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Wednesday, 14 December 1927


Senator MILLEN - I have raised this matter, not on the score of popularity, but in order to show the one-sided position which the chairman of the commission adopted when he included that statement in the report.

Senator Needhamsaid he had been informed that the beam could easily be destroyed by a counter-beam.


Senator Needham - That is the statement of experts.


Senator MILLEN - It is perfectly true. But it is equally true that the cable communication between Australia and other portions of the world could easily be destroyed by severing the cable. It is easy to say that either this or that may be done with the beam, and to assert that it has proved a failure in relation to naval tactics. It was not designed for naval tactics. I should like to explain to the Senate what the beam is. In 1924 Marconi experimented with the object of concentrating the wireless wave in such a way that it would not be unduly dissipated. He constructed a parabola. Around the curve of this he hung vertical wires. Those wires were attuned to the wave-length which he intended to transmit. At a point on that curve he placed his antenna?, and from this he transmitted waves of, I think, a 92-metre amplitude. His object indoing that is obvious. He wanted to restrict the volume of power necessary, and to concentrate these . waves in the path of the beam. By so concentrating the waves he would obviously need less power than would be required in other circumstances, and he- could accomplish very much better what he set out to do.

Having a thorough appreciation of the position, Marconi informed the Australian Company that the tender which had been accepted for the erection of a high-power station should not be proceeded with. What was the result? Instead of going ahead with the station, which was to have cost something in the region of £500,000, a quotation was received of £120,000 for more effective work. It will be remembered that the capacity of the first station was about 8,500,000 words, which capacity was increased later to 26,000,000. With the beam the minimum number of words that can be sent is about 86,000,000.

It has been asserted that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, paid considerably more for its station than was paid for a similar station that was erected for a company in- England. That requires examination. The station in England was intended to transmit one wave-length to one place, and the cost on that basis was approximately £57,000. So that it might transmit to two places an additional £37,000 was paid, the total thus being approximately £94,000. The station in Australia not only is able to transmit in either a north-easterly or a southwesterly direction, but also has two means of transmission to two places. Obviously that necessitates additional provision with respect to the aerials and the feeder system. It would be a conservative estimate to place the cost of those additions at £10,000. Deducting that sum from the cost, the latter is reduced to £110,000. Mr. Fisk, who has been held up to suspicion in several places on the ground that he is more interested in the Marconi Company than in Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, went carefully into the position, and was able to secure for the Australian company a further reduction of £12,000. Comparatively, therefore, the cost of the station here is £98,000. The material had to be imported from abroad, and the services of qualified engineers had to be obtained from overseas. Those factors represented an addition to the cost. Further, a very material improvement was effected in the method of dealing with the beam which the English station did not have at that time. I say, therefore, that the Australian company obtained its station on considerably better terms than the English company obtained theirs.

A point that must not be overlooked is that the Marconi Company has patent rights affecting the English installation. I say that deliberately, in spite of all the stupid statements that are made to the contrary. The British Government is paying the Marconi Company6¼ per cent. on its gross takings over the beam at their end. I cannot for a moment conceive the possibility of the experts who are employed by the British Government being so foolish as to take that action which in a period of ten years would lead to the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money unless they were perfectly satisfied of the validity of those patents. What is the position in Australia? Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, having purchased the patents, does not have to pay the Marconi Company a single penny by way of royalty in relation to the messages that ave transmitted from this end. Its station has proved a wonderful success. Not a person in Australia, except Mr. Fisk, ever dreamed that it would be anything like the success it has been. When one considers that this station can be worked so rapidly that approximately 325 words a minute may be transmitted under good conditions, one can readily imagine the wonderful achievements of the beam.

The Leader of the Oppostiion has said that this is a foreign company, although he knows that the Govern ment holds a majority of two shares. Probably he considers that this is a foreign Government, and is desirous of a change being effected in such a way that the " foreigners " who now sit on the Opposition benches may re.place those who sit on the Government side.


