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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2204


Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - In the short time that I am permitted to speak on the estimates relating to the Department of Education and Science there are 2 matters I must mention which I consider of extreme importance, especially to the people of northern Queensland. The first matter I mention is one raised by the Chairman of the Hinchinbrook Shire Council at the recent meeting of the North Queensland Local Government Association and one which I support wholeheartedly. This is the establishment of a research centre to undertake a comprehensive programme of study into tropical agriculture by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. In May of this year the Chairman of the Executive of the CSIRO stated:

Despite the current state of world markets I see merit, for example, if funds were available, In a proposal we have before us to expand our agronomic research in tropical Australia. The time will eventually come when the high rainfall areas of tropical Australia must be used more effectively for crops as well as pasture production, as are the higher rainfall areas of the temperate regions.

Just a few days ago the Secretary of the Agricultural and Biological Sciences Branch of the CSIRO was reported to have said in Canberra that the CSIRO executive held the view that tropical agronomy research was a matter of priority in Australia. He went on to say that any action on the establishment of this research programme must be deferred until financial resources were available.

I find this situation extremely difficult to understand because here are 2 capable, responsible and learned men in important executive positions advocating the establishment of such a research centre but we cannot proceed with such an important project because finance is not readily available to commence it. I find this decision completely unrealistic and, I might say, a little short sighted. I make this statement in view of the fact that it is widely accepted that urgent attention should be paid to the maintenance of our rural industries. Sensible exploitation of our agricultural resources should be permitted. I think this is fair enough. In this respect the research work that is performed by the Ingham Research and Promotion Bureau is to be commended and the Bureau congratulated for its efforts. But these people do not possess the requisite technical and scientific knowledge to probe deeply into this subject in order to achieve some definite solution. Neither have they the facilities to do so. But the personnel with the requisite knowledge are available in the Department of Education and Science and their knowledge should, in my opinion, be utilised without any further loss of time. I mention time specifically because given time there is no doubt that we as a people, with the resources available to us, could achieve anything that we desire.

But while we defer important projects which could place us in the lead on a highly competitive world market other tropical zone countries may not be so inactive and could steal this initiative away from us. The opportunity is there for us to grasp. Sensible productivity planning could lead to the development of a specific profitable rural industry, despite falling prices on competitive world markets. A strong market exists for some forms of primary production. I instance feed grains, oil seeds, pulp fibres, protein meals and meat. Our contribution to the improved quality of these products through intensive research in tropical agriculture would mean a lot to Australia's economy. Already the research stations of the Commonwealth

Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in northern Australia have made outstanding progress in improved tropical pastures. Fortunately I am in a position to see what is happening. Outstanding progress has been made and our economy has benefited greatly. The next step seems rather obvious - a research centre to undertake a comprehensive study of tropical agriculture. Such a centre could be established in the Ingham district. I have travelled throughout the north and the conditions in the Ingham area are ideal for such studies. The establishment of such a centre is essential to ensure the success of any future agricultural development in northern Australia. The suggestion that there is a lack of finance to enable the establishment of such an extremely important asset is weak. I wholeheartedly support the submission made to CSIRO by the North Queensland Local Government Association and hope that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will give this matter his immediate consideration. " Another matters that bugs me quite a bit is the question of the pre-school education of Australian children. I am interested in pre-school education because I firmly believe that a sound education for our children and .young people is a necessary requirement for Australia's future security. Some years ago, Mr Corbett, you will remember that the attainment of a junior standard of education was sufficient foundation for a career for a young person. However in recent years that situation has changed considerably. This has been brought about by the constant changing pattern of world events. The emphasis on education has placed a greater responsibility on the pupil or student. In the technical age in which we live far more has to be learned and absorbed in a shorter time, consequently in my view pre-school education does much to assist the child. Aspects of pre-school education which concern me greatly are that not every child has the opportunity of receiving such education, mainly because there are far too few preschool centres; there is great difficulty in obtaining the requisite staff to increase the number of centres; attendance frequently is on a roster basis and the cost of maintaining a child at a centre in some circumstances

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stances precludes the parent from permitting a child to take advantage of such education.

During the 1969 Federal elections one of the platforms of the Government's policy was to assist the States with their programmes of pre-school education. However, because of the cutback in Government expenditure on the initiation of new projects, this important matter has been deferred to a future date. I personally believe that this was a wrong decision. As I said earlier, the education of our young people is becoming increasingly important and every effort should be made to prevent any delay in implementing a scheme which would assist pre-school education. Some details have to be considered concerning the success of such a scheme. I have summarised those details and will be as brief as possible. Complete co-operation would have to be maintained between the education departments and the local parents associations. This must be the basis of any preschool system. The education departments, through their various governmental agencies, should provide and maintain the pre-school centre buildings and playgrounds and should staff the centres. The departments should meet running costs, such as the costs of electricity, telephones and water supplies, and should meet the requirements of some consumable material. The departments should provide equipment and furnishings. The organisation of the educational programme should be the responsibility of preschool teachers under the general supervision of regional directors. The parents associations should provide mother-help rosters to assist the teachers. Parents should be encouraged to become part of the life of the centre. For instance, when a child is enrolled his parents should automatically become members of the parents association. This may entail their attending monthly meetings and taking part in the planning of the work of the association, sharing in roster duty and helping in organised efforts arranged by the association to raise finance. My time has expired, but I will raise this matter later.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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