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Wednesday, 1 August 1906
Page: 2136


Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) .In moving -

That the Bill be now read a second time,

I desire to say that in exercising our powers under the Constitution in respect of meteorological matters, it is felt that we should be able to confer a considerable benefit upon the producers, upon those engaged in shipping., and generally upon those who are interested in commerce throughout the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution, we have power to pass' laws dealing with astronomy and meteorology. But if honorable members will look at this measure, they will see that we merely propose to exercise our power in respect of meteorological matters. We ask the House to authorize us to establish a Meteorological Department. I shall give the reasons for our action at a later stage. Prior to taking steps in this matter, the States were consulted, with a view to obtaining their opinions upon the subject of the Commonwealth undertaking meteorological and astronomical work. Various answers were furnished by the States, some of which were favorable to the proposal, whilst others were unfavorable. For instance, South Australia was not agreeable to hand over to the Commonwealth its Meteorological Department. Victoria took up a somewhat similar attitude, and refused to hand over either the Astronomical or Meteorological Department; whereas Western Australia was prepared to transfer both.


Mr Fowler - That is the true Federal spirit.


Mr GROOM - New South Wales gave us no definite reply, and Queensland was willing that the Commonwealth should establish a Meteorological Department, but desired to retain its Astronomical Department in connexion with its survey work.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the reply of South Australia in respect of astronomy ?


Mr GROOM - I do not think that she was willing to hand over that Department. Be that as it may, when the Premiers met in Conference last April, they passed a resolution affirming that both the Astronomical and Meteorological Departments of the States should pass over to the control of the Commonwealth. All the States agreed to the adoption of that course. I may mention that this matter was taken into consideration by the Government prior to that gathering. We found, however, that we could not get any definite reply from all the States, and so resolved to go straight ahead with the preparation of legislation upon the subject. But after further consideration we decided to deal only with meteorological work. At several previous Conferences attempts had been made in Australia to secure uniformity in meteorological matters throughout this Continent. As far back as 1879 a Conference was held for the purpose of endeavouring to bring the various States into line, so as to obtain that result. At that gathering New Zealand, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales were represented, and resolutions were put before it, with a view to devising some system by means of which united action might be taken in regard to meteorological observations, and especially in regard to weather telegrams. The desire was to bring about uniformity in observations, in the apparatus used, and generally to secure co-operation throughout the States, so as to obtain better results from their Meteorological Departments.' Some advance was made by another Conference, which was held in 1880, and by a further Conference, which met in 1888; The object of all these gatherings was to induce the States to interchange information, to observe uniformity in their methods, and by loyal co-operation to obtain better results in respect of weather forecasts and meteorological observations generally. The last Conference was held in 1905, and the report of its proceedings has been published. The question of the possibility of Federal action being taken was put before the representatives of the six States. The question of Federal control of the Astronomical and Meteorological Departments was considered by them. Speaking first of astronomy, their recommendation was -

The work at present undertaken by the Australian Observatories is that which is most required, and represents a minimum programme.

Meteorology Bill.[i August, 1906.] Meteorology Bill. 2137 1__

Th;;t was the resolution to which the Conference agreed. They also reported, in reference to the two main divisions of astronomical work -

In neither of these main divisions can the work, for technical reasons, be supplanted by the establishment of one central Observatory; moreover, no economy would be introduced by such .1 course, as none of the work is being duplicated.

That is to say, the representatives of the States did not think that any advantage would be gained by having one central astronomical observatory. As honorable members know, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, have astronomical observatories which are fairly well equipped, and possess competentstaffs. Australia has reason to be proud of the names of some of the scientists who have been associated with these institutions. We. have had. for instance, such men as Mr. Russell, Mr. Ellery, and Sir Charles Todd, and we should remember with feelings of gratitude the work that has been done by these eminent men.


Mr Bamford - Do not forget Mr. Wragge.


