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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

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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During the two hundred years of Australian settlement by Europeans, the means of transporting people and goods has undergone dramatic changes, not only through mechanisation of the vehicles themselves, but also through the whole infrastructure of rail, road, airport and specialist shipping terminals which underpin the transport system we have today.

The striking features of transport in Australia has been the accelerated rate of change during the last 80 years and the very fundamental impact greater mobility has had on the social pattern of our lives. Where initially the thrust of more economic means of transporting goods had a commercial focus, the advent of the motor car and aeroplane has changed for ever the way we live and the distribution of population.

Early Australian settlers brought with them the transport technology of the old world and adapted the traditional methods to the circumstances they encountered in their new homeland. It is especially interesting that knowledge of new transport ideas being developed in Europe and North America was eagerly sought by Australians with an inventive turn of mind and parallel experiments were undertaken here in Australia on steam engines, internal combustion engines and aircraft at the same time as these great advances were emerging overseas. In retrospect, there was no shortage of good ideas and some very original work was carried out by creative people who were thrust by circumstances on their own ingenuity.

Australia has a relatively small population and much of the original work was caught up by the flood of new imported equipment which resulted from the harnessing of steam and the advent of the internal combustion engine overseas. The ability of an Australian innovation to be commercially successful rests to a significant degree on the economies of scale and our market size has always been a disadvantage.

Some of our most gifted people have made contributions that have received world acclaim, such as the thrust bearing in ships and InterScan for aircraft guidance, but the majority of our transport industry has been established by drawing on overseas technology and adapting that vehicle or system to our requirements. Activities such as the flying doctor service, the concept of the all purpose coupe utility and the huge road trains of the centre, are examples of special application.

With such a vast country our transport needs for people and goods is an essential part of our economic structure and the cost of transport is a vital factor in determining our competitive viability in export markets. Maintaining the best possible transport technology and applying improved methods to lower the cost of moving people and goods, both within Australia and overseas, is fundamental to the future competitiveness and hence the living standards of all Australians.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - INTERSCAN; Royal Flying Doctor Service

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© 1988 Print Edition page 528, Online Edition 2000
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