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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - With regard to the explosion at Thursday Island, no further facts have been ascertained, and no explanation of the explosion has yet been given. With respect to the reference to an aeroplane corps, the honorable senator is, no doubt, aware that the late Government made provision for a competitive test of aeroplane machines, and offered a prize of £5,000, under certain conditions. A number of entries have been received, and local committees have been appointed to test the machines submitted. So far, none have been submitted for a practical test; but we hope shortly that in some of the States machines will be submitted to a practical test. We have instructed military officers we have in England, who are attending manoeuvres there, to pay particular attention to what is being done in connexion with the use of aeroplanes and dirigible balloons, and to send out all the information they become possessed of on the subject. Several of the officers have already acted upon these instructions, but the information so far received is not of a very encouraging character. It appears that the difficulties inherent in the use of such machines have not yet been overcome, and it is not demonstrated that they are of any real military value. We shall have reports on the subject from time to time, and when the Government are satisfied that aeroplanes or dirigibles are of practical use in time of war, they will be prepared to make provision for their use. There is in the Commonwealth at the present time an aeronaut who is willing to give instruction in the art of flying. The persons interested have waited upon me, and have said that they are prepared to submit to the Defence Department a specific offer to instruct certain of our officers in the art. When the offer is made, I shall be prepared to give it favorable consideration.

Senator Chataway - Are the local committees referred to by the Minister Departmental Committees ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes; but in each case they include a civil engineer or a professor of civil engineering from one of the Universities.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Divisions 211 to 217 (The PostmasterGeneral's Department), £517,328.

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