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Engineering News

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Get to know your facilitator – Richard Robinson

Get to know your facilitator – Richard Robinson

Richard Robinson is a due diligence engineer and facilitates a range of workshops at EEA, most notably Engineering Due Diligence. Learn about his experience and challenges in due diligence.

Richard Robinson is a due diligence engineer and facilitates a range of workshops at Engineering Education Australia including:

He has degrees in engineering from Monash University and philosophy (HPS) from the University of Melbourne.

What is your current job title and function?

Formally, I am the Chairman and a Partner at R2A Due Diligence Engineers. We advise on how to demonstrate due diligence for technologically ‘high risk’ industries. This means we ensure that the management of the laws of nature aligns with the requirements of the laws of man, in that order.

We practice in accord with the Code of Ethics of Engineers, Australia. As consulting engineers, this means that the interests of our society and clients are paramount.

What inspired you to become an engineer?

Wanting to change things. But we have discovered the hard way that no matter how brilliant a technical solution is, if it does not align with societal obligations - laws and regulations, it would invariably fail. But if there is alignment (meaning the lawyers are standing with you) it is always a success.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Fixing problems and getting things to work as best as they can. By that I mean that we draw a thread between the requirements of the decision makers and those actually performing the tasks. Too often, there is this huge disconnect resulting in good things not getting done, and unnecessary bad things happening.

What projects are you currently working on?

Marine pilotage matters in Hobart, Melbourne and Brisbane; Navy Clearance Divers equipment; low voltage signalling for RMS NSW, developing and trialling a water sector critical interdependencies analysis method for DELWP and facilitating a FOPs review for the CFA.

What is the most challenging project you have ever worked on?

Strangely, getting people to understand the nature of due diligence as a concept. Whilst it is a legal concept drawn from the principle of reciprocity, it does not just mean compliance. The objective is to understand the purpose of something, and to meet that need. Compliance is a secondary aspect. For a simple example: pool fencing is designed to prevent children drowning, not to satisfy a building surveyor, although this may be necessary to satisfy society that it has been done properly.

We find that too many people are just interested in compliance without any concern for what was trying to be achieved by the intent of the legislation or regulation. Mind you, poorly drafted legislation and regulation isn’t helping.

What is your favourite engineering project throughout history?

The control of contagious disease by the provision of fresh water and sewage. In Melbourne, this was with the introduction of Yan Yean in 1857 (it was reportedly the largest artificial reservoir in the world at the time) and by the Spotswood pumping station to the Werribee treatment farm by English civil engineer James Mansergh in 1889. Mind you, the ancient Romans were seriously ahead in both capacities - think of the Cloaca Maxima circa 600 BC.

What book are you reading at the moment?

The one I keep getting pulled back to is Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals aka The Moral Law. Not because its spontaneously interesting (it’s horrendously dry reading), but because the issues he addresses keep reoccurring in our modern politics. For example, the need for truth (not lies). For another example, the modern attempt by our parliaments (particularly Victoria) to introduce the principle of reciprocity as a categorical imperative, a matter about which Kant was quite suspicious.

This is the subject of a paper Gaye Francis (my business partner) and I presented at the 2019 World Engineering Conference. For example, if we Victorians follow through on the implications of the Environment Protection Amendment Act (2018) - due to commence on 1 July 2020, we’re fairly sure that the State of Victoria (which has the resources to do so) is committed to cooling the planet.

What makes you laugh?

The absurd. And the delight of meeting the genuine.