Balance Research

Balance Research, a voluntary organisation, is based in Melbourne, Australia. We study and write on policy issues relating to Transport and Telecommunications.

Our Director is Michael Isaachsen, who has many years' experience in researching and debating transport issues, and who worked for nearly 30 years with Australia's telephone company (now Telstra).


Michael Isaachsen


My name is Michael Isaachsen. I was born in Adelaide (capital city
of South Australia) and grew up there. Like many Australians of 
that time, my ancestors were from Europe. My great-great-grandfather 
came from Norway and the "rest of me" is English and German.

I attended Adelaide University for some years and studied Engineering 
but I was interested in too many "issues" and failed to complete 
my course. I worked for the South Australian Railways for a year or 
so then for the telecommunications authority (at the time known 
as the Post-Master-General's Department). While there I did part 
time study in Economics and French but again did not finish it.

In 1965 the Highways Department commissioned a consultant to 
report on the future of railways and freeways for Adelaide. I was 
very interested in this and I took time off to work with them 
as a volunteer and see their methods.

In 1967 I transferred to Melbourne, but maintained my interest in 
the Adelaide study. When its report was published I obtained a copy 
and was surprised to see so much data supporting the construction 
of a freeway network and proposing reductions in rail transport.

I quickly returned to Adelaide to seek clarification of the 
formulae used. The answers did not satisfy me, so I asked for 
printouts of the survey summary data. Instead, they gave me a 
roll of computer tape to take back to Melbourne.

This was my introduction to computing. By courtesy of Monash 
University I was allowed some computing time and learned Fortran 

As a result, I made my first submission, to the Minister for 
Transport for South Australia. I don't know what notice was 
taken of my criticism, or my sugggestion of a free downtown 
bus circuit, but I was pleased to see the freeway plan shelved 
and a free bus circuit introduced.

I have since made a number of submissions to the Government of 
Victoria and the Commonwealth Government. I don't think that 
my work has been influential, but it may in time help me to 
put these critical issues on the public agenda.

The critical issue is that the total transport task will continue 
to grow, and if present policies continue, rail will perhaps 
retain its percentage share. So we will one day have four times 
the rail traffic and four times the road traffic, too.

That's not good enough. Four times the present-day road traffic 
is unsustainable. Per additional tonne-Km or person-Km, rail 
uses less land and less energy and causes less harm than road.

This unsustainable behaviour in the market occurs because, 
despite the higher resource usage, infrastructure charges are 
less, per unit of task, for road transport than for rail. This 
is politically popular but it makes road use falsely attractive.
Giving more subsidy to the mode which uses more resources?

Society, through its governments, must find ways of making
rail as attractive as road, so that it will absorb the growth 
and allow the road network to mature at around its present 
traffic level.

Do me a favour - put this critical issue on YOUR agenda!

- Michael

P.S.: you may have seen that I have done some work on the Telephone 
Numbering Scheme. In 1994, the authorities commenced planning 
for the renumbering of all telephones in Australia, to increase the 
quantity of numbers available. I became concerned when I realised 
that their scheme provided no path for growth in demand without a 
substantial mixing up of the prefixes for each area. So I branched 
out into a telephone numbering debate. A few notes about this are 
on this site. There's a lot more detail not yet loaded.


Since an early age, I have had a fascination with printing and 
typography. Over the years I collected many machines and also 
became Australia's last typefounder and I am now one of 
very few typefounders in the world. I still make the individual 
metal letters used by printers since 1455.

In 1992 I converted my collection into a museum and offered classes 
in the history of printing, mainly for secondary students doing 
graphic design or typography. Many youngsters are amazed to find  
that you can print without a computer!

Unfortunately the Museum is closed for now, in storage, and with 
an uncertain future. We are waiting for a sponsor. I still make 
type, though.

Would you like to visit the website of 

Melbourne Museum of Printing?





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Volunteering at Balance Research

Some of this interesting work can be done at home.

Read our Volunteers Page.

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