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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3529

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - The matter that I wish to raise has very little political significance, but I hope that what I say might commend itself to the Government. It is, I am afraid, only a minor matter. One of the things that always strikes me about the work of the Department of Science is that it is not always focused or available to the public. Let me deal first with the second point. It seems to me that a great deal of confusion exists in our primary industries as to the correct nomenclature for plants, particularly pest plants, for insects, particularly pest insects, and even for a variety of trees. In different parts of Australia the same tree can be called by a different name and the same pest can be called by a different name, so there is not much chance of an Australian policy taking account of this circumstance.

Would it not be possible for the Department to standardise nomenclature and to put out information in a readily available form? For this purpose I suggest that we use coloured slides and tapes to go with the slides. For example, for the Australian locust, we could have slides showing its development and the way in which it causes damage. We could have slides showing any other pests or the useful grasses which, I assure honourable members, have different names in different parts of Australia. We could have a series of slides which could be produced by the Department and which could carry the necessary information.

As I said, this matter has no political implications. It is something to which I think the Department might turn its mind and I will be quite happy to put before the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) a detailed proposal in this regard. I think this would be of special interest to my friends in the Australian Country Party because they know the difficulty in dealing with some of these pests and the opportunities which are lost through not appreciating the properties of useful plants. Very often it turns upon the fact that they do not know what to call the damn things. They are called one thing in Western Australia and another thing on the Riverina. This is a very simple and practical proposal which I hope will be implemented by the Department. As I said, I will be happy to put before the Minister a detailed plan of how this should be done. This proposal could even apply to things which are not of productive significance, such as the recognition of Australian birds and wildflowers. It is very difficult to get any kind of coherent pattern in regard to the recognition of these things.

Secondly - and I am dealing with something entirely different - I believe there are things which could be done in Australia that are not being done. I refer particularly to a study which I think should be made of the behaviour in Australia of ferral domestic animals, that is, domestic animals that have gone wild. I say this not because I believe it has any immediate practical importance but because I believe that it would have great theoretical importance. We may be able to look at the position of the wild horses, the wild cattle or the wild pigs in Australia. These are animals which have had no experience handed down to them for their wild lives, yet they have established communities with rules of behaviour which are quite complicated and quite set. If we looked at these animals in the Australian environment we might be able to clear up some of the fundamental problems of behaviour and ecology, and some of the fundamental problems of how much is inherited and how much is not. These are absolutely basic problems in science. We have in Australia the opportunity, through a proper study, of solving some of these problems which have bedevilled science as a whole throughout the world.

I am not suggesting that we spend any great amount of money. I would have thought that even a few tens of thousands of dollars properly applied would be able to produce in Australia something which is of world importance. I discussed this with Sir Macfarlane Burnet and he agrees that this is of prime importance and should be done in Australia. I discussed with him this particular proposition, and I put it to the Government that it is one of the things which we might be doing. I am not asking for anything of any great significance financially. I am simply saying that the attention of the Department might be focused here, and we could get with a comparatively small expenditure in Australia something which could be theoretically of world significance.

I put to the Government 2 unrelated propositions. The first is the popularisation of knowledge by the use of such things as colour slides and tapes to make available to Australian farmers, to Australian children, to Australian researchers - to the people who are interested - the correct nomenclature not only of Australian plants an animals but also those that have been introduced into Australia. Secondly, I ask whether it would be possible to have an ecology study done here relating to the behaviour in Australia of domestic animals which have gone wild and established their communities with their own pattern of behaviour. This second matter is of no practical productive consequence but I think it could be of considerable theoretical consequence and might perhaps bring a great deal of credit to Australia if this were undertaken. I do not want to take up the time of the House further. In relation to both these matters I would be very glad to put a detailed program before the Government and to participate, myself, in the guidance and development of that program. I thank the Committee.

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