||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851
II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888
III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927
IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987
i CSIR and CSIRO
ii Returns from agricultural research
iii Research funding
V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988
VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research
VII Future Prospects
Research fundingAustralian investment in agricultural research grew slowly but steadily between 1900 and 1940. During the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s governments, State and federal, found it difficult to sustain, much less increase, their levels of financial support for research undertaken by CSIR, State Departments of agriculture and universities.
Nevertheless, during this period significant progress was made on a series of problems which were of enormous importance to the farming industries, including soil fertility, plant and animal breeding, crop and animal diseases, plant and animal pests, trace element nutrition , and food processing and preservation. Even during the worst period of financial restriction (July 1929 -June 1933) CSIR managed to attract £175,000 from non-government sources such as the Empire Marketing Board, grower's associations and endowments, to supplement the £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue and the CSIR Trust Fund.
Yet attracting funds for research was never easy. As Sir David Rivett pointed out in a letter (1944) telling Sir Charles Martin in Cambridge that Australian woolgrowers had at last agreed to a statutory research levy on every bale of wool they produced:
. . . You may remember that many years ago a big effort was made to induce sheep men to agree to a levy of 2d. per bale for scientific work. Our old friend George Aitken battled hard but was beaten. He tried to raise a capital sum of £200,000 and got about £50,000. Then synthetic fibres began to appear. A levy did not seem quite so absurd an idea. 6d. was agreed to and the Australian Wool Board came into being; then the International Secretariat and so on. The war interfered, with the result that the AWB has about £200,000 accumulated somewhere or other. Synthetics interfered still more and of late the wool people have been showing signs of hysteria. Queensland Country Life even suggested that CSIR could not be trusted with wool investigations because 1 had suggested that Australia might do worse than make some fibres for herself -with graziers the principal company shareholders! 1 am black indeed but it looks as though CSIR is going to be so prosperous that 1 shudder for its health. It is, in fact, quite certain that a 2/- per bale levy will be imposed by Parliament before long and that the Treasury will add an equal sum. This means about £600,000 per annum to be spent on work for the sheep and wool industry -and towards the damnation of all synthetic fibres . . .
The 'fear' that drove woolgrowers to seek the help of science was not the only reason why considerable emphasis was placed on agricultural research by the community as a whole. Because of the isolation of Australia from other advanced agricultures, the diversity of its farming industries and environments, and the dependence of rural producers on competitive world markets, there was a general realisation that Australia had to develop its own capacity to solve its own problems, and that this needed an effective research service.
Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Wool Board; Empire Marketing Board
© 1988 Print Edition pages 27 - 28, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher