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Thursday, 9 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - It was not a question of law which was raised, but a question of whether, when the Government seek expert advice, they will obtain that advice from one who is quite free from prejudice. I ask the Committee whether a gentleman who has been engaged in a lawsuit with the Marconi Company is quite the disinterested person whose advice the Government should seek when the claims of that company are being weighed in the balance against those of a rival company? That is putting the position I hope with sufficient definiteness. To bring in the question of law points is likely to obscure the issue. It is quite evident that this gentleman is not an expert lawyer in the matter, or he would not have been defeated in the case in which he was interested.

Senator Sayers - He may run the Government into another lawsuit.

Senator MILLEN - Yes. It was quite idle for the Minister to talk about law points, as I did not raise any.

Senator Pearce - The question of the adoption of a system at once raises questions of law, because there have been legal decisions on the question of systems.

Senator MILLEN - I am not dealing with the question of patent rights, but with the question of calling in an expert to show which system is the better one. The position is that the Government are calling in to advise them as to which of two systems is the better a man to judge against his successful competitor. I shall be quite willing to retract any statement I have made if I find that I have acted upon wrong or insufficient information, but 1 understand Mr. Balsillie was interested in a company, and I think that he also claimed some patentee's rights. At any rate, he was involved in a lawsuit with the Marconi Company, and the latter triumphed ; and now he is called in by the Government of the Commonwealth to sit in judgment on his successful rival - not in a lawsuit, but in the world of invention - and to say whether he regards his rival's system, or some other system, as the superior one. There is only one man in a thousand who can quite shake off the prejudices which such an experience is likely to create. We are all human; even wireless experts are human. I feel that I have not exceeded my duty in directing attention to what, to my mind, is unquest ionably a weakness in the officer who has been chosen for this particular work.

Senator Findley - On law points we shall be guided by our own officers.

Senator MILLEN - On page 27, I notice an item of £50,000 towards the purchase ot sites for " post and telegraphs." Are these sites required for the post-offices with which we have dealt, or is this an estimate of the amount which is likely to be required ; a sort of advance in anticipation of the possible resumption of land?

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