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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator HARDY (New South W.ales) . - In the debate on the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill some weeks ago, Senator Leckie said -

Undoubtedly the underlying purpose of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is good, and its work ought to be good; but I cannot help remarking that, while every one seems to take it for granted that the work done by the council is good, no one is able to say precisely what good thing it has done.

In respect of the last phrase " No one is able to say precisely what good thing it has done ", I desire to submit what I hope is an adequate reply. I wish to refer, first, to the achievements of the council in connexion with the dried fruits industry. The processing methods employed in the early years did not produce the tight coloured sultana favoured by the British consumer. Accordingly, the council's research station at Merbein set itself to evolve a process suited to Australian conditions, which would give a high-class product, acceptable to overseas consumers. The attempt was successful. In 1930, of a total pack of Y'3,000 tons, 40,000 tons was processed by the method evolved at Merbein, and realized in Britain £5 a ton more than was obtained for fruit processed by the methods formerly employed. That represented a gain to the industry of £200,000 in one year alone. Surely that achievement should answer the honorable senator. The " mixed dip " evolved at Merbein is now generally adopted throughout the Murray settlements. An increased yield may be regarded as bringing additional wealth to an industry. The yield of dried fruits to the acre in the irrigation areas of Australia has been doubled since the war, largely as a result of research into cultural methods by officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

In the citrus industry also, the investigations of the council'scitriculturalresearch station at Griffith, in the Murr.umbidgee irrigation area, have resulted in a marked increase of the yield of citrus fruits. Such progress has been made that it is hoped that the council will soon be able to define the exact condition of storage during transport whichisrequired for different kinds of fruit. Without such knowledge, the export of oranges must continue to be haphazard, inefficient, and subject to serious losses from wastage; but with it, not only can the present crop be marketed to the greatest advantage of the growers as a whole, hut also it is possible that considerably increased production may be justified, because of the existence of an established export market. Throughout the citrus areas there is a general recognition of the good work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is not too much to say that its investigations in respect of citrus fruits are among the most important of its activities.

In connexion with the transport of chilled beef from Australia to the United Kingdom, also, the council has a good record to its credit. Research into food storage and preservation has already produced results of great economic value; and if full commercial advantage be taken of them, the benefits to Australia are likely to be still greater. This work is of particular value to a country which is so situated geographically that it is just possible for many of its perishable products to reach the most important markets. A healthy and profitable export trade in such products must be based on exact scientific knowledge of the conditions necessary for their preservation and transport. Australia's new and growing export trade in chilled beef - a trade which may prove to be the salvation of the cattle industry in Northern Australia, since frozen beef is becoming increasingly difficult to sell in Great Britain - has been developed solely as a result of discoveries made by the council's investigators. They have defined the precautions which must be taken in handling and dressing the beef, and the conditions that must be observed during storage and transport, if the beef is not to suffer deterioration during the period required for export to Britain.

The Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research has also achievements to its credit in connexion with the apple industry. The disorder known as " bitter pit " has in the past caused a loss to Australia's export apple trade estimated at £100,000 a year, but the council, in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture of Western Australia, discovered the cause of the disorder, and it is now possible to reduce losses from this source to negligible proportions.

These are all definite achievements in the field of research ; they are the credits that we must place opposite the debits represented by the money voted for research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the credits exceed the debits. I have referred to the assistance given to the export apple trade. I now point out that research has shown that, by means of gas storage, certain varieties of peaches can be maintained in good condition long enough to enable them to be exported to Britain. Although, as yet, there are no practical results from this discovery, it is likely that, in the course of the next few years, Australia will have an export trade in peaches.

Australia has no export trade in bananas, the total crop being consumed locally, but the fruit has to be transported over long distances, and, in addition, it must be ripened by artificial methods. Research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has shown the way to improved transport on the railways, and has led to the erection of specially constructed commercial ripening chambers in most of the big cities. The net result has been a marked improvement of the condition of the bananas marketed in the south. These points are all to the credit of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and are a practical answer to certain statements which have 'been made in the Senate.

