PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 908

OPENING OF NEW SCIENCE BUILDING AT SCOTCH COLLEGE, MELBOURNE, 21ST MARCH 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: 21/03/1964

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 908

OPENING OF NEJ1 SCIENCE BUILDING AT SCOTCH COLLEGE,
1vELMMITNE
21ST MARCH. 1964,
Speech by the Prime Minister? the R~ t. Hon. Sir Robert Menzies
Sir and Ladies and Gentlemen
I think there is a considerable amount of Scots
caution in the fact that the benediction .% ras pronounced before
I spoke. ( Laughter) This has never happened to me before. I
think it very prudent because in my long Presbyterian experience
when the benediction is pronounced, the congregation is free to
leave. ( Laughter) So it is very kind of you to remain.
Now I am at a disadvantage today. As a rule, the
speakers, according to an unwritten Australian practice, stand
or sit in the shade while the audience sits in the sun and gets
roasted. ( Laughter) This is a splendid idea. It is essential
that the speaker should have command over the audience and therefore
that the audience should be a little uncomfortable. Today
you are all sitting in the shade and the position is reversed but
it is worse for me because this I think, is the eighth occasion
on which I have opened or helpeA to open one of these science
blocks, th-, subject of aid from this well-known Industrial Fund
and on each occasion in the past and again today, Mr. L. C. Robson,
the chief executive of that concern has been present. On all
other occasions, he has made a speech and he has spoken before me
and I have picked up a few crumbs that have fallen from his
scientific table, Today he is here the wretched man, gre at and
good man as he is sitting in the shade, smirking a little and
saying, " Well, it~ s Menzies who has to speak this time, all by
himself." ( Laughter) Now, Sir, it is a very wonderful occasion and it is
an occasion that should not be allowed to pass, even so far as I
am concerned without me paying my tribute to the imaginative work
of the Indus~ rial Fund. This doesn't account for all these science
blocks that are being built, but it has meant that over the last
year or two or three, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been
raised and disbursed in order to improve scientific teaching in the
independent schoo, s, as we call them, of Australia.
Now, this is imaginative. Just indeed, as I am
prepared to admit, that our own proposal as a government, which
is now going into effect, to find œ 5M. a year for science
laboratories and equipment in secondary schools is itself imaginative
stimulated not a little by the work of the Industrial Fund.
And It means, as you have been told that so far as the independent
schools are concerned, one-quarter of the _ 5M. because that is
about the proportion œ 1lim. every year will be devoted to these
purposes. Now that doesn't mean, of course that every secondary
school that wants, and deserves, a science block will get one in
a year. That is, of course, manifestly impossible. But when you
look forward over a term of years and imagine what this can do,
then I think it will be agreed that there will be little reason
why the great schools, secondary schools independent or State
should not be able to improve the standard of their science
teaching improve the qualifications of those going on to the
universihos or any other tertiary institution and thereby add to
the total scientific knoviledge and facilities of the country.
Now I am not a scientist. Somebody some years ago
invented a subject, a rather grisly subject, called political
science. I know nothing about it. I am not a scientist but I
know something about politics and something about the responsibility ./ 2

