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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 888

OPENING OF NEW SCIENCE BUILDING AT GEELONG COLLEGE, GEELONG, VICTORIA - 12TH FEBRUARY 1964 - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE RT. HON. SIR ROBERT MENZIES

Photo of Menzies, Robert

Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/02/1964

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 888

OPENING CF NEW SCIENCE BUILDING AT GEELONG COLLEGE
GEELONG,, VICORIA
1i2i1iao.,. ar 196
SpReech by the Prime Minister,~ the Rt. Hong Sir Robert Menzies
Sir Arthur, Moderator and Ladies and Gentlemen
This seems to be my golden opportunity for making
a record short speech before~ the rain comes down heavily, I was
told just now by Sir Arthur Coles I was questioned by him
did I believe in miracles? He then began to describe a few of
which he was aware, How ridiculous to ask me whether I believed
in miracles. When I look back on the last seven Federal elections,
I know that they happen. ( Laughter) I am a convinced believer.
( Applause) Now, just in case we get washed out, I must recall
at once that it is my duty to open the building in the name of
Sir Arthur Coles, to open one of the two labs* in it, to name it
after the late Mr. Roper and to name the other one after a
celebrated character of whom I used to hear a great deal when
my boys were here Tammy Henderson. ( Applause) I think it is
a concession to Presbyterian respectability that the lab, to be
named after him is the ' IT. Henderson Laboratory". It should
have been " Tammy Henderson Laboratory." However, I merely throw
that suggestion out.
Now I want to tell my old friend and competitor,
Mr. Robson, something. I called him a competitor because this
is about the seventh or eighth time that I have attended the
opening of a science lab, partly built by the funds of the
Industrial Fund. Each time he listens carefully to what I say,
the next time he uses it all himself. ( Laughter) This man has
literally left me with not a feather to fly with time after time
and yet I forgive him because if it is any comfort to him and to
the gentlemen with whom he works in this imaginative Industrial
Fund, I would like to say that the idea put forward by me and
now in course of being carried out owes not a little to the
existence of the Industrial Fund and its imaginative suggestions
which entered my mind and the minds of my colleagues. And so I
would like to say an additional " thankyou" l to him for this.
Now, it is quite right that this building is partly
the Fund, but it is also, in a very large degree, the result of
two remarkable private benefactions -from Sir Arthur Coles and
Mrs. Roper. ( Applause) And you know ladies and gentlemen, there
is a certain symbolism about this, hope that whatever governments
may do and my own does what it can in these fields we will
never reach the point at which private citizens feel that their
own obligations end with the payment of their taxes. That, I think,
would be the defeat of humanity. I don't want governments to be
responsible for all those things in a school like this or elsewhere
which appear to be good things. And that is why it is a splendid
thing for our country that we should have people like th~ e two
to whom I have made reference, and there are many others here whom
I recall in other fields who have shown that they have a sense of
personal obligation achieving personal satisfaction in doing something
of this kind and I hope that that will go on whatever may
be done by governments, * 0 0 0 / 2

