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EMERGING BIOTECHNOLOGIES: SOME ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS FOR AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
B. G. Johnston , B. S. Wonder & W. Gerardi
Biotechnology is one of a number of technologies that may improve productivity and competitiveness in the rural and non-rural industries. As in other areas of research in Australia, the biotechnology research program will be undertaken by both the private and public sectors. Determination of an economically efficient balance between private and public research activities has often been made by reference to the market failure model. The principal characteristics of that model (namely indivisibility, inappropriability and uncertainty) suggest several reasons why governments may wish to consider supplementing the research effort undertaken by the private sector. To establish socially optimal levels of public expenditure on biotechnology research and development, and the priorities for such expenditure, it is necessary to go beyond the market failure model and use an explicit cost-benefit framework. Such a framework is developed and the main economic variables likely to affect net social returns to investment in biotechnology research and development are identified. These variables are compared with the funding criteria employed by the National Biotechnology Program Research Grants Advisory Committee and it is concluded that considerable scope exists for injecting additional economic analysis into the assessment procedures currently used by that Committee.
INDUSTRY PROTECTION AND ADJUSTMENT: THE AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCE
R. G. Gregory
Australian industrial policy is primarily concerned with protecting the manufacturing sector by the use of tariffs and quotas. Over the last decade and a half successive governments have announced an intention to move towards lower tariffs. The result has been lower tariffs on average, but the introduction ofimport quotas in response to the 1974–75 recession has resulted in large increases in protection for the textile, clothing, footwear and motor vehicle industries. These sectors are covered by Industry Plans. There is a stated intention to liberalize trade, but for a decade the market share of imports has been fixed. On the basis of past experience, there is a low probability that significant trade liberalization will occur. Australian industrial policy has failed to create a more efficient manufacturing sector. It is reactive and has slowed the rate of structural change. It is a good example of the way in which initiatives to restrict trade flows by ‘temporary’ quotas — intended to provide a breathing space so an industry can reorganise and compete more effectively against imports — can result in import quotas becoming a near permanent feature of the economic environment. The Australian economy has also been subject to largeexchange rate appreciations. Our experience is that unusual appreciations bring to the forefront of structural change those industries which have already set out upon a path of long run decline. Once the appreciations have passed, these troubled industries are not placed back in their original position relative to imports.
TRADE UNION REACTION TO TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE: THE INTRODUCTION OF THE CHAIN SYSTEM OF SLAUGHTERING IN THE MEAT EXPORT INDUSTRY
The labour process paradigm is used to analyse a major case study of technological innovation in the meat export industry. This was the reorganisation of mutton slaughtering in the 1930s onto a dis-assembly line basis known as the ‘chain’ system. The response of the meatworkers union to this innovation is the main focus.
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND EMPLOYMENT IN THE INFORMATION ECONOMY: THE EXAMPLE OF QUEENSLAND
Thomas Mandeville & Stuart Macdonald
This paper presents the results of a study which identifies the extent of the Queensland information sector and assesses the role of information technology within it. In terms of employment, the information sector in Queensland in 1981 comprised about 36 per cent of the State’s labour force. Information technologies are diffusing rapidly and widely into all sectors of the Queensland economy. Their impact on organisation and employment are investigated.
TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT: A CANADIAN PRIORITY
Andrew H. Wilson
During the summer of 1984 three special reports on aspects of technology development — all addressed to the Government of Canada — were published, the first by a federal Task Force, the second by a Senate Committee, and the third by the Science Council of Canada. Of particular interest was the report of the Task Force chaired by Douglas Wright. This paper discusses the work of the Task Force, the issues it grappled with, and its recommendations. It also discusses a number of the recommendations that appeared in the other two reports. There is no Australian equivalent of the Wright report. It is more general in its mandate and recommendations than the report of the inquiry headed by Professor Ross, for example, and it does not deal with venture capital for high-technology industries as did the Espie Committee. At the time of writing (December 1984) the new Government in Ottawa has begun to make changes to the content and delivery of federal programs and to the work of the federal laboratories.
COMMUNICATION AND THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE
This paper explores the concept of an infrastructure of human understanding and a new approach to communication research using a logic of positions. Communication is not, as is sometimes supposed, an instrument for conveying information from one point to another nor are the forms, languages, or capacity for understanding uniformly distributed throughout society. The infrastructure of understanding is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon which cannot be explored with traditional methods. Before taking investigations further in this new area it is necessary to redefine the nature of knowledge.
IRRESISTIBLE MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES: WEIGHING THE COSTS AND BENEFITS
Harvey V. Fineberg
CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE: DEVELOPING A SYSTEM FOR EDUCATING MORE EFFECTIVE AGRICULTURALISTS
Robert D. Macadam & Richard J. Bawden
The need for competency-based tertiary education to meet the demands of contemporary agriculture is explored. The response at one Australian agricultural college has been a fundamental reform of its curricula. The aim is to produce graduates who take a holistic approach and are effective problem solvers and situation improvers. A conceptual model of a system to educate the new class of agriculturalists has been developed by reflecting on what has occurred since the review process began in 1978. The model is used to review the change process and reveal insights that may be useful as a guide for similar ventures in other settings.
MARKET FAILURE AND GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: ECONOMIC THEORY VERSUS POLITICAL PRACTICE
R. A. Joseph & R. Johnston
The economic justification for government support for science and technology has been commonly based on the concept of market failure. The general theoretical argument is that governments should intervene in cases where the free market fails to achieve an efficient allocation of resources. In this paper, the inadequacies of the concepts of market failure as they apply to policy are outlined. Its use in the political process, given these restrictive shortcomings, is also considered. Examples are drawn from Australian experience in science and technology policy over the past few years to support the claim that the concept is neither a sufficient basis nor an adequate guide for government intervention. Rather it has been used to justify politically determined decisions. Special reference is made to the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Scheme.
A SURVEY OF MICROCOMPUTER OWNERSHIP AND USAGE
P. H. Hall , J. J. Nightingale & T. G. MacAulay
In this paper we present the results of a survey designed to collect information on the use of microcomputers and attitudes towards them. The survey was conducted by mail in the north-eastern part of New South Wales and based on a mailing list used by the Department of Continuing Education at the University of New England for courses related to computers. It suggested that microcomputer use is largely related to business applications and not to personal income levels. A surprising degree of satisfaction with the systems was observed.