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of Politics and something about the political history of the
world in our time, and there are two things that emerge from that
consideration. The first is and I say this without denigrating
the scientists that the failures of civilisation in this century
have been failures of the human spirit, failures in the great
and important art of knowing about people, of understanding
people, of tolerating people, and these failures moral failures,
intellectual failures have been brought about, I think, because
we have underestimated the importance of humane studies and of
human understanding, If we are going to avoid wars, if we are
going to avoid catastrophes, internationally, then we must never
lose sight of the fact that the business of education is every
bit as much moral as it is intellectual, every bit as much a
matter of training character and quality as it is of training
people in the accumulation of facts.
But there is another aspect. It is going on now.
We have become rather accustomed havent we, of learning about
new weapons, new explorations into space. More and more, a lot
of people ha-ve begun to think that the sole business of science
is propulsion and that we must explore outer space and that all
this is* of necessity a very good thing. W~ ell, it maay be. I
notice that a few people from time to time, and a few nations
from time to time, contemplate spending a few thousand million
pounds or dollars on trying to strike a blow at the moon? and I
have nothing against the moon at all. I hove an affection for
the moon. The moon has always struck me as being a highly
handsome civil and reflective lady and why we should be wanting
to hit her I don't know. I leave this to the scientists to
explain. Aut putting on one side this silly ignorant prejudice
of mine, I see in the current world such a scope for scientific
development, such an irresistible demand for science, for the
application of science in this very earth of ours that I marvel
how we can survive or how the world can survive this century unless
we produce far more scientific workers and thinkers and explorers
than we do now. Consider, ladies and gentlemen, where we are it's a
very pleasant place, a very comfortable city; it's a very
comfortable country. We are by no moans overcrowded. WVe could
have many many more people and hardly notice them. But the
population of -the world nay almost doublo itself by the turn of
the century, may almost double itself in the lifetime of most of
the boys of this great school who are here today. And people,
if they are to live in this world, if they are to have some chance
of advancement in this world, if they are not to be consumed by a
diet of starvation and hatred must be fed, must be clothed, must
go on developing their own activities in life and this will be
done not by doing with the soil or the elem., ents what grandfather
did with them. This will be done only by people forcing their
boundaries of knowledge further and further so that land will
produce far more, so that elements now existent can be used
effectively and properly, so that the world will undo, release
its elements to sustain a population twice as great as we have
now, This pressure of population on resources is I believe,
the greatest genuine social problem that confronts us today in this
world and it will not be solved with great respect to my
particular union by politicians as such. It won't be solved by
legislators as such, It will be soDlved by thousands and millions
of people who are discovering and applying new things and that is
where the scientist comes in. And some of the scientists may go
to the moon if they want to, but I do hope that the vast majority
of them won't think) that the vast majority of boys at school
wontt think that it is no use taking science or being interested at o / 3

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in it unless you went to bo a nuclear physicist. Every aspect of
science is under demand in the world humanity requires it.
Therefore, I would think that apart altogether from the tremendous
advantage that is got by having a new building with proper light,
with proper facilities something to attract the student instead
of the dark thing of old days with a solitary bunsen burner
flickering in the corner, that apart altogether from the inherent
attractiveness of this new building, it would increasingly be felt
that there is here a great vocation which will sarve mankind all
over the world. We are an advanced country. ' Jo : ught to produce
far more people of this kind per thousand than another country just
across the water, and we will need to. The Western countries will
need to if they are to bring to the crowded Eastern countries of
the world, emerging into independence, emerging into higher
standards of life, if they are to bring to them a real hope of a
happy future. Now there are three Presbyterian parsons on this platform
and they have corrupted me hecauso, you see what I have been saying
to you sounds singularly like a sermon. Bu it is a matter that
I believe in, it has deeply affected my own outlook as the head of
the Government on what ought to be done about science teaching and,
therefore it gives me particular pleasure to be hero and to be
about to l~ eclarc the building open. But before I do, I would like
to tell you, just in general that my colleague, Senator Gorton
and I have hiad a very great A~ eal of interest in evolving the
particular ways and means of solving this problem of giving
scientific aid to schools, particulbrly to the independent schools.
The others can be dealt with through the State Governments without
difficulty. One thing about which Senator Gorton will be making a
statement next week is the setting up of a Committee to advise
us, of competent people. I am happy to say that we have been able
to persuade Mr. L. C. Robson to become associated with us in this
great venture. This is worth untold thousands in efficiency in
the administration of this scheme. But we also have established a
Committee or my colleague has and will be announcing it but I
think I might be permitted to say that one of this small but very
representative authoritative Committee to advise us in relation
to the indepenient schools on an Australian basis is Mr. Selby
Smith himsel F, and we are deeply grateful to him. ( Applause)
How he is going to deal with his successor and become a Professor
of Education and at the same time devote some time to coping with
people like me, I don't know, but I am grateful to him and I wish
him well. And, Sir, having said that, I am happy to say that it
is a pleasure for both ray wife and myself to be here. It is a
pleasure on such a lovely day, in such a lovely setting and for the
benefit of such a fanous school, to declare this building open.

Transcript 908