Mr GROOM - Mr. Wraggeis also deserving of our consideration in this connexion, but his attention has been directed more to meteorological than to astronomical matters. Western Australia has also a very competent officer in the person of Mr. Cooke, whilst New South Wales possesses a very competent meteorologist in Mr. Hunt, who stands in high repute. The representatives of the States met in conference, and recommended that there was nothing to be gained by having one central Federal Observatory. They expressed the view that the establishment of one central meteorological bureau to supplant existing institutions, and to singly carry out the Australian weather services, was for reasons which they gave, impracticable. They could see no advantage in doing away with the existing meteorological institutions, but they recommended -

That a central institution be established for theoretical and scientific meteorology.

They set forth in their report certain conditions which, in their opinion, could be secured by the establishment of a central institution of this kind. The idea is that such an institution should not issue forecasts, but should deal with the scientific problems associated with meteorology. Mr. Baracchi, who bears a deservedly high reputation, and attended the conference as the representative of Victoria, dissented from that view. He shared the opinion expressed by the Board of Visitors of the Melbourne Observator,y. I think that it , was in 1902, when Mr.- Irvine was Premier of this State, that a letter was written to the Board asking what attitude should be taken up with respect to the Commonwealth exercising its power to take over the Astronomical and Meteorological Departments. As the outcome of this communication, the Board made the following recommendations : -

1.   That all meteorologic.nl work at present conducted by the astronomical observatories of Australia be. placed under a Federal bureau, which should preferably be located in the Federal' City, and controlled by a meteorologist of high standing.

2.   That the astronomical observatories of Australia, relieved of nil their present meteorological duties, remain independent Slate institutions.

With those recommendations Mr. Baracchi fully concurred. We had therefore to decide whether from the Federal stand-point we should be justified in taking over astronomy as well as meteorology. After careful consideration, and having considered the opinion of experts, we came to the conclusion' that at this stage we should not be justified in exercising our powers with respect to astronomy. We had first of all the opinion of Mr. Wragge, who in a letter to the Pastoralists' Review on the 15th May, 1901, stated -

The centra! office on which meteorological researches for all the stations would depend should be concerned in meteorology only, following the example set by Great Britain. Canada. India, the United States of America, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Roumania, and other civilized countries, and should not be hampered by astronomical work or other branches of science, which professionally have no direct bearing on the work of the weather bureau.

That is the opinion of a highly qualified authority, who enumerates the nations thathave found it desirable in practical work to distinguish between astronomy as such and meteorology as such. Mr. Wragge shows that the experience of 'these countries has proved it necessary to keep meteorology distinct from astronomy.


Mr Hughes - The distinction in the United States is very clear, is it not?


Mr GROOM - If is. We also find that England has a special Department of Meteorology, under a Council of Meteorology; that Canada has likewise a special Department of Meteorology ; and that the United

States has a very large Department under Mr. Willis L. Moore, which is engaged in purely meteorological work.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The need for such a division is' admitted.


Mr GROOM - Quite so. It is considered essential that the two Departments relating as they do to distinct .branches of a science should be kept apart. We had to consider whether, from the standpoint of .Australia, it is advisable to keep these two Departments distinct. Upon that point we had the opinion of the Board of Visitors of the Melbourne Observatory, which comprises such men of eminence as Professor Lyle, of the Melbourne University, Mr. Ellery. and Mr. W. C. Kernot, as well as others whose names carry considerable weight. The three whom I have named, however, are all men of distinguished scientific attainments. They were asked to deal with the practical question whether in Victoria the Departments of meteorology and astronomy should - be kept apart, and they reported as follows: -

Meteorology, which ^consists mainly in the weather service, is. no part of the legitimate function of an astronomical observatory, and its association with astronomy interferes with the advancement of the latter. This fact is fully recognised in Europe, America, and in other countries where national weather services are conducted by separate organizations, which are in no way connected with astronomical observatories. In them one central bureau receives the report from all the stations, classifies, and tabu- lates the observations, gives out weather forecasts for the whole country, and otherwise has complete control of the national meteorological work.

