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Wednesday, 23 September 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) . - Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) believes that all forms of Government enterprise have been successful. That is not the case. The national debt, Commonwealth and State, includes millions of pounds that have been lost in State enterprises. He points to the financial position of the post office and the railways as examples of successful Government enterprises. He should remember that the buoyant condition of post office revenue is dnc largely to the continuance of postage rates, that are probably the highest in the world, to the fact that it costs1s. 4d. to send a telegram of oven two words from an office in Victoria to an office in another State, and to the further fact thattelephone charges in Australia are higher than in most other countries.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Which country has a lower telephone charge than Australia ?

Senator LECKIE - Great Britain.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator is wrong.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The postal department has a monopoly in this country.

Senator LECKIE - That is true, and the department charges what it likes. But I am afraid that I am digressing. I note that divisions 2 and 3 of the Prime Minister's Department, contain separate provision for buildings, works, and sites for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Does that mean that there is dual control?


Senator LECKIE - It appears to me, as a business man, that if two Ministers control the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a clash of authority is inevitable and the work must suffer. 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.

Senator Collings - Has not the honorable senator read the journals published by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?

Senator LECKIE - I am seeking information, and I want to know if we are getting full value for the public money which is being expended in connexion with this governmental activity. I should like to see the results of its work clearly defined. 1 understand that hitherto its investigations have been confined to problems confronting our primary industries, and that, for the most part, that woTk has been completed. At all events there is a lull and now, so we are informed, the council is about to undertake the investigation of problems associated with secondary industries. At this stage, it is important to note, Senator Hardy says it is time that industry contributed towards the expenditure for scientific research. That surely is a remarkable position to take up when the investigation of the primary industries is ended, and those concerning secondary industries are just 'beginning. In its investigation of problems relating to secondary industries, the council is about to tackle an entirely different and, I suggest, a much bigger job. Its research into primary industries troubles wa3 restricted to two or three dozen different problems, common to Australia; its work for our secondary industries will be much more diversified, because of the greater divisions of industry and the numberless difficulties encountered in all of them.

If I may offer a suggestion I should say that its investigation of secondary production problems should be confined at the beginning to the establishment of new industries that are needed for the carrying on of existing industries. I have in mind particularly the manufacture of aluminium .and certain alloys that are necessary for the manufacture of motor and aircraft engines. I am afraid that a fair amount of suspicion will bo engendered amongst manufacturers if the Council for Scientific and ' Industrial Research attempts to interfere too much in the working of their businesses. Manufacturers guard their secrets pretty carefully, and would not care to have them become the common property of their competitors. From what I have said it will be apparent that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will require to use a fair amount of tact in its investigation of the problems of secondary industries in order to ensure the co-operation of manufacturers generally. Their attitude will probably be determined by the manner in which the work is carried out. I do not wish to depreciate the value of the work done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, hut I have not seen set out in detail what it has done. Now that it is about to investigate the wider field of secondary industries, more provision is being made for buildings. I hope this does not mean that the entire organization is going to be duplicated.

Senator HARDY - The buildings occupied by the council in Melbourne are a disgrace. The work of the Division of Forest Products, in Albert-street, has already meant thousands of pounds to Australia.

Senator LECKIE - I am glad to hear that.

Senator Hardy - In four years, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research boosted the timber industry of

Victoria from 1,000,000 to 50,000,000 feet in 1936 as a result of its work in connexion with the seasoning of timber in kilns.

Senator LECKIE - Surely the honorable senator is mistaken. Timber had been seasoned in kilns long before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established.

Senator Collings - The council improved the methods previously in use.

Senator LECKIE - Millions of feet of timber had been seasoned in kilns long before the institute was formed. I have no desire to depreciate the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but I do not wish its work to be expanded unless there is a definite object in view. I repeat that its investigations in relation to secondary industries will prove much more difficult than those already undertaken in connexion with primary production, and that the officers of the department will require to exercise considerable tact if success is to be achieved.

Senator A.J. McLACHLAN (South Australia - Postmaster-General) [5.22Q . - All architectural services, rental of buildings, acquisition of property, and similar matters for all departments are controlled by the Department of the Interior. The sum of £23,S50 for buildings, works, and site for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is for the acquisition of property.

Senator Leckiespoke as if the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were about to embark on a policy of intrusion into secondary industries; but I remind him that, so far from regarding the activities of the council as an intrusion, the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, and the presidents of the Adelaide and Sydney Chambers welcome the proposed co-operation. The council has by no means completed its investigations into problems affecting primary production. For instance, the dairymen of Australia have given thousands of pounds for research into bovine mastitis. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has rented a farm near Berwick, in Victoria, where its officers will carry out investigations into one of the most difficult problems confronting veterinary science. That work will continue for several years.

Senator Millen - There is also the problem of contagious abortion.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes. Investigations into the blowfly and other pests are still proceeding. There is no ground for the suggestion that the council is seeking jobs to do. It is thought, however, that its officers can assist secondary industries along somewhat similar lines to those followed by the Standards Association. There is no intention to probe' into the secrets of manufacturers, but it is hoped that research by the council will overcome problems and improve methods in secondary industries.

Senator Leckiesaid that timber had been seasoned in kilns long before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research came into existence. I do not doubt the accuracy of his statement. Australian manufacturers have made boots for many years, but only comparatively recently has the quality of their footwear approached the standards which are desired. Similarly, the methods now adopted for seasoning timber are different from those of even a few years ago. Men like Mr. Grimwade do not give large sums of money for the erection of wellequipped laboratories unless they believe that the investigations thereby made possible will be of benefit to the country. Before the end of the year, I hope to open the new well-equipped laboratory at Melbourne, which is the result of the generosity of Mr. Grimwade, who gave £5,000 for its erection. It is proposed to work along similar lines in other directions, and it is not intended to do anything which might cause the institution to fall foul of interested parties. The job before the council is to help Australian industries, not to harrass them. No « definite plan has yet been evolved. A committee, under the chairmanship of Sir George Julius, who is also chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has been set up with power to co-opt others. Last week Sir George Julius visited South Australia in this connexion, but I do not yet know with what results. The only desire of the Government and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is to assist manufacturers to solve the problems which confront them.

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