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Wednesday, 10 April 1957


Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - 1 am sure that all honorable members are very indebted to .he honorable member for Fremantle Beazley) for the thoughtful speech he nas just given us on the question of universities. 1 have followed with very great in.e.est most of the debate on this bill to-night. There are only one or two points about which 1 wish to speak, and they arise partly out of questions which are very much in the forefront of the public mind to-day. One of them is what I might call a hobbyhorse of mine, left over from the time when I was Minister for the Interior. It was a real hobby-horse, because although I tried to dig in the spurs, it never moved fro n the spot in which it was originally found by myself when I became a Minister. Therefore, the first thing that I want to say to-night is that I am sorry that no move, so far as I can gather, has yet been made to establish an undergraduate university in the capital city of Australia. Perhaps I should say that plenty of moves have been made, but no action has been taken.

I know that certain people will say that the matter has gone before this committee or that committee, or that this negoiation or that negotiation is going on. It should not be thought for one moment that I have any objection to the Australian National University. I think that it is, and will continue to be, of very great value to this community. But what I cannot undersand is why the National University, under the Prime Minister's Department, seems to get all the money it wants, while the Canberra University College, under the Department of the Interior, never seems to get a go at all. That is wrong.


Mr Duthie - Why the distinction between them?


Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES - As a matter of fact, if they could work in harmony I think it would be a good thing for a lot of the professors who are now supposed to be engaged fully on research Particularly in the social sciences. It wo Id be a good thin? if they spent part of their time with the undergraduates and "-o combined teaching with their graduate work. What may arise out of that T fto not know, but the fact remains that the National University has gone ahead. I am "lad to see, and has had one building after another erected. Now, according to newspaper reports, it is about to have a building for the Academy of Science, which looks to me like a still-life picture of a flying saucer that has come to rest somewhere in the grounds of the National University. I suppose it will be a suitable hall in which modern men and maidens can imagine they rock and roll into inter-stellar space. I received a lot of criticism for the modern archit ecture of certain houses in Canberra, and I suppose that this building, if it is erected, also will receive its fair share of criticism.

Originally, the National University was meant to be a school for research int o medicine and into the physical sciences, but now it has developed into something very much bigger, and it has developed at the expense of the establishment of an undergraduate university in Canberra. Many people will ask, " Why do you want to build an undergraduate university in a city of 35,000 people? " I want to remind the Government, and anybody else who cares to listen, that this is one of the most important matters in the future efficiency of administration of the Public Service. I tried very hard to start the movement of the remainder of the departments, mainly from Melbourne, to Canberra. When the matter was mooted, I tried very hard to get decisions. I got one about every six months, and then the decisions were altered, as a result of which nothing was done. I do not know what decision has been made now. but I fancy that the Administration building, which I call a memorial to costplus, will be finished by the end of this year. Apparently two-thirds of it will lie vacant because no action has been taken in that direction. But that is not important or relevant to this particular bill.


Mr McMahon - Defence is to come to Canberra.


Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES - Not until 1959. I suppose that two years is not much to be out when the Estimates are concerned. The important fact is that when a suggestion was made to move one of my departments from Melbourne to Canberra, if I remember rightly there were three or four resignations amongst the best younger officers that the department had. and several others signified their intention to transfer to jobs which were vacant in private enterprise. That was not because of antipathy to Canberra, but because officers with a young family had to face the fact that, in the absence of an undergraduate university in Canberra, it was going to cost between £300 and £400 a year, even without further inflation, for each child that they wanted to send to university. That would be a very big financial item in any family's budget. Therefore, if there is no undergraduate university here, these young and middle generation public servants who are asked to move to Canberra, and who have opportunities to move out into private enterprise, will not be coming here, and the efficiency of the federal Public Service will be very materially affected.

