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

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War
i General Conditions
ii Some Early Innovative Approaches
iii Concrete Pipes
iv Cement-fibre Pipes
v Concrete Products
vi The Birth of the Iron and Steel Industry

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

General Conditions

The end of the nineteenth century, particularly around 1891-2, saw a severe recession in the Colony as well as overseas, which caused many struggling businesses finally to become bankrupt or amalgamate into larger organizations. Often it was the undercapitalized ones that went first. In other cases it was a combination of pricing and transport costs, for example, the Phoenix Foundry began to lose essential business to Melbourne and Geelong firms due to the establishment of rail links; there was a saving in freight that allowed seaboard firms to undercut prices.

It was also, however, a period of innovation. Henry Hancock invented a percussion drill for use in deep mining in 1889 and in 1891 George Chaffey pioneered the use of direct action, triple expansion engines to drive centrifugal pumps. In 1893 John Hart nett and David Robinson patented a milking machine using pulsating vacuum and double chambered teats which established the principles of modern milking machines. The Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company manufactured the first tyre in Australia in 1903 while one of Australia's most noted invention by George Julius in 1907 was the automatic totalizator. In 1919, Cliff Howard invented a rotary hoe.

Federation, which came to the Colony on January 1 1901, eliminated the duties charged on goods transported between States and thus opened up greater competitive trade. Other benefits flowed to industry more slowly; the agitation for tariffs on imports had been particularly strong before the turn of the Century but the new Federal parliament seems to have kept the question of industry protection at bay for another five years.

The Manufacturers Encouragement Bill, which was passed in 1907, in part provided a bonus of 12/- a ton on pig iron made from Australian ore, puddled iron made from Australian pig iron and on steel made from Australian pig iron up to a limit of 30,000 a year until 1914. During the First World War, which caused drastically reduced imports, the question of tariff protection seldom arose but in 1917, Prime Minister Hughes promised protection after the War to industries such as sheet steel and thus later establishment was assured.

Following Federation, there appears to have been a period of solid, if unspectacular, consolidation of manufacturing industries leading up to the start of the First World War which, as it grew in intensity after the first year or so, showed up the actue vulnerability of Australia due to its heavy reliance on imported goods, particularly raw materials such as steel and copper. Stirred by the Federal Government, the more far-sighted entrepreneurs rapidly expanded the base of manufacturing in Australia and laid firm foundations for further expansion in the post-war period. In particular the war gave the impetus needed to get support for the languishing Hoskins iron and steel works at Lithgow, and saw the establishment of iron and steel production by BHP in Newcastle. Many other firms well-known today gained a strong foothold during the war period.

The third notable feature of the third fifty years was the severe world depression in the late twenties and early thirties, a period that saw mass unemployment and again, struggles to survive by many industries. Those that were well and firmly established survived, even though they may have had to greatly reduce activity. In other instances when production was curtailed, the opportunity was taken to refurbish or introduce new plant. Some typical Australian enterprises that weathered this period, partly because of their unique product and partly due to consolidation during the First World War, are described in the next section; in some cases where it seems desirable for continuity, their history will be taken through to the present day. They have been chosen simply as ilustrations of companies that have either developed uniquely Australian products or have taken a specific entrepreneurial stance.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company; G. & C. Hoskins Ltd; Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat

People in Bright Sparcs - Chaffey, George; Hancock, Henry; Hartnett, John; Howard, Cliff; Julius, Sir George; Robinson, David

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 860 - 861, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher