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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles
i Trucks
ii Truck Manufacturing
iii Road Trains
iv The Diesel Electric Ore Trucks
v Buses and Coaches

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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Motorised Vehicles (continued)

From the very beginning of the motor car era, the Australian Government recognised the job creation and skill retention of the body building industry and in 1920-21 tariffs on imported motor bodies was significantly increased and tarrifs on assembled chassis were charged at a higher rate than K.D. chassis.

Motor body production of only a few thousand in 1918 to about 90,000 in 1926-27 indicates not only the huge growth in motor car sales but also the success of the Government policy. One of the leading motor body builders was a coach and leather firm in Adelaide, Holden and Frost who produced their first motor body in 1917 and, after changing its name to Holden Motor Body Builders in 1920, had an output of 36,171 in 1926. By this time only 12 per cent of bodies were imported, more than two thirds of chassis were imported K.D. and a major industry had been established.[14]

In the early days of Australian development, roadmaking was undertaken primarily by government, using convict labour and this was one cause of the ever expanding network of arterial roads. It has been said that when convict labour disappeared road-making languished.

Convicts as a source of cheap and effective labour to build roads and bridges, was one of the principal reasons advanced by the Western Australian colonists, when they requested the British Government to send out convicts to Fremantle and, as pointed out by Dennis Hancock in his book Wheels of Progress, the many thousands of convicts who arrived during the 18 years that transportation continued, set the colony firmly on its feet, or rather, on its wheels.[15]

Convict labour was reduced in the 1850s about the same time as the gold rush began and despite the increased demand for more and better roads the rate of road building was unable to be maintained. Later in the century the expansion of the wool and wheat industries increased the demand for better roads to the coastal ports for shipment overseas. These requirements were recognised, but only slow improvement was achieved, in part because of competing use of funds for the rapidly expanding railway system.

As an example, during the boom years from 1860 to 1890, public sector spending was high, with railways taking about 50 per cent of the capital and roads only 14-15 per cent. From the 1880s to the First World War railways provided more economical reliable and speedy travel than roads and were the main transport mode.[16]

Road construction was mainly related to access roads, to rail stations and sidings and some urban road improvements. With the ever increasing volume of cars being registered after the 1914-1918 conflict and to a large extent with the appearance of the robust Ford model T, the public demand for more and better roads gained support. The Commonwealth Government gave financial assistance to the State in 1922 and passed the Main Roads Development Act in 1923. At the time road building formed part of the Government's actions to combat unemployment and at the same time opened up and developed new areas of the country.

The lack of adequate roads to handle growing motor cars and truck traffic was not solely an Australian problem, for a very similar circumstance was evident in Canada. R. M. Sale, President of Ford of Canada, remarked when discussing the inadequacy of roads, that the very pressure of sheer numbers of vehicles on the roads would cause congestion sufficient to motivate Governments to face the problem. In fact, this cause and effect situation applied to Australia, where Federal and State Governments signed a Federal Aid Roads Agreement in 1926 which stayed in force with modification until 1947. Despite the setting up of appropriate mechanisms to handle the national road building programme, the flood of cars and trucks placed ever-increasing burdens on the road system and at no time were adequate roads available in relation to the vehicle population using them.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Ford Motor Company of Australia; Holden Motor Body Builders

People in Bright Sparcs - Hancock, Dennis

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 489 - 490, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher