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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3148


Mr CHYNOWETH(11.21) —I rise to speak on the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Amendment Bill. This Bill will amend the Industrial Research and Development Act 1976. The industrial research and development incentives scheme was introduced in 1976 in order to stimulate industrial research and development and so increase the competitiveness of Australian industry in the world scene. One of the major elements of the new legislation is to enlarge the capacity of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board-known as AIRDIB-in order to provide moneys for the development of computer software, providing that there is some evidence of originality, an industrial research and development component and a marketing plan; that is, something that is sold as a new product, not just a further in-house development . It will be appreciated by honourable members that possibilities of computer software application and development are infinite. The enlarging of the capacity of AIRDIB in this area further reinforces the computer software industry as a sunrise industry. Australia has already produced many novel programs which have been sold throughout the world. The Australian Computer Equipment Suppliers Association has strongly endorsed the Federal Government's moves in this area.

Another element of the legislation is the declaration of approved research organisations other than manufacturers. In this regard organisations that design machinery or systems for a wide variety of industries but do not actually manufacture their design also need to be given incentives to carry on their important think-tank operation. Approved employees with practical or academic experience will be able to attract grants to their companies for the first time. At present the Act as it exists makes grants to those who are members of the mutually exclusive club who hold academic qualifications. They are the only people who are eligible to apply for grants. Therefore, at present the Act disadvantages employees who have had only practical experience but who lack formal education. This part of the amendment Bill, to me, is crucial. It works at righting a wrong that has existed for far too many years. After all, would we be complacent enough to sit here and state that only those holding formal qualifications are able to think and design innovatively? Does holding a degree in engineering guarantee that a person will suddenly be able to contribute in a creative and meaningful way to breakthroughs in engineering? I admit it certainly gives that person a good start. But it would not transform that person overnight into an imaginative design engineer.

Let us cast our minds back. Where would aviation be without the Wright brothers ? Their persistent and devoted trial and error approach to the pioneering of aviation has culminated in air travel for all. Did those men have a proven track record in the world of academia? I think not. Rather, it was their vision and persistence that enabled their breakthrough in aviation design and the subsequent influence on all our lives. Within Australia we have many examples of practical people without formal education improving greatly the quality of life for all. One of those great inventors, Walter Hume, was born in Melbourne in 1886. When he was 12 years old he obtained the princely sum of half a crown a week for providing the leg power for a treadle lathe. He then went into the building trade. When he was 18 he and his brother started a business as carpenters. But they soon went broke due to the land boom of that time. Penniless, he went to Moorooduc on the Mornington Peninsula, which I am sure all honourable members are aware is in the beautiful electorate of Flinders. For two years he caught rabbits, cut wood and collected honey. Hume had seen honey being removed from wax combs by centrifugal force. From this idea he designed an excess paint removing machine and from that a centrifugally spun concrete pipe. Hume started factories all over the world. Before he died in 1943 he wrote:

My success in life has been due perhaps more than anything to my persistence in carrying out my purpose. My many inventions have been brought to successful conclusions in nearly every instance by a most persistent effort, and what scientific faculties I have seem to be centred in the power to discern and note simple and important things and put constructions on them as please my scientific sense, totally ignoring anything in the way of orthodox theories.

Perhaps we need not think back so far. The victory of Australia II at Newport a few weeks ago was the culmination of hard work by the skipper and crew, but most importantly the contribution of many years of hard work by one man, Ben Lexcen. The revolutionary winged keel was not the dream of a man who had spent many years in educational institutions and held formal qualifications; rather, it was the synthesis of a man's dream of designing a revolutionary keel and years spent in sailing yachts. It was the practical experience that Ben Lexcen had, and the vision and conviction to try something new and revolutionary that resulted in the extraordinary design that carried Australia II to victory and the America's Cup to Perth. Therefore, I reiterate that I do not deny or try to detract from the abilities of those who have formal qualifications. But I am attempting to say that brilliant imagination and innovativeness is not their domain alone. We must allow employees without formal qualifications to contribute to and participate in attracting grants for their companies. As a person who is a tradesman and also an inventor and has applied for several patents on various novel ideas, I speak from experience.

I feel that this amendment Bill is important. It has been long overdue. It allows a more fair and equitable sharing of and participation in applying for grants and can only better serve the industrial research and development sector. The Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones) has once again demonstrated his zeal for stimulating research and development for the benefit of all Australians. He is without doubt the best Minister for Science and Technology that Australia has ever had. I therefore commend this Bill to the House.