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Tuesday, 14 May 1968

Mr JARMAN (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) - My question is also addressed to the Minister for Education and Science. Did he see a report this morning that he had issued an instruction to the Australian Research Grants Committee to take account of national interest when it makes future grants for research in universities? Is this report correct? If it is, will the Minister outline to the House the reasons behind the instructions?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) -The report is not quite correct. No direction or instruction has been given to the Australian Research Grants Committee. Perhaps I should explain that the Committee in deciding which applicants will receive support for research within the universities bases its judgment on the excellence of the project and the capacity of the research workers. However, I have been holding discussions with Professor Robertson to see whether it would be possible not only to base the judgment on the excellence of the project but also on some element of national interest. Within the brevity of question time I would like to define such a project as one that would not only result in the advance of pure science but also result in some material advantage for Australia within a foreseeable period. Of course, many projects are already within this category. Difficulties of definition and of selection are involved in this. Meanwhile, Professor Robertson has undertaken to indicate any areas in which he thinks there are gaps in research in the universities. These are areas in which Professor Robertson has special and intimate knowledge. It may well be that these gaps are being covered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or some other institution, but that would be a matter for investigation. If the Professor reported gaps to me I would investigate the matter further to ascertain whether some additional effort were needed in one direction or another.

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