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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1512


Mr STREET(10.09) —The honourable member for Casey (Mr Steedman) and I will, no doubt, have much to disagree about politically but there is no disagreement on this occasion. We both share an interest in fine machinery and respect for those who design and make it. I am, therefore, very glad and indeed delighted to join him in paying tribute to a truly great Australian too little known in his own country, Mr Phil Irving. As the honourable member for Casey has said, this man has made contributions of world importance to the profession of engineering and, importantly, to engineering literature. His name is a byword, particularly in the automotive and motor cycle engineering fields. He did indeed walk with the kings of his profession; yet he never lost the common touch.

I will never forget an occasion, over 30 years ago now, at the Australian TT motor cycle races when a comparatively young motor cyclist was sitting rather disconsolately beside his machine in the pits. It was mid-summer and blazing hot and the rider had just retired from the race in which he was competing- incidentally, when he was quite reasonably placed at the time-because of a seized engine. He was feeling pretty sorry for himself and disappointed. Phil Irving wandered up and asked what had happened. He discussed why it had happened and he gave some very sound advice. Then, out of the blue, he offered to make a pattern and get some special pistons made which he felt would overcome the problem that they had been discussing. He did get those pistons made and they did overcome the problem. As the young motor cyclist concerned, I still have in my possession that beautifully made pattern. That was typical of this man. He had a world-wide reputation; yet he went out of his way to help a total unknown with a technical problem.

The honourable member of Casey has referred to Phil Irving's work on Vicent HRD motor cycles and the Repco-Brabham formula one engine, both world leaders of their time and for which he has not received the acknowledgment which I consider is due to him. Even less well known is Phil Irving's work during the war for the British War Office on such projects as pilotless target aircraft and dinghies for air crew forced down in the sea-to name just two projects about which I happen to have heard. Then after the war there was the water-colled Velocette which was years, perhaps decades, ahead of its time. There are so many more examples which I do not have the time to refer to tonight.

As the honourable member for Casey has said, in a few weeks' time owners of Vincent HRD motor cycles are coming to Australia from all over the world to pay tribute to the creator of their superb machines-Phil Irving. I look forward to being a small part of this historic occasion. I join with the honourable member for Casey in requesting the Government to recognise appropriately the honour brought to this country by a great but modest Australia.