Wednesday, 19th September 1928

19th September, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,

By the time this letter reaches you, you will be deep in the Election Campaign and probably will have little time to consider anything except very urgent matters until after the 17th of November.

There has been a gap of a fortnight in my letters to you, due to the fact that I went up to Scotland for four or five days to visit Scotch Agricultural Research Stations and to discuss Australian Pastoral Research with Dr. Orr. [1] I then took ten days’ holiday in Yorkshire and was fortunate enough to strike really good weather and to enjoy a series of long solitary walks over the Moors.

You will be interested to know that Dr. Orr is extremely keen on lending a hand to assist Australia to apply the results of research in Animal Nutrition to her own problems.

Walter Elliot [2] has only just returned from a long holiday in France and Germany but as Dr. Orr happens to be in London today, Elliot, Orr and myself are dining together tonight to consider what definite proposals can be made whereby Orr and Theiler [3] can be made available for Australian purposes and yet continue to do work for the whole of the British Empire. I hope to be able to give you further information on this point by this mail.


I am sorry that the speech which I prepared for Senator McLachlan [4] has not been forwarded to you during my absence from the office. I now enclose a copy.

I have carefully read the various reports which have appeared in the English press of Senator McLachlan’s speech in the Assembly [5] and as far as I can gather he used a considerable portion of this speech in his main Address. I have written to the Senator asking him to be good enough to make arrangements whereby I shall be informed as to the line of country which he took up in Geneva and- also as to whether he had the opportunity of any consultations with other Empire Delegations on League of Nations economic activities. It will be very useful for me to know just what line of country was officially taken up by the Delegation.


I regret to say that during the last six weeks no progress has been made by the Government here on getting action taken on the report of the Mechanical Transport Committee of the Committee of Civil Research. [6] The Empire Marketing Board has agreed to find the 60,000 which is to be its share of the total expenditure and nothing is now needed to get the work in hand except ministerial approval of the formation of the Committee of Direction. I shall do everything in my power during the next two or three weeks to try to get the authorities to realise that a solution of the mechanical transport problems of the Empire is a matter which will not brook even a month’s delay.

There seems to be quite a reasonable chance of a new type of track for caterpillar vehicles proving an immense advance on anything that we have had in the past. This track is already in existence and is under test by the War Office with, I believe, very satisfactory results. I am urging that special arrangements should immediately be made to test this track to exhaustion and to discover whether the claims that it will stand up to from 6,000 to 10,000 miles can be substantiated. Should this prove to be correct, the evolution of a road train to convey goods at a cost of about 3d. to 4d. per ton mile should become a practical project within the next eighteen months. It is, however, difficult to overcome the inertia of Government Departments and get people to realise the importance of vigorously prosecuting this work.

20th September

The result of last night’s discussion with Elliot and Orr was that we finally got down to a basis on which Elliot was prepared to agree that Orr could revisit Australia for a reasonable period.

Both Elliot and Orr agreed that the economic significance of pastoral research in Australia was greater than in any other part of the British Empire but they both were most emphatic that three arrangements had to be made before Orr could leave England again.

The first was that the Imperial Bureau of Animal Nutrition, of which Orr is to be head, must be started; the second was that a new experimental farm in connection with the Rowett Research Institute must be got under way and, thirdly, a suitable Deputy Director for the Rowett Institute must be found in Orr’s place.

Elliot and Orr estimated that these various steps might be satisfactorily accomplished in eighteen months.

I have written fully to Dr. Rivett [7] on the subject and have told him that so far I have not been able to get any very definite expression from the Colonial Office about Sir Arnold Theiler but hope to be able to give him quite definite reactions early next week.

It seems to me that there is a possibility of our being able to appoint Theiler to a definite position in Australia provided we would [release] him say for eight months in every twenty-four for Imperial purposes and that we should simultaneously appoint Orr as a consultant to visit Australia every two years and to keep in close touch with Theiler in the whole of the Animal Husbandry work.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 J. B. Orr, Director of the Rowett Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition, Aberdeen.

2 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland; Chairman of the Research Grants Committee of the Empire Marketing Board.

3 Sir Arnold Theiler, Director of Veterinary Education and Research in South Africa until his retirement in 1927.

4 A. J. McLachlan, South Australian Senator; Honorary Minister;

leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly 1928.

5 According to the Times, 7 September, McLachlan had stressed that tariffs were essentially a national matter and welcomed the cautious approach to the question taken at the 1927 International Economic Conference.

6 See Letter 179.

7 David Rivett, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.