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Thursday, 14 March 1968

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It is not correct that this Government has slashed funds for research in universities. On the contrary, total direct funds being made available for research by this Government - by far the greater proportion of it being used in universities - have been substantially increased in this triennium compared with the previous triennium; 1 think from $5m to about $9m. I do not believe the actions of the Commonwealth have contributed to any difficulties that might be occurring in this field. It is correct that some representations have been made recently concerning the position at Melbourne University. These representations are, of course, being closely examined. But the remarks to which the honourable member referred seem to concentrate on one facet of finance for university research. He referred to the special research grant. It is correct that the Victorian Government, by a recent decision, now makes a contribution of $790,000 to this particular fund. I applaud this decision.

It is also correct, as was suggested, that the Commonwealth does not make a contribution to this fund. But this is due in part - a major part - to a decision that the State made at an earlier time to leave full responsibility for financing research projects supported by the Australian Research Grants Committee to the Commonwealth. As I have indicated, the Commonwealth contribution to the work of this Committee has greatly increased. In the 1964-66 triennium the Australian Research Grants Committee made about $317,000 available to Melbourne University. Admittedly this was only begun in the latter part of the triennium. But in this triennium the university is likely to receive something approaching $1,188,000 from this particular fund. This is a very great increase in funds that come entirely from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, of course, also makes its own contribution to the general recurrent funds in the proper ratio and universities devote a certain proportion of these funds to research. The Commonwealth's contribution to research at Melbourne University from these funds in this triennium will amount to about $448,000.

In an earlier statement, the former Prime Minister reaffirmed quite clearly the triennial principle that after due research and negotiation between the Commission, the Commonwealth and the States, the programme of development for universities is laid down for a three-year period. He pointed out and reaffirmed this in a speech as recently as March 1965.

Mr Uren - I rise on a point of order. I point out that this is question time and questions are without notice. The answer the Minister is now giving has been prepared. He is reading from prepared notes.

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