Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr. DEDMAN(Corio - Minister for

Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) [4.26]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time. _

On the 26th July, 1945, this House, on a motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), discussed matters relating to education. On that occasion, I set out in some detail the Government's plans in this connexion, and mentioned, among many other aspects of the broad general problem, that the Government had decided to proceed with the establishment of an Australian National University at Canberra. In view of the general agreement on both sides of the House at that time, there is no need for me to make a lengthy, explanation in introducing this bill.

The Government is particularly anxious that the national university which this bill seeks to establish shall be established in such manner that it will bring credit to Australia, advance the cause of learning and research in general, and take its rightful place among the great universities of the world. For this reason I shall welcome suggestions from honorable members, and will sympathetically consider any amendments they may wish to make with the object of helping the uni- versity to achieve these ends.

Australia has already gained a justifiably high reputation in university teaching and research, and the Government believes that the establishment of the Australian National University at Canberra" will bring still further credit to our country, not only by the work done within its own walls by its own staff and research students, but also by collaboration and co-operation between its members and the research workers and teachers of the other Australian universities. With the help and encouragement of the other universities, and of all men and women of good will, the national university will so.on be in a position to take its share in solving the many complex problems which are the joint responsibility of all the universities.

The establishment of a university is" a matter of considerable complexity and a very great responsibility. For this reason the Government has not acted hastily. T have taken the opportunity of discussing the problems involved with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), with other Ministers concerned, with the Vice-Chancellors of the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne, and with groups of distinguished scientists who have been called together by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Education to advise on the general and detailed questions associated with this project. In addition, the Government has had the help and advice of the Council of the Canberra University College. I take this opportunity of paying a warm, tribute to the work of that body. The members of the council have for years kept in front of their minds the project for a. university at Canberra. In fact it. is very largely their project, although the suggestion that a university be established in Canberra goes back to the days of the Federal Capital Commission. The members of the council have suffered disappointment after disappointment, but they have never wavered in their belief that Canberra, and Australia -as a whole, would not be properly endowed educationally until such a university was established. Many of their ideas, held steadfastly for many years, are embodied in this bill. It will not be long now before they see their ideas translated into action. I have no doubt that when the university it established they, and other organizations like the University Association, which have been so helpful in the past, will continue to demonstrate the interest which they have always shown in, the past.

The essence of democratic government is that all national issues must ultimately, be decided by the people themselves. To me it is more than ever important at this stage in Australia's development that, our people should have ' available everything they need to permit their decisions to be made wisely and after a full understanding of the issues involved. Both in Australia and in the world at large, innumerable problems await solution if the future is to be made safe and the people placed in a position to enjoy the fruits of the developments in science and in human relationships which have taken place during the last six years. The first thing that must he done, however, is to ensure that these developments are studied in relation particularly to their application in Australia. Progress in physical science has culminated in the harnessing of atomic energy, and this has brought the world to its final crossroads. Mishandled, these discoveries in the physical world can make peace and prosperity impossible. Properly used they may introduce an era df happiness and prosperity unparalleled in world history. It is essential that Australia, in common with the other nations of the world, should do everything possible to foster that careful research which will allow us to become the masters, not the servants, of our physical environment, In medicine, too, the outstanding achievements of the war years await full and proper application to the civil needs of our people. Once again this implies patient research by all the talent at our disposal and demands the establishment of appropriate institutions at which this research may be conducted. The Government believes that the university now proposed for 'Canberra is one appropriate place in which this research may be carried out. On the side of human relationships, our' continued development, and a full understanding of our problems, require that we encourage research into the social sciences. Here, perhaps, more , than in any other field of learning, Australia has an outstanding contribution to make to the world at large. In economics, history, law, anthropology, and in all the related social sciences, Australia is in 'a particularly advantageous position. Our economic and social institutions are growing round us as we ourselves grow to full nationhood. We are still a young and virile people. Our institutions are not yet finally determined, and for that reason, apart from many others, our opportunities for research into the social sciences are unique.

We have also greatly increased responsibility to shoulder in relation to other people, particularly to those with whom we are associated as a' Pacific power. The whole field of Pacific studies awaits fuller development than it has previously received in Australia. Our relations with the East, with the Americas, with the East Indies, New Zealand, New Guinea and all the Pacific Islands, must be carefully studied in order that they may become friendly and fruitful, as they must be if our future is to be safeguarded and if we are to make our full contribution in the councils of the nations. Here, too, -our opportunities are unique. Our remoteness enables us to consider the fundamental issues involved, free from the day to day fears and turmoil that beset many of the great powers. For that reason we have a duty to the world at large which we must recognize if we are to be accepted as a world power.

