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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4229

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - There seems to be a fair amount of agreement about the Bill now before us and about the general proposition that an inadequate sum of national resources is being devoted to research in all its different applications, fundamental research as well as applied research. I have a personal and special interest in the Bill and, before I allude to it, I remind the House that the main aim of the existing Act, namely, the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act, is to encourage companies to carry out worthwhile industrial research and development. Of course, that Act deals not only with research development but also with the application and use of innovations for the creation of new products and the devising of new techniques, all of which are part and parcel of the objects of the legislation.

The Bill amends the Act in two main ways. First, it limits the amount of financial grant payable under the selective grant provisions of the Act. Secondly, the Bill extends grants to companies whose research is not necessarily supervised by persons holding professional research qualifications. I remember when the Act came into being. I remember speaking to the Bill at that time, and I expressed the view then that many industrialists and people engaged in commerce, although not holding high academic qualifications, by virtue of their experience - some people call it the university of personal experience - were able to bring a great deal of creativeness to the field in which they operated.

I am pleased to see that the Bill recognises that, therefore, it is no longer necessary for a grant to be given to a company in which the research is presided over by a person not necessarily holding high professional qualifications. This provision will afford many opportunities to persons of skill and successful experience. I was impressed by some of the remarks made by the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) in his second reading explanation. He said that unfortunately we were one of the countries that did not spend much on research; in fact, most of it went to a few companies in the nation. I think the Minister drew our attention to the fact that most of the firms in Australia are what I categorise is being small. Over 93 per cent, I think the Minister said, of manufacturing establishments operating at the end of June 1969 employed fewer than 100 persons, and large firms did not necessarily need Gov ernment support but had resources of their own.

However, in 1972-73, of the S14m allocated in grant payments, about 2 per cent of the companies were recipients of the grant. Therefore, most of the money was spent on a very small proportion of the firms operating in Australia. The Bill extends that and places limitations .on the size of grants, for specific purposes, that can be made to the larger companies in the community. The Bill is an interim measure for which I am glad. I am taking the advantage of this opportunity to suggest not only that we should be occupied with helping firms with research, but also that considerably more should be done to help individuals. I know that under other legislation, in education and science and various other fields, we make grants to individuals or to groups of individuals for specific approved purposes. I should like to see this extended in ways I will suggest in a moment.

Before I go on to refer to that matter, my attention has been drawn to a White Paper put out by the Science and Technology Agency of Japan which I understand is part of the Japanese Prime Minister's office. To give some idea of the importance Japan places upon the benefits of research carried out by other people, I understand that up to the end of the fiscal year, which is to the end of March 1973, the Japanese paid out $3 84m in imported technology. The technology to which I refer is the purchase of licences to use overseas patents, ideas and inventions. It is one of the reasons - not the sole reason, by any meanswhy Japan has made the great material progress that it has. It has been prepared to spend money to buy the intelligence and the creativeness produced by other countries. In turn, as against the $384m paid for imported technology to which I have just referred, Japan received only $50m by selling to other countries the rights for its own ideas. It might be well for us to consider that invention is an exportable commodity. Besides being of great use to ourselves in its direct application in our own country, it is an exportable commodity. There is a lot of money to be made by countries which are able to patent inventions and then sell the patent rights, perhaps to other countries, apart from selling goods that they might produce as a result of that research.

My attention has been drawn again to one or two quite good inventions of our own which have been instrumental in producing income for this country. One of them was the atomic absorption spectrophotometer which was produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to analyse chemicals. I understand that this invention has brought In nearly $lm, mainly from overseas. Another example is the invention patented by the Defence Standards Laboratories relating to a part of the Xerox copying equipment. I think most people would be pretty -familiar with that. Actually, its application is not only to Xerox equipment but also to similar types of equipment. This again, has brought in quite a few hundreds of thousands of dollars by way of patent rights or royalties, as they might be termed.

A lot of people are well aware of the Sarich engine that is undergoing trials. This engine has tremendous promise. It won the inventors award, I think, a year or two ago. Ralph Sarich of Perth, Western Australia, invented a machine which, I understand, has tremendous potential. I think this invention might be one in which the Australian Industry Development Corporation might well become interested. I certainly know that a number of Australian and overseas firms are very interested in the engine. Personally, I hope that Australia produces the engine invented by Mr Sarich and will be able to reap much greater rewards than would be received by merely selling the patent rights to other countries. In 1972-73, Australia paid out $75m in royalties, copyrights patents and technical service charges. So, this is a pretty big item. We paid out $75m for the use of other people's ideas. I suggest that every encouragement should be given in Australia to inventors. I stress again that this encouragement should not necessarily be given only to companies but also to individuals.

