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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3530


Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - I should like to consider for a moment the course of development of science in this country. We have a fundamental basis of science in the British tradition, without the population that has enabled Britain to develop a sophisticated technology around its science. In the main, science research in Australia is concentrated in the fundamental area. We have the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which for many years was concerned with fundamental research. The problems of applied research have only I suppose in the past 5 years occupied the mind of the CSIRO. The problems of social research are only just now being considered by our one professional research organisation. The problems of the interaction between science and the environment also are now concerning the CSIRO. If we think about the structure of research in Australia we realise that we have only 2 fundamental research groups - the CSIRO, which is sponsored directly by the' Australian Government, and universities whose basic research function is to produce research workers.

It is not satisfactory for us to give to the universities a great amount of research work which is on-going in nature because basically the universities, when they have produced their doctors of philosophy and people with various other degrees, lose a continuity which can be maintained only within the confines of a professional research organisation. This has not really affected Australia greatly in relation to fundamental scientific research, but it has certainly affected Australia in regard to the social sciences. We do not have an on-going social science research organisation. In the more obvious areas of economics we have a few small groups which are taking on this professional mantle. In other areas such as sociology and medical research we find few organisations which have this on-going professional component. So it is important, 1 believe, that we develop a wider approach to research in Australia. Our nation - our economy and society - is growing and becoming more sophisticated, and it is vital that we have these professional research organisations which deal with economic, sociological and medical research. We have tended to look, as happened with the Vernon Committee's recommendations, at the political consequences of research organisations.

We cannot afford any longer to deny this country the services of professional research organisations in these areas. We certainly cannot afford to deny this country these organisations simply because they become critics of government policy. Naturally they will criticise, but in a virile, healthy political environment any government can afford such criticism. 1 have been impressed by the brochure that was circulated to all members by, presumably, the French Ambassador in Australia. It is entitled 1972, France, Science Research and Development'. On page 60 of that document there is an illustration of another area in which research has been neglected in Australia, that is, the area of industrial development and innovation. On page 60 of the document we find a chapter entitled 'A Policy of Innovation'. At the foot of that page there is a table which goes from basic research through development to industrialisation. At the basic research end in France, as indeed in Australia, the Government accepts responsibility for financing the basic drive. Then we go through basic research, directed research and applied research.

There are few applied research organisations in this country. When it comes to developing the applications of basic research in Australia, we have had one very good illustration in a field with which I am quite familiar. I refer to wool research, an area to which, incidentally, over the years the CSIRO has devoted a great deal of time. But yet in this applied area, when it came to bringing the machinery of wool measurement, for example, into application, there were a lot of difficulties which were not covered by existing research organisations. A lot of time and effort had to be given to this particular area and special grants were necessary from this Government to carry out this applied research. No organisation was geared to the problem of applying the products of fundamental research, not only as far as the scientists were concerned but as far as the economics were concerned. There was no organisation which could apply the fruits of this research in the industrial sphere. This organisation in France had the point of applied research only as the third stage of an 8-stage development of research. It goes then through pre-development, feasibility studies, technological research development and the pre-mass production stage. At that stage the work is being financed more by industrial funds than by government funds. Then comes the production and marketing stage where the government's role is that performed in Australia by the Australian Industry Development Corporation in the present structure of our economy. It provides venture capital, and then the project merges into the commercial field and is supported by commerce.

Australia does not have this sophisticated development. I am not asking that this sophisticated development should be developed in Australia at this stage because in many areas we do not have the market base for such development. But I believe that we should be giving much more consideration not only to this question of innovation and development but also, as I mentioned before, to the social and economic research functions of our research and science fields. In regard to this question of innovation I should like to quote from this document. It states:

In a market economy in which international competition is' becoming increasingly stiff, industrial growth calls for the continuous renewal of production. This only innovation makes possible.

Here, of course, we are talking about the fundamental economic concept of productivity. In a sophisticated economy it is no longer possible for us to rely on a fairly crude allocation of labour alone for an increase in productivity. It is absolutely essential that we must foster innovation at the ground roots level and see it through to industry. In order to do that we need not only the fundamental science research that CSIRO represents in Australia but also all the other research organisations that I have mentioned as I have developed this argument. The document goes on to state: As the ultimate phase in the complex process of research, innovation comes into its own after basic, fundamental, directed or applied research has given rise to a new discovery. It is up to innovation to insert this discovery into the economic cycle that ends with production.

In other words it is not good enough to get the idea alone; we need to continue the innovatory process right through to the application phase. As I have already mentioned, in France this process has been divided into 3 operational phases. These are predevelopment stage, which investigates the feasibility of the innovation, the technological research stage and the premass production stage. Having done research myself, in terms of physics, chemistry and economics, I know that the last person to innovate is the person who gets the original idea. The apparatus that will work in the laboratory will never work in industry. The scientist with all his loving care and with all his knowledge of the idea he has developed, knows exactly where to tap the apparatus or where to kick it if brute force is required to make it work. These things cannot be relied on in industry. So a completely separate group of people is needed to integrate with scientists and with industry and to understand how to apply the knowledge.

Unfortunately I do not have time to develop another important area of research - namely, communications - which has not been given very much consideration at all in Australia. I believe that we need to develop as conscientiously and as systematically the whole area of communication between the research worker and industry as indeed we do the area between the research worker and the application of his ideas. I believe that the Department of Science is a welcome development in the growth and maturation of this economy and our society. For the first time we have a systematic approach, though an embryonic one, to this multitude of problems.







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