The Board went on to report that -

Hitherto the control of the Victorian weather service has been unavoidably enforced on the Melbourne Observatory by State reasons of expediency and economy. But, as the weather services of the various States could be carried on in a much more efficient manner if placed udner the control of a Central Weather Bureau, devoted entirely to the meteorological interests of the whole Commonwealth, the opportunity now offered of separating meteorology from astronomy should not be lost.

They recommended accordingly -

That all meteorological work at present conducted by the astronomical observatories of Australia be placed under a Federal bureau, which should preferably be located in the Federal City, and controlled by a meteorologist of high standing.


Mr Fisher - What is, at present, the Federal City?


Mr GROOM - We have a Seat of Government for the time being.


Mr Fisher - And is not Sydney partly the Seat of Government?


Mr GROOM - I think that we are administering the Government from Melbourne.


Mr Fisher - The Minister of Trade and Customs does not hold that view.


Mr GROOM - That is another matter. The Board were particularly emphatic in their views with respect to the question of astronomy -

We therefore recommend : That the astronomical observatories of Australia, relieved of all their present meteorological duties, remain independent State institutions.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did they give their reasons for this opinion?


Mr GROOM - They did; and perhaps I ought to place them on record. Dealing with astronomical institutions, they reported -

On the other hand, when we consider the observatories as purely astronomical institutions, devoted solely to astronomical observations and research, and those demands of the State Government or the public that are germane to astronomy, we think that nothing would be gained either in efficiency or in economy by bringing them under one Federal control. The standing in the astronomical world of the men who at present direct the leading observatories of Australia is such, and that of their successors should be such, that they should have a perfectly free hand to conduct whatever investigation or research they may consider appropriate to their individual resources and ability in advancing astronomical knowledge. We know of no observatory of which the director has not complete control of the astronomical work. Local considerations also impel us to strongly favour the continuance of the independence of the Melbourne Observatory.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is an argument for the separation of the two functions.


Mr GROOM - And they hold that the astronomical observatories should be States, institutions. They went on to say -

It has gained a high reputation by means of the valuable work that has been carried on in it. It has been liberally supported by the Government of Victoria, and has grown into an institution peculiarly creditable to the State. Its equipment is very valuable, and compares well with that of many European observatories. Its position in the Southern Hemisphere is unique, it being the most southern observatory in the world. In it have been kept for forty years continuous records day and night of terrestrial magnetism, which are of immense scientific value. Considering these things, we think it would be a matter of deep regret if our Melbourne Observatory were to be deprived of its individuality, and have the high reputation' it has gained over a long period of years merged in some large organization or department comprising all the observatories of Australia.

The Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales wrote to the Commonwealth Government informing them of the resolutions that had been passed at the Hobart Conference, and we felt that, in view of the reasons which had been given, there was no pressing necessity for the Commonwealth to take over the astronomical work of the States. When the question arose as to the way in which these astronomical institutions should be dealt with, it was suggested that they should be handed over to the universities. Opinions which I have received privately from persons of scientific standing confirm the view that that is the right course to take. All the observatories are working as absolutely independent institutions, and it seems that to secure thorough efficiency they would desire them to be under the control of an astronomer who should be able to conduct his inquiries and investigations in his own way. That being so, it would seem to be advisable for the States to associate their astronomical departments with their local universities. This would be a distinct gain to the universities themselves. It would be advantageous to them to have such a high branch of science associated with their work, and the observatories themselves would gain in that they would be in touch with university students interested in astronomy.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing to prevent that being done if the astronomical departments are federalized.


Mr GROOM - There is, because we have nothing to do with the universities as such.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We could have.


Mr GROOM - Only if consent were first obtained.


Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - The Commonwealth could establish a chair in any university.


