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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1850

Senator JESSOP(5.16) —I too compliment the Australian Science and Technology Council on its report 'Technology and handicapped people'. It is a very interesting document which describes the effort that has been made in other countries, such as Japan, New Zealand and the United States of America, and indicates that Australia is lagging behind with respect to research and development in this important area. This seems to be common in Australia. We are very good at initiating research but, unfortunately, we do not have sufficient regard to the development of those initiatives. Quite often we find that initiatives begun by competent scientists and engineers in Australia are taken advantage of by other countries. I am pleased to see that ASTEC made six recommendations on that-three recommendations to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes), two to the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) and one to the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones).

I was also interested to read in the document a reference to the bionic ear which is a product of research and development first started in the University of Melbourne in 1970. I first learned of that when, as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment, I was privileged to address a bio-technology dinner in Melbourne. My subject was industrial research and development in Australia. I pointed very strongly to the need for the Government of the day to recognise that in order to develop initiative, for each dollar spent on pure research one must spend up to $10 on developing those initiatives.

I was also interested to read that projects are being carried out in the universities and institutes of technology of Australia. They have resulted in very useful products being developed for the handicapped people. Reference is made in the report to the talking typewriter which was developed at the Macquarie University. That is a tremendous step forward for the people who need to use that device. Work is currently being carried out or has been carried out at the University of Adelaide on the development of a system whereby non-vocal physically handicapped people by their eye gaze can quickly and directly select symbols, words, phrases or machine functions from a display matrix in front of them. The report points to some significant effort that is being made in Australia. I support Senator Townley when he directed the Senate's attention to recommendation 5, which stated:

That the Minister for Science and Technology be requested to establish a pilot program of standard setting and testing by funding the Standards Association of Australia to establish standards for a limited number of aids for handicapped people, and by funding the National Association of Testing Authorities to arrange for tests against these standards.

He also referred to the recommendation of the Minister for Health that rehabilitation engineering centres be established. I think that is a very important recommendation. Senator Townley also referred, under the heading of Opportunities for Research and Development on page 75 of the report, to the fact that there is a risk in Australia at present that research and development technology for disabled people will be less effective than it might be or that it will be wasted because of a lack of co-ordination of effort or a lack of information concerning work elsewhere, particularly in overseas centres. That also is a very important point.

I am particularly pleased to read the report in view of the fact that the Secretary to the Australian Science and Technology Council happens to be Peter Dawe, who was formerly Secretary to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. He had a very good training in respect of preparing technical documents such as this report. I compliment him and his staff for the work they did to compile the report.