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Now perha T might sysp s orethng about what is
being done. I have no idea ho mu~ ch money the Industrial F'und
has raised or spends0 A-1-I 1_* o is it seemed to me as I went
from one place to another to amount to a very groat deal, but when
I announced our proposals that we would take what is, In terms of
a Federal Government, a revolutionary step of' providing œ% 1M a year
' in aid of buildings and equipmen~ t for scientific teaching in
secondary schools, I don't know that everybody realised how enormous
a thing this was fœ 5M. a year not œ C5146 spread over some long
period and if one estimates that the independent schools
represent a quartor, contain a quarter of those who aro engaged in
secondary education'which I think is a fairly accurate estimate,
this means that a maillion and a quarter a year will find its way
into purposes of this kind. And I hope that in the doing of this
work, we will take the fullest advantage of the enormous experience
that Mr. Robson has had and those associated with him have had.
We do want to feel that all this money will go to the right spots
at the right time and to achieve the right purpose,
Now there is one other thing that I would like to
say to you. I have had the great pleasure of being associated
with an enormous development in the university world in Australia,
but one of the things that disturbs me, aond I think disturbs
other people, is the relatively high failure rate in the universities
in their first year. Great experts have commented on this and
many have been prepared to say, and no doubt with some truth,
that something ought to be done to improve the standard of
qualification the student has before he is thrown into the waters
of the university. Well yucan do that, we thought, in two ways.
It is very important to JIo it.
One is so to improve the scientific equipment in
the secondary schools as to give every boy or girl who has a
scientific bent an opportunity to be much better trained, much
further forward, much more accustomed to the handling of new
techniques and new equipment than ever before and I am sure that
this is going to pay enormous dividends in the development of the
universities, in the development of science and, therefore, in
the development of Australia.
And, of course, associated with ta, letme remind
you, we have in hand proposals for the creation of a very large
number of special scholarships not from primary schools to
secondary not from secondary to the university; we already have
a lot of ihose but in the secondary schools themselves, to enable
a student to have an extra year or two years so as to improve his
sixth form, his honours standing. I am perfectly certain that
Mr. Robson will agree that this is a splendid idea. It isn't
always easy to say to a boy or girl " Well, you ought to have
another year at school; you ought Lo take another year of honours." 1
In this mercantile world, we are all a little bit inclined to
think, " No, no. The sooner they are out the better. The sooner
they are earning some money the better," I think myself that if
we could bring about a state of affairs in which a few thousand
students at secondary schools, who otherwise would have left school,
stay on and do an honours course, stay on for a year, for two years,
so that they then develop the urge for learning and go to a
university not as prospective failures but as prospective successes,
this would be a wonderful thing for Australia.
We are a rather comfortable democracy. We are a
well-paid democracy. We must become a highly-trained and intelligent
democracy. We must make learning fashionable. We must make it
rather the correct thing to be tremendously good at some branch
of knowledge and, of course, I as you have been reminded, have
had a couple of entirely unscientific sons at this school. I dont

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think they ever learned a. nything about physics, Sorry0 I know
that they were well ta-7dil; 0 Al~ l I . f : c-meinber about it is that
action and reaction are equal and opposite -a principle that
has guided me in politics for a long time. ( Laughter)
But, really, l1adies and gentlemen, when I was a
schoolboy if you can imagine so remote a period of time
the scientific equipment was deplorable; a few bum~ en burners,
a few scales a few test tubes. Nothing. And this was regarded
as a rather depraved form of witohcraft which healthy schoolboys
would hardly be associated with0 Now, each time I go through
one of these new school wings, I, the most unscientific of
people, find myself fully persua ded that if they had had that
in my time, I would now be a scientist, and that would have,
of course, given immense credit to one of your most distinguished
old boys, a very famous scientist, who was unkind enough to say,
only a year or two ago in my presence on some public occasion
that he thought it essential that every Cabinet Minister should
have a scientific degree, to which I hasten to assure you I
replied that if that ever happened, that would be the end of the
world for the scientists, No scientists in a department would
ever have any hope of survival if his Minister thought that ho
knew more than his expert adviser, So on the whole, it is a good
thing to have as Ministers ordinary fellows like me wbo are not
scientists, but who have our lucid intervals in which we are
perfectly capable of understanding what other people are saying to
us. I musn't ramble on. I have really talked the rain
away you must concede that point. I am delighted about all
this. I am sorry that Frank Rolland can't be here. This would
be a great vision for him, but I am delighted. I have seen this
school grow over a long period of years, grow in strength and
grow in beauty and now adding to itself something which I hope
will make a powerful contribution to scientific training.
Might I just say one thing before I conclude. I
thought, what with all the sputniks and what-have-you, that there
would be a complete run on science courses in the universities.
This happens not to be true. The Monash University was created
and expressly stated to be one that would have a bent in the
direction of engineering and science. It is their engineering
and science faculties that are half filled; it is the humanities
side that is overcrowded. Maybe therefore, that with al. l these
improved facilities in this rapidly-changing world of science
teaching and experiment, that with all this, we will find that
we are helping to solve that problem by producing a much higher
percentage of those who look on science not just as a possible
job but as something that they can't live without. And you know,
ladies and gentlemen, that is true of anything you are to do,
Unless you feel you couldn't live without doing that particular
thing, then you won't be very much good at it. But give me the
man who is enthusiastic, who has a devotion, who has a sense of
vocation in any occupation and I will show you the man or woman
who is going to make easily the most effective contribution.
And so, Sir, I have great pleasure great honour in
naming this building after Sir Arthur Colas and. in naming the
two labs in the sense I have described. I want to say that my
pleasure on this occasion is equalled only by the pleasure of
my wife who got to know this place very well over a period of
years and who is delighted like me to see what great strides
the school made when the Menzies left,

Transcript 888