Mr GROOM - Only with the consent of the senate of that university. The astronomers of the States are carrying on their work on independent lines, each in his own observatory, and we have suggested that, if it is no longer desired that astronomical observations shall be under the direct control of the Governments of the States, it might be of advantage to associate the observatories with the universities in some way, such as there is precedent for in what has been done in other countries. Meteorology, however, is a subject which it is highly desirable to deal with from a Federal stand-point. The officers who met at the Conference held in Adelaide in 1905 said that they saw no advantage in establishing a central control in connexion with astronomical observations. From their point of view, the taking over of the control of astronomical observations by the Commonwealth should not cause a reduction in the number of observatories.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it necessary to have an astronomical observatory in every State ?


Mr Glynn - It is certainly not necessary to have a Commonwealth observatory, in addition to the present States observatories, unless another observatory is needed.


Mr GROOM - It is generally recognised that exceedingly valuable scientific work is being done in the four States observatories ; but it is thought that no advantage would be gained by endeavouring to secure uniformity in administration by placing them all under Commonwealth control


Mr Glynn - " Astronomy " is mentioned in the Constitution merely because it was thought by the Convention that it might have some necessary connexion with meteorology.


Mr GROOM - The experience of other countries shows that the Departments of Astronomy and Meteorology can be satisfactorily kept apart. Meteorology deals with practical questions affecting every-day life, and meteorological observations require the whole of the attention and the undivided services of the officers appointed! for the work. This is recognised by the board of visitors, by Mr. Wragge, and, to a certain extent, by implication in the reports to which I have referred. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall take control of meteorological work in order that uniformity may be secured by regulations regarding the manner of taking observations, the time at which they shall be taken, and the instruments which shall be used ; and that a set of officials under Federal control may be available for the taking of observations and the making of records for the purposes of the Department anywhere within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, too, having the control of the Post and Telegraph Department, as it will, ultimately, also control navigation, will be able to provide efficient and uniform methods of distributing meteorological information.


Sir Langdon Bonython - Will independent forecasts be issued for each State?


Mr GROOM - I shall deal with that matter presently. Uniformity of action is necessary, and under the Bill we shall have power to make regulations to secure that end. We can also provide for better means of communication with observation stations outside Australia. We shall be able to make such arrangements with India, for instance.


Mr Kelly - There is nothing in the Bill to permit of that being done. Would the honorable and learned gentleman object to the insertion of a clause which would give the Governor-General power to make such arrangements?


Mr GROOM - I think that our constitutional powers in regard to the conduct of external affairs are already sufficient. There is, however, no urgent reason for uniformity of control in regard to astronomical observations. We hope that a Commonwealth Meteorological Department will be able to issue forecasts similar to those adopted in America. Such forecasts will be issued as widely as possible, especially in the pastoral districts, where information relating to rainfall and other climatic conditions is of great importance in regard to the moving of stock from one part of the country to another.


Mr Webster - We get very little satisfactory information of that kind now.


Mr GROOM - I think that if a Commonwealth Department of Meteorology is established, satisfaction should be given.


Mr McWilliams - The Commonwealth Government will not now telegraph the ordinary shipping lists of arrivals and departures.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That matter cannot be 'dealt with in this Bill. It comes within the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department.


Mr GROOM - Arrangements could easily be made with the Department for doing whatever is considered desirable in that connexion.


Sir Langdon Bonython - Will not the proposed separation of the Meteorological from the Astronomical Department increase the total cost of the two services?


Mr GROOM -I do not think so; but I shall deal with that matter presently. The United States Department of Meteorology is a very costly one ; but it supplies information to a population of about 80,000,000 people;' while we have a population of about 4,000,000 people only. According to the latest information available, the Meteorological Department of the United States of America costs annually $1,336,198, while the Canadian Department costs $90,307, and the English Department - the latest report obtainable relates to the year 1904 - , £15,639. The English expenditure is made up in this way - Land meteorology, comprising forecasts in" regard to harvests, £4,109; weather information, £3,029 ; and ocean meteorology, £2, 209;the balance being made up by expenses in connexion with administration. The total number of officers employed in connexion with astronomical and meteorological work in Australia is at present eighty, and the annual expenditure in salaries and contingencies upon the two services. £13,666. The value of the various buildings, instruments, and libraries used is estimated at £93,646, while the value of telegrams, if charged-, would come to £40,500 a year. Mr. Wragge has estimated the cost of an Australian Department at about £10,000 per annum; but if information similar- to that supplied in the United States of America were given, the cost would be much more. I hope, however, that the expenditure will be kept within reasonable bounds, and that the Australian people, as a whole, will obtain a much better service than they get now, though, of course, in some of the States a very efficient service is already being rendered.


