minds. Some men engaged in primary production have made wonderful discoveries.


Senator Collings - If primary producers had been left to their own devices they would not be in the satisfactory position some of them are in to-day.


Senator ARKINS - I do not deny that. I admit that more money should be made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to conduct research work, but we should see that the information which laymen can impart is not disregarded. History discloses that much of the progress made is due to the adoption of revolutionary ideas. I trust that the several points I have brought under the notice of the Minister will receive the earnest consideration of the Government.







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