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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1511


Mr STEEDMAN(10.05) —In the Age of 1 October, Geoffrey Barker stated:

At a time when Australians need to worry deeply about the political and economic future, they seem far too ready to bask in the vacuous glory of a sporting triumph that was, however enjoyable, the result of a sustained and expensive campaign by a self-indulgent millionaire.

That is his opinion. A lot has been said this week in this House about the glory the yachting win has brought to Australia. People have praised the owner, the crew and, most of all, the designer. But while the media and marketing experts plan the next wave to exploit commercially the current wave of goodwill, my mind goes back to a more modest advance in technology, or at least of a man and his craft recognised all over the world but strangely, as it happens, known only to enthusiasts in Australia.

I refer to a man who made incredible engineering breakthroughs and contributed an enourmous amount to the world of automotive engineering. He is a man who can truly be called a genius and who, at the age of 80, lives within my electorate of Casey; he is a man who unfortunately did not have a razzamatazz of media, money and high placed politicians to fete him. I refer of course to Phil Irving, the only man in the world to have designed both motor cycle engines and car engines that have held world titles. He was born in 1903 and was educated at Wesley College, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Melbourne University . Phil took the world by storm when he designed the world beating Vincent V-twin 1000cc motor cycle. The prototype described by one pressman as a 'plumber's nightmare' was produced in 1936 and from that time until the Vincent factory closed in 1955 these machines lived up to the advertising boast of the world's fastest standard motor cycle.

In the days when motor bikes had a top speed of less than 100 miles per hour, Phil Irving's Vincent HRDs were topping 140 miles per hour. In 1956, an 11-year old Vincent broke both the world solo and side-car speed records. But, as I said earlier, this was not the sport of millionaires and falling markets and the move away from bikes finally sent the company to the wall. In 1964, Phil was back in London designing an engine for Jack Brabham to race in the three litre formula. Working with little money and an old cylinder block from a V8 Oldsmobile, within 12 months he put together an engine that won two world championships. His books, written many years ago, with titles such as Tuning for Speed, Rich Mixture and Black Smoke have become bibles to motor cycle enthusiasts. I mention all of this at this time to emphasise the real Australian spirit, not money and media hype, but genius and improvisation. On 14 October this year, I will have the privilege of opening the Vincent HRD international rally at Beaconsfield where riders from all over the world will be paying timely homage to a great, if largely unknown, Australian. I am pleased to record that the rally will be officially closed by comrade Tony Street, a man with a not insignificant record--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member should refer to members of the House by their electorate.


Mr STEEDMAN —I was referring to the honourable member for the TT racers, as he was known in the racing trade, in those days. The honourable member for Corangamite is a man with a not insignificant record as a motor cycle rider himself. While not too many working people could claim to be in the 12 metre yacht category, a motor cycle is within the range of a large number of Australians. In these days of enthusiasm for the skills of design engineers, I urge the Government to give proper recognition to one of the greats from our past.