Mr Glynn - I suppose that Mr. Wragge assumed that the States would cooperate ?


Mr GROOM - I believe Mr. Wragge's estimate was based purely on an Australian service right through. In a letter written by him, and published in the Pastoralists' Review of 15th May; 1901, he says : -

As to the annual vote for such a service as that suggested, we may mention that, although the sum granted annually to the meteorological office, London, is£15,300 (the American vote exceeding this amount), we consider that the service proposed could be well initiated for a sum, shall we say, not exceeding£10,000. This would be a firstclass investment in the interests of Australasia, and would yield sound interest in the well-being of the people.

It is impossible for any one in introducing a measure which merely provides for the establishment of the Department to say what plan of organization will be recommended by the officer who is to be placed in charge. I can quite believe, however, that the American system may be followed. I find that at page 203 of the report of the proceedings of the second convention of Weather Bureau Officials of the United States, the American system is described as follows : -

The United States is divided into seven forecast districts, the headquarters or central offices of which, named alphabetically, are : - Boston, Mass. ; Chicago, 111. ; Denver, Colo. ; New Orleans, La. ; Portland, Oreg. ; San Francisco, Cai.; and Washington, D.C.

In other words, they have divided the United States into seven districts, for each of which separate forecasts are issued. A competent meteorologist strongly recommends that in Australia we should follow the system dictated by the experience of the United States, and that, although we should have a central meteorological office, the Commonwealth should be divided into districts for the purpose of issuing forecasts. I conceive that these districts will be distributed with regard to the formation of the country, rather than to the existing State boundaries. Instead of issuing all forecasts from one centre, in all probability a forecast will be issued from each of specified district centres. Western Australia is so situated that probably it will be regarded as advisable to continue to issue forecasts there, and probably similar provision will have to be made in the eastern States. In each of the seven districts in the United States there is a further subdivision into State districts, and local forecasts are made in each of these. I think that they are issued after the general forecasts have been made, and are. more specific on account of the local observations engaged in after the general information has been obtained. By this means, the American meteorologists are able to issue very accurate forecasts. However, these details will have to be settled by the officer who is placed in charge of the Department. With regard to the work to be done by the Department, I think we shall be able to follow the American system very closely. In the first instance, we ought to recognise that weather forecasts are absolutely invaluable to those who are engaged in primary production. In the sugar districts of Queensland we have already experienced the very great advantage to be derived from forecasts of the cold' waves which produce frosts. These forecasts have proved of great value to' the canegrowers, because they have enabled them to take precautionary measures and safeguard their crops against damage.

Again, weather forecasts are of great value to us, because so many of our rivers are subject to flood. A proper system of weather forecasts would result in the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds every year. In the northern parts of Australia heavy rains fall at the heads of the rivers, and cause the streams to rise verv quickly but by a system of flood warnings all along the rivers, we have been able in Queensland to provide for the removal of stock and the saving 'of valuable property that would otherwise be destroyed. Further, in the northern parts of Australia severe loss has been incurred as the result of heavy storms coming in from across the seas. When Queensland) had a meteorological system of its own under Mr. Wragge, these storms were forecasted with considerable precision, and warning was given to shipmasters and others, who were thus enabled to tate precautionary measures in time to avoid disaster. We hope that by establishing a proper system of forecasts, and especially by means of observations taken outside of Australia, we shall be able to warn those engaged in shipping and other occupations, and so prevent loss of life and property. It is further hoped that under the new Department we shall have what we do not enjoy at present, viz., a proper system of storm warnings for " the benefit of shipmasters. We can reasonably expect to establish a proper study of climatic conditions of rainfall, temperature, humidity of atmosphere, and other features, which are of importance in considering the suitability