That brings me to a matter that is relevant to myself and to my electorate. Some years ago, in about 1959, a very ordinary citizen whom I knew - he would not mind my saying that; he is just a tradesman - by the name of Mr Stan Shrivel! who lived in Ramsgate in my electorate and who was very interested in inventions became associated with a Mr Charles Smith. They had the idea of starting an inventors association. In my wildest imagination, I did not expect that they would ever arrive at the situation they have reached. They, together with other people, have been able to develop a national organisation in this country, the Inventors Association of Australia Limited.

They are now able to put out a booklet and they have had all kinds of advice given to them by all kinds of instrumentalities, both public and private. They have gone a long way to getting Australians - not only individual Australians but also Australian companies - interested in the kinds of Inventions that can be produced here in Australia. I pay a tribute to those people for producing the kind of organisation they have produced. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) met them in Canberra not many months ago while he was still the Minister for Secondary Industry and he gave them great encouragement as to what this Government would do to help them. I know that the previous Government made a once for all grant of $12,000 to the Association but the present Government is even more disposed to help the Association. From what Dr Cairns went on record as saying to these people, they can be very encouraged by the help they will receive from this Government.

It was my pleasure - this matter was referred to in an answer to a question directed to the present Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) this morning-tc introduce a deputation from the Association to the Minister last week made up of the national president, Mr Smith, and the secretary, Mr Shrivell, plus 2 representatives from Victoria. The Minister also gave them a very encouraging hearing and he asked them to submit their ideas to him. I am quite confident, being a party to the discussions, that the Minister was just as impressed as was his immediate predecessor, Dr Cairns. I am sure that that organisation can look forward with a great deal of confidence to what this Government will do to help invention in Australia.

There are possibly many people listening to me at the moment - I know that there are vast numbers not listening to me - who are aware of the inventors program telecast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It has been my misfortune, because of my public duties to have seen that program only once but I understand it is one of the most highly rated programs not only on the ABC but also among other television stations throughout Australia. The Inventors Association to which I have referred was instrumental in getting the ABC interested in this program. I understand that in the first place the ABC had a lot of misgivings about producing such a program but it did and it has been rewarded by the tremendous viewing audience that the program has attracted.

I noticed over the weekend a report that a school teacher has invented a fabulous hair restorer. I would imagine there would be a good few people around the place who would be interested in such an invention. It was referred to as a hair restorer; it did not say anything about colourisation of hair. As a prematurely grey person I could have been interested if they had come up with that. But I understand that the AIDC is contemplating backing this invention, which could be worth millions of dollars. With all the prematurely bald people around the world today, this invention has a tremendous market available to it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!Is that a reflection on the Chair?

Mr REYNOLDS - The Chair might maintain a continuing interest in this problem. I recommend the invention to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have with me a typical invention. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) was talking this morning about swimming and lifesaving. I have the product of one of the members of the Inventors Association. It is a simple little thing that has been called the quick throw rescue line. I can grab it with one hand.

Mr Enderby - You are not on television.

Mr REYNOLDS - No, I am not on television; what a pity. I could rescue the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) from here if there was a gulf of water between us. The line has a ball on it. This device is so simple it is a wonder that it has not occurred to people before. By taking 3 feet of the cord, swinging it around and then throwing it like a fishing line out into the water it will reach a distance of about 90 feet. This device could have saved the lives of 3 young children of a family a week or two ago. They were desperately looking for someone to throw them something to grasp.

We are now in the swimming season. I understand this product has been approved by the New South Wales Rescue Squad, the Flood Relief Rescue Organisation, which is a branch of the Civilian Defence Department - by the way, I am not getting any commission for advertising this invention, if anyone has any thoughts that way - and the Power Boat Surflifesaving Association of Australia. It has been shown on 'The Inventors' program on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This device could possibly save the lives of thousands of people not only in Australia but around the world. I believe this invention is quite marketable and will cost about $7 or $8. Unfortunately it bears a sales tax of IS per cent. I intend having a word with the Treasurer (Mr Crean) about that matter. I think the sales tax could be removed.

This is just one of the simple inventions that I could bring into the House. There are many creative people in our community. They are not companies; they are individuals and the Government could do a lot to support them. It is not just a case of handouts of cash. It is a case also of giving these people advice, legal advice, such as how to protect their patent when they get it. They should be given advisory services. They receive a lot of this help through their own organisation, the Inventors Association of Australia Limited. That organisation is very ready to give advice and it has had the co-operation of the Patent Trade Marks and Designs Office in this matter. The inventors have received advice from companies such as John Lysaght (Aust) Pty Limited. Lysaghts is a big private company which makes an award each year. I believe it is called the 'Lysaght Award'. There is encouragement of that kind.

Without taking up much more time - I notice I have very little left - I should like to say that there is much creativeness in Australia. I do not know whether we have proportionately more creative people in Australia than other countries have, but we certainly have our share. There is no reason why Australia should lag behind in the provision of encouragement, financial and otherwise, to help promote research and its application in Australia in its various forms. I support the Bill.

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