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Friday, 25 June 1915

Senator RUSSELL - Queensland is willing to sign, but has not done so yet. Consequently there are three States which have not come to definite terms with the Commonwealth.

Senator Turley - Has it not entered into communication with the Commonwealth ?

Senator RUSSELL - No satisfactory arrangement has been made. Seeing that the proposal is now twelve months old, it is desirable that the Commonwealth should take some action. Consequently, the design of this Bill is simply to carry out the agreement which was submitted to the States, and assented to by two of them, and promised to be assented to by a third. Owing to the lack of action by some States, it is desired to acquire the lighthouses, if necessary, compulsorily, that is, under the Lands Acquisition Act. Of course, the terms and conditions of that Act will not apply in this case in regard to monetary compensation, because the amount will be treated as a transferred debt. The Commonwealth has long recognised its responsibility in regard to the transferred services, and has done a good deal of work in connexion with the construction of lighthouses. In anticipation of the transfer of the lighthouses, the Commonwealth has spent about £40,000 since 1912. In Victoria a powerful modern optical apparatus has been installed at Wilson's Promontory, and new lights have been erected at Cape Liptrap and Citadel Island. In the Northern Territory two new lights have been constructed at Darwin, namely, at Fort Point and Emery Point, these lights having been lit only a few weeks ago. At Cape Don, where a light is very urgently required, construction is now actively proceeding on a powerful modern light, which will be manned by three keepers. In Queensland, seven lights of the automatic, unwatched type are under construction north of Cooktown, inside the Great Barrier Beef, and it is expected that three lights will be lit within the course of the next few months. Plans have been prepared for the erection of lights in Tasmania, namely, at West Point, on the west coast, and at Cape Forestier, on the east coast. The lighthouse estimates this year also provide for the establishment of lights in Western Australia, the purchase of lighthouses, steamers, and two unattended lightships. In addition to that, it may be mentioned that more than two years ago the Commonwealth advised all States that any newworks of an urgent character which might be undertaken by them, and which complied with the requirements of the Commonwealth Government, would be paid for by the Commonwealth on the same basis as that adopted in the payment for transferred properties. As honorable senators are aware, the Commonwealth Government have realized for a considerable time that the lighthouses ought to be transferred, and they would have been transferred except for those responsibilities. It would have been much preferable if we could have made a mutual arrangement and an agreement had been signed between the States and the Commonwealth.

Senator Keating - What replies have been received from the States?

Senator RUSSELL - I understand that in some cases no reply has been received, and, in the case of Queensland, a promise has been given. I understand, too, that one

State wants cash paid over, but I cannot recollect the name of the State at the moment. It shows the necessity for our taking action to acquire the lighthouses. The people of Australia have determined that the lights should be brought under Commonwealth control, and as any debt which has been incurred by the States will be transferred, as a responsibility to the Commonwealth, no injustice will be done to anybody.

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