It has been suggested that a university should be built at Wagga, in New South Wales. I know that the New South Wales Government does not particularly want to start that university and would be very glad to see the Canberra University College started off as an undergraduate university. If it could be combined so far as some of the staff are concerned, with the National University so much the better. But, please, will the Government decide whether it approves or disapproves of the Canberra University College being developed, on a gradual but steady basis, to a proper undergraduate university? The money is available for the buildings as money is available for all the extra buildings that are being constructed or are proposed to be constructed for the Australian National University. The necessity is there. The institution could act as a university, not only for Canberra, but also for all the surrounding districts in New South Wales. For the reasons I have just given, it would be a great asset to the administration of the Federal Public Service. I hope that this problem will not be either thrown into the discard, allowed to remain locked up in a filing cabinet or, like a shuttlecock, hit by the Government on one side of the net to a committee on the other side of the net, and no decision made. It is very important to Canberra, it is very important to the Public Service, and it is very important to the surrounding districts in New South Wales. I do not suggest that we should start with a full-sized university. Probably we could start with five or six courses and gradually build as we went along. But I do ask the Government not to delay a decision any longer.

The second matter to which I want to refer is ihe Queensland legislation. Occasionally politics make strange bedfellows. 1 have a sneaking feeling of sympathy with the Premier of Queensland on this piece of legislation, although I do not know that I agree with it clause by clause and item by item. Quite frankly - 1 will mention a name here - I do not suppose that Professor C. P. Fitzgerald would want me to give lectures to his children, any more than, in return, I should want my children to be taught all the social sciences or philosophy by him. As the honorable member for Fremantle has said, this problem is not only very important, but also very difficult. The main thing is to put the teaching in our universities on as broad a basis as possible.

Every one in the House knows that certain parties or certain ideologies in the world to-day make a dead set at the education of the rising generation and try to obtain majorities in educational establishments so that they can appoint only people of their own way of thinking to certain positions in those establishments. That is just as bad as if a Liberal government were to appoint to positions in a university only people who were Liberal supporters. I trust that honorable members will look at this matter in that light and will try to realize that we have got to find some way, not of giving political directions to universities, but of establishing appeal boards or boards of examiners which will act along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Fremantle.

I was educated at Oxford, where I attended lectures given by T. H. Cole, Professor Barker - who was certainly a leftist in those days - and by others who would be called rightists. I always thought that the best part of the Oxford education was that they did not mind whether you called Cromwell a regicide or a national hero, so long as you produced facts to prove your case. In other words, you learned, you arrived at various conclusions and you set out your facts.


Mr Calwell - I could prove that he was not a regicide.


Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES - T gave that only as an example. A university exists to teach the rising generation to reason, not to drive this or that ideology down their throats. There is that danger, which has been pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle, and I can understand the difficulties that face Queensland at present.

I am reminded of an incident that occurred at the opening of the Olympic Village,, when a wrong flag was put up. Probably most honorable members know about it. I found that a man who had said that he was a member of the journalistic profession from Peking had got into the flag room and had told the boy who was rolling up a flag that he was rolling up the wrong one. He told him which flag he ought to take. When the flag went up, we found that it was the wrong one. The Nationalist Chinese were in the village, but the others were not. We put up the flags of the various teams only when they came into the village, or when their officials look up residence there. So the flag was pulled down and another one was run up. About five minutes later, I was accosted by the person who had approached the boy. He was somewhat boisterous in his argument In fact, he was not very polite. That is expressing the matter with classical British understatement. 1 said, " Look, if you want to talk to me, you had better make an appointment and then come along and see me". He said, "This is a free country, and I am entitled to talk to you ". I replied, " Yes, it is a free country; and 1 do not have to listen to you ".

That is the way they look at things. They believe that they are free to earbash any one, but they get very annoyed when the person who is being earbashed docs not want to listen to them. This sort of thing creates a very difficult problem, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Petrie on one side and by the honorable member for Fremantle on the other side. Although we do not want political interference with universities, we have got to watch to see that we shall not be outmanoeuvred by those who do not hesitate to take advantage of our customs or to take improper advantage of banners of freedom, whether university freedom, academic freedom or anything else. They make a parade of freedom in order to put themselves and their colleagues in full control of the various committees and organizations that they wish to dominate - and the trade unions know it. That is another side of the matter.