One of the main obstacles to the development of a successful and flourishing tobacco industry in Australia has been the prevalence of blue mould, a disease which causes great havoc in the seed beds. Only recently has an effective method of protecting seedlings from the disease been discovered. The research officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have shown that by using specially constructed frames, and a proportion of benzol vapour in the atmosphere, any quantity of healthy seedlings may be obtained for transplantation. Apart from the financial losses which it has caused to the growers, blue mould has seriously held up experiments in cultural methods designed to improve the quality of the crop.

Finally, I wish to deal with the achievements of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with the pastoral industry. That industry suffers enormous losses as a result of diseases of various kinds. The magnitude of these losses is indicated by the fact that the Cattle Tick Commission estimated that redwater fever had cost the State of Queensland about £7,000,000. Incidentally, the council's work has dona a good deal to improve the technique of immunizing cattle against the tick-borne fevers of the northern cattle belt. One ailment of sheep, occurring chiefly in the eastern States, a braxy-like disease now known as black disease, was estimated to cause an annual loss of £1,000,000 to graziers. The causative organism was determined, and an effective vaccine prepared, which gave to innoculated animals a high degree of resistance to the disease ; the use of this vaccine, combined with measures of liver-fluke eradication, resulted in the satisfactory control of the disease. The prevalence of so-called coast disease has seriously handicapped the pastoral development of a belt of high rainfall country some 2,000 square miles in area, mostly in South Australia, but extending into the adjoining States. Research has shown that the disorder is associated with a deficiency of the element cobalt, and that the administration of small doses of cobalt salts will cure even advanced cases of coast disease. It appears likely, therefore, that as a result of this work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research considerable areas will now be made available for more profitable grazing. Parasitic diseases of sheep are studied at the McMaster

Laboratory at Sydney. Internal parasites are most prevalent in the higher rainfall areas. The losses they cause, though known to be serious, have not been estimated; but the discontinuance of sheep breeding in parts of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland has been largely the result of the prevalence of one of these parasites, the socalled nodule worm. Methods of treatment and control, some naturally more efficacious than others, or, at any rate, more easily adopted in station practice, have been evolved for practically every species of parasite of economic importance. I could speak at much greater length on the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, because the results of its investigations are so contrary to the statements made by Senator Leckie.

Before I resume my seat I should like again to stress the desirableness of improving the methods of financing the work of this very valuable body. It is essential that adequate provision be made to permit the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to adopt a longrange policy. If long-range experiments are to be undertaken it is necessary that there should be stability of finance; such experiments are not possible under the present method of making annual grants to finance the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In its report for 1934-35 the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research stressed the fact that it would be placed in a much sounder position, and the general efficiency of its operations would be increased, if there were some definite policy for continuity in its financial arrangements. This could be effected either by the payment into the trust account from time to time of sums, each sufficient for a period of years, or by a declaration by the Government of a decision to provide fixed annual sums over a period of years. At first sight, the latter might appear to be a departure from conventional practice. However, -within the last year or two, the Government has set aside fixed annual sums for five years for certain special investigations, for example, those in connexion with gold-mining, fisheries, tobacco and citrus preservation, and it needs but a logical extension to the whole of the council's work of the' principle thus adopted, to give to the council a satisfactory degree of financial continuity which is denied it by the present method of annual appropriation. I particularly want to impress the importance of that upon Senator Leckie. I have repeatedly brought it up for the consideration of the Senate. In view of the tremendous value to all industries in Australia of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, we should adopt the recommendations contained in its annual report for 1934-35, and provide stability of finance. At the same time I again urge that we should seriously consider some scheme under which the industries benefiting by the research work carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would contribute towards its upkeep. After all, if an industry is to benefit from research work undertaken by the council, why should it not contribute towards the cost of such research? It cannot expect to get everything for nothing. Though provision has been made in the Estimates for the carrying on of the council's work, I urge that some scheme be worked out under which industries assisted by the council should contribute some portion of the funds necessary to carry it on.

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