I need say no more in this strain. Honorable members, I know, are fully alive to the implications of modern developments as they affect Australia. What I have said will suffice to stress that in introducing this bill, I believe that I am initiating a measure which will confer very great benefits on our people and, at the same time, help us to assume outproper place in world affairs.

The bill itself is very straightforward and needs little amplification. It follows in broad outline the general plan of government which has been found to operate successfully in other universities, both in Australia and overseas. It will be noted that the functions of the university as set out in clause 6, lay particular stress on post-graduate research. Clause 7 sets out the research schools which are of immediate importance to Australia, but nothing in the bill prevents the establishment of other research schools that may appear essential to the governing body of the university. While the university is intended to be primarily a postgraduate research university, it is nevertheless recognized that facilities must be made available in Canberra to meet the increasing needs for undergraduate studies and for special training for officers of government departments. Provision is therefore made ' in clause 6 and in clauses 8 and 9 to enable this to be done.

The governing authority of the university as set out in clause 11 is to be a council consisting of not more than 30 members. Here, again, the same general principle has been followed as operates in most of the other Australian universities. -In other words, the council is to be composed partly of elected members and partly of members appointed by the GovernorGeneral and by the Parliament.

The university must be free to administer its own affairs without any pressure from outside; otherwise decisions on highly complex technical matters may be taken which are not in the best interests of the university, and which may prevent it from carrying out its work efficiently. The appropriate safeguards against such outside interference are contained in clause 22 of the bill which specifically refers all matters connected with the government of the university to the council.

Whilst I do not ' anticipate that the university will be in full operation for some time, it is essential that as much basic planning as possible be completed at the earliest practicable date, so that the necessary plans can be laid for buildings and other essential work. Naturally, -I realize that the acute shortage of labour and materials for building will prevent an immediate start being made on any accommodation foi- the university. It will in any case be necessary to await the appointment of the key personnel in the various research schools before final plans can be completed for any buildings. At the same time the Government realizes that a very large amount of administrative work in connexion with the establishment of the university will be necessary before it is in full operation. For this, reason I' propose to ask at the appropriate time that the bill be amended to permit the appointment of an interim council to carry out the work of the council until that body can be properly constituted and appointed, and in particular to undertake the preliminary work relating to the planning of the university.

Another feature of the bill to which I want to refer at this stage, is clause 28 dealing, with finance. The Government is concerned that the university shall be able to plan ahead, particularly on its research side, and for this reason I propose to ask at the appropriate time that this clause be amended to provide the university with a grant which will be reviewed every five years, rather than to leave it dependent on the funds voted annually by Parliament. If this amendment is approved, the Government proposes to make available in the first five years, commencing with the- financial year 1951-52, the sum of £325,000 per annum. The amount will be reviewed every five years thereafter. In the period before July, 1951, such amount will be made available, to a maximum of £325,000 per annum, as is actually needed to meet the running expenses of the university. The Government is also well aware that it must provide sufficient funds to enable the university to start with buildings worthy of the objects for which they are built and in keeping with the. best types of architecture in the Capital Territory. Accordingly the Government has approved an amount of £872,500 for buildings for the university. This amount, of course, will not be required immediately, nor will it be drawn from any one budget.

Finally, I propose to say something about the- staff of the- university. The vice-chancellor, as the administrative head of the university, will be. in many ways, the key member of its staff. In the first instance, as set out in clause 17, it is proposed that the vice-chancellor be appointed by the Governor-General for a period of five years. All subsequent appointments to that office will be. made by the council. It is vital that the vicechancellor be a man of outstanding administrative ability, and, if possible, of high academic standing. I believe, too, that he must at all costs secure men of world reputation to supervise the work of the various research schools. There are very eminent Australians overseas who would be very happy to come back home to an appointment which gave them freedom to carry out their research in an Australian national university. We must leave no stone unturned to secure their services. After all, the reputation of a university depends not on the number of its students or on the splendour of its buildings, but on the quality of its members and the nature of its contribution to learning. With the establishment of an Australian national university liberally endowed, properly housed and staffed with men of world repute, Australia will have taken one more step to aline itself with the great and enlightened nations of the world.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

Suggest corrections