The next subject that I want to talk about is the necessity for establishing more medical schools. I know that the Federal Parliament should not say to the States, " We will not give you money for universities unless you provide more facilities for the training of medical students ". That would be entirely wrong, but it is rather interesting to find that our system is becoming very much like the system in Canada, where, under the British North America Act, the Federal Government has all the powers and delegates some of them to the States. The reverse is supposed to be true in Australia, but, with the Federal Government having the power of the purse, and with uniform taxation, which has been in vogue since the war, when we give grants to the States, very often we put tags on them. 1 do not want to see bills of this nature take from the States their power to handle education, which would lead to the regimentation of education under the federal system; but I do stress the fact that there is a shortage of medical practitioners in this country. I hope that the committee which has been appointed by the Federal Government will be asked to inquire into something about which the British Medical Association does not seem to be able to make up its mind for more than two months at a time. If we ask any honorable member who represents a country electorate, we shall find that he will tell us that there is a grave shortage of medical practitioners in the country districts. It is not merely due to the fact that the salary is not high enough, as I heard one doctor say on a television programme recently. The shortage of medical practitioners cannot be overcome within the next six years, even if we started to take steps to overcome it to-morrow, because it takes six years to put a student through a medical course. I cannot help thinking, although I come from a medical family, that the British Medical Association is too much run by specialists who do not know how hard general practitioners have to work in order to cope with the calls made on them. I hope that somebody will ask the British Medical Association what its policy is now, because I do not know what it is. The association will not say what it is, because it thinks that that is advertising; but if the press asks the association, then the association will speak on the matter because that, apparently, is in accordance with the ethics and etiquette of the profession.

In respect of the medical profession we are facing a difficulty rather like that which we have been discussing in reference to academic freedom. I do not think it is a good thing for somebody outside the medical boards of the States, or such bodies as have the responsibility to determine who are, and who are not, qualified to engage in medical service, to be in a position to over-rule those authorities. Such persons might be merely amateurs or amateur enthusiasts. After all, in this matter we are dealing with a question of life and death in the community. On the other hand, I think we in this country have been altogether too tough in our treatment of doctors who come here with qualifications and degrees from overseas universities with which we have no reciprocal arrangement at present, irrespective of whether or not these degrees are of a high or low standard. There must be some way of overcoming that disability. 1 saw a report that 678 Hungarian doctors had fled from Hungary since the recent revolution. We are taking into this country 5,000 or 10.000 Hungarian refugees, yet we will not permit any one of the medical men among them to practise medicine here without his overcoming what must appear to him as great difficulties. When 1 say that " we " will not permit them to do so, I am, of course, referring to the States, which control medical practice in Australia. So it seems, on the score of common humanity alone, that both the British Medical Association and the State medical authorities, or the Federal and State Ministers for Health, must decide this question, which has been vexing the public for a very long time. Possibly, if the degrees held by a foreign doctor were of a very high standard, they could say, " You do not have to go through a course again, but you will have to go under tutelage for two years in an Australian hospital in order that your capabilities might be fully ascertained ", or something of that kind.

I was shocked by the attitude of a doctor of high standing in this country when I heard him say, at a luncheon table - and I am giving nothing away here because I shall not mention names - " Well, if I am on a committee that examines foreign doctors as to their qualifications to practice here, none of them will be passed ". I do not think that is fair to the new Australian medical men who are not allowed, or are unable to practice in their own countries.

That is not a proper state of mind in which to commence ascertaining whether the medical degree of a new Australian doctor is, or is not, of a sufficiently high standard to qualify him to practice in this country. I know that this is a difficult problem; but so are other problems, like those with which we are faced in the universities. Both the problems of the universities and the problems of the medical profession are problems whichI think it right and fitting for the committee appointed by the Government to investigate. That is why I have mentioned them to-night.

In relation to the first matter that I mentioned, I hope that there will be no further delay in allocating a site which will be sufficient for the future growth of the Canberra undergraduate university, and that the problems between the Australian National University and the undergraduate university, as between teaching staffs, will be resolved. Whether or not the two universities are to co-operate, I trust that the necessary money will be made available, not in one lump sum, but steadily, so that not only shall we have an undergraduate univer sity, but also the future efficiency of the Public Service will not be materially affected because we cannot make up our minds on this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.







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