Qf certain localities for settlement and development. We have not had a very long range of accurate records, and we know how difficult it is to ascertain the average rainfall in certain localities. Under a Federal system, however, we hope to become thoroughly acquainted with the climatic conditions of the continent. We hope also to be able to take advantage of the wireless telegraphic system, in order to obtain proper observations from the south of Australia. It is believed that if the Marconi system could be installed upon some of the ' steamers that leave our shores, and regular observations and records could be transmitted to Australia, we should be able to arrive at greater accuracy in our forecasts. The United States report of 1:905, which reached here only last week, refers to the great advantage that has been conferred upon the Meteorological Department by the use of wireless telegraphy. As the result of a conference of Army, Navy, and Weather Bureau officials, arrangements were made under which the bureau will receive information from vessels at sea, and by means of wireless telegraphy transmit to the vessels signals with regard to storms. The statement upon this point concludes as follows: -

Negotiations are also in progress with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company for the receipt at the station of the company at Siasconset Nantucket Island, Mass., of wireless messa'ge containing meteorological observations from vessels that are equipped with Marconi apparatus, and for a transmission of storm warnings to vessels that may be in communication with the station. The inauguration of a system of interchange between shore stations and vessels at sea of messages containing storm advices and meteorological observations promises an enlargement of weather bureau work that will be co-extensive with the development and scope of wireless telegraphy, and the extension over the ocean of area of meteorological reports by wireless telegraphy may, in time, permit a service to trans-Atlantic steamers about to leave American and European ports, that will advise them regarding the character of the weather they will experience at sea. Furthermore, it is likely, that reports that will be available with an extension of wireless telegraphy will result in a communication of storm advices to vessels in mid-ocean, and render possible a storm-warning service for the western coasts of Europe.

If wireless telegraphy can be brought to our aid, we may be able to very greatly improve our weather forecasts. It will hardly be necessary for me to further refer to this matter except ito say that the United States have been doing their work in connexion with meteorology chiefly from a practical standpoint, with a view to confer benefit upon farmers, commercial men, and those engaged in shipping. They claim that they have practically exhausted all their possibilities in connexion 'with observations from a purely practical standpoint. The report of the Chief of the Weather Bureau, for 1905, contains the following statement: -

Since they are now applying all of the knowledge of the atmosphere that has been revealed, little hope for material improvement in their work can be held out until a substantial addition is made to the pure science of the problem. This can only come through experimentation, study, and research. With 200 stations engaged in applying the science, it is a wise economy to devote at least one of them to the work of adding to the knowledge that we are annually spending nearly a million and a half of dollars to apply. Accordingly, we have endeavoured to lay out a plan of study and research leading to an increase in our knowledge of the laws governing the atmosphere, such as should eventually enable our successors, if not ourselves, to add) to the accuracy of weather forecasts, and tomake them for a longer period in advance.

In the future they will pay more attention) to the study of the laws of the atmosphere. A special station has been-, established ' at Mount Weather, Virginia. They are embarking to a greaterextent upon original research, in order to> ascertain whether, by a closer study of natural" laws, they can make forecasts considerably further ahead than is now possible. ,They recognise the difficulties which hamper them at present, and 'they have set themselves to the solution of the problemswhich require to be dealt with. It is te be hoped that we shall also be able toengage in original research work in thefuture. For the present, however, we desire to establish a practical institution that will confer lasting benefit upon those whoare engaged in the industries of the' Commonwealth. If honorable members Wil agree to this Bill, and intrust us with the powers for which we are asking, we shall be able to establish a Department that will do splendid work in connexion with the-, development of this continent.







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