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Wednesday, 12 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - I think that it is best for Ministers to answer various points as they are raised during the debate.

Mr Anthony - And thus take up a great deal of the time available to the committee.

Mr DEDMAN - Unless the course I indicate is followed, there might be such an accumulation of matters that, towards the end of the period devoted to the consideration of these Estimates, it may be impossible for Ministers to give the information sought. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has asked whether anything is being done in relation to investigations into the manufacture of tractors and the testing of tractor equipment. Under Division 183, item 5, an amount of £7,600 has been provided, some of which will be used to subsidize research on standards of equipment generally. Tractors will be included under that item.

The honorable member has also asked whether the. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is undertaking any investigations in relation to human nutrition. The Commonwealth 'Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research before it, have not undertaken any medical research work.

Mr Beazley - I had in mind research into the nutritional value of plants.

Mr DEDMAN - The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing a very great deal of work in that connexion. It has introduced a number of plants into Australia from other countries and it is undertaking experimental work to ascertain the nutritional value of certain plant constituents. A great deal of valuable work along those lines has been undertaken at the experimental research station near Rockhampton, in Queensland.

Mr Blain - Will the Minister ask the research officers to ascertain whether the product known as Bovril is a useless article because vitamins A and B cannot be dissolved 1

Mr DEDMAN - That is a problem for examination not by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but by medical research officers. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has not undertaken any medical research work. It does, however, undertake investigations of the chemical composition of foods and of any alterations that may take place in the chemical constituents of foods as the result of processing and marketing. Research work along those lines is, of course, undertaken principally for the benefit of primary producers.

The honorable member for Fremantle has also asked whether anything is being done to investigate the contents of patent medicines. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not doing anything in that regard, principally because the Commonwealth has no constitutional power in relation to patent medicines generally.

Mr Beazley - I suggested that the Commonwealth authorities might submit their findings to the States for examination with a view to the submission of appropriate legislation in the State parliaments.

Mr DEDMAN - The Commonwealth would need to be assured that the State governments would be prepared to take some action before it authorized any such investigations. There is quite a history behind this subject. At one period during the war a regulation was promulgated which compelled the manufacturers of patent medicines to submit to the Commonwealth authorities an analysis of the contents of all such medicines. Some very interesting facts emerged as the result of the promulgation of that regulation. I agree that it would be of benefit to the community if some authority undertook such investigational work. The regulation to which I have referred was disallowed by the Parliament after it had operated for only a short period, and the Commonwealth did nothing further about the matter. If representations were made by the State governments that they were interested in this subject and that they believed that in the public interests investigations should be made into the contents of patent medicines, with a view to ascertaining whether they were really efficacious for the purposes for which they are advertised, the Commonwealth would gladly co-operate through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, until such time as the governments that have constitutional power over this matter show some interest in it, I do not think that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be asked to undertake such investigations.

The honorable member for Fremantle has also asked whether any allocations of money have been made for scholarships in the United States of America, and, if so, what amounts had been made available for that purpose. No specific funds have been allocated for that purpose. From time to time the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization makes recommendations to me that particular individuals should be sent to the United States of America to investigate certain problems. The executive also makes recommendations that individuals in the United States of America who have particular knowledge of specified subjects should be asked to visit Australia to assist us in the solution of our problems. Each of these recommendations is investigated on its merits. If it is thought that a scholarship in a particular subject would benefit this country only if the student went to the United States, the recommendation is approved subject to a very thorough examination being made to ascertain whether the student concerned could not obtain the desired knowledge and training in some soft currency country. The same principle applies to recommendations made to me by the executive of the organization in relation to proposals to invite American specialists to this country. Not long ago a recommendation was made to me that an American expert in the science of genetics, Professor Lush, should be invited to visit this country. I asked whether it would not be possible to obtain the services of an expert from the United Kingdom who would be equally as reliable as Professor Lush. I was informed that the only individual in the United Kingdom who had the specialized knowledge which the organization wanted to impart to our own people who are interested in this matter was not available to pay a visit to Australia. In those circumstances, I approved of the recommendation that Professor Lush should be brought from America. Professor Lush subsequently visited Australia and I understand that the information which he imparted to our people who were engaged in the study of both animal and plant genetics has been of very great value to the organization. I believe that I have dealt with all the matters that were raised by the honorable member for Fremantle. If I have overlooked any matter I shall be glad to furnish what information I have about it at a later stage.

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