Senator Needham - The Government is foreign to good business methods.


Senator MILLEN - In spite of all that I have said, the honorable senator asserts that the Government is foreign to good business methods. Another paragraph which he quoted from the report of the commission expressed a doubt as to whether these stations were manned by British subjects. I wish to tell him that the staff is not only all British, but nearly 100 per cent. Australian. A further statement of the honorable senator was that Commander Cresswell had said that confidential information belonging to the Navy was given to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited.


Senator Needham - I said that it was given by either Cresswell or Napier.


Senator MILLEN - At any rate the honorable senator said that confidential information had gone from some officer of the Navy to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. What was that confidential information? A letter was sent to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, stating that certain machines were wanted for certain stations, and asking for a quote. That was the confidential information referred to by the honorable senator!

Senator Needhamalso said that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has not troubled to give its best to the people, because it is a profit-making concern. How he can come to this deduction is astonishing. The rate for beam messages is ls. 8d. a word. We have only to hark back a little to compare that rate with the charges made by the cable companies. Their charge was formerly 3s. a word, it was then reduced to 2s. 6d., and finally 2s. a word, and they seem to find it difficult to give a service at that reduced rate. Can any one say that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, in the beam service has not, in this respect, brought about a great saving to the people of the Commonwealth? Senator Needham told us of the attitude of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited to terminal charges. He said that the company has stated its determination not to pay those charges and that the Government has declared that the advice of its legal advisers is that the company should pay them. Neither statement is absolutely correct. In 1922, when the Government entered into a contract with Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for the erection of a high-power station, part of the agreement was that the company should be given a licence free of charge to operate a wireless service in Australia,, and between there and England and Canada. After a time the Government found itself in a quandary, because, as the result of an international convention in regard to the relation of wireless to cable services, it was agreed that the terminal rates charged by the Government should be the same for both wireless messages and cablegrams, and the question immediately rose: Why should Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited be allowed to forego the payment of these terminal charges? Senator Needham has already pointed out that, when Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, the Australian coastal wireless stations were losing at the rate of about £60,000 a year. That loss has since been reduced to about £34,000. Would any one in his sane senses expect a company with private shareholders to take over an obviously non-paying proposition of such a character for nothing? It would have been extremely stupid for Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited to- suggest to the Government, " You are losing money on the coastal stations, but for the love of the thing we shall take them over and continue making a loss on them."

The truth of the matter is that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited always believed that it was to be free from these terminal charges; in other words, that its freedom from the payment of these charges was to be regarded as a quid pro quo for the loss it was likely to sustain on the coastal stations. And when the Commonwealth Government went into the matter it appreciated this position. It realized that it could not expect a company with private shareholders to spend money on something that could not be made to pay.

Some may ask, "Why cannot Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited make these stations pay?" The company could make them pay, but for one reason. It has to comply with an international convention in regard to the safety of life at sea. and consequently must stud the coastline of Australia with wireless stations, so that they can always be in communication with ships on all parts of the seas which wash our great coastline. The Government, upon an examination of the position, decided that something should be allowed to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for doing this service. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the terminal charges amount to about £45,000 under present conditions. The Government does not propose to hand over all the revenue to the company, but considers that in future a considerable profit may be made from these stations, and, therefore, it requires the company to pay 30 per cent, of the total revenue. At the present time this sum may be balanced with the amount accumulating from the terminal rates. So much for the terminal charges.

I listened also to the honorable senator's remarks about royalties, and in this connexion I want to point out the astounding inconsistency of the royal commission. In one portion of its report, it seems to throw a considerable amount of doubt upon the patents held by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, and in another part it says that the company is entitled to charge 5s. per valve socket. How it arrives at this amount I do not know. It is obvious that if the company has no patents it certainly has no right to charge a royalty per valve socket, and if it has the right to make that charge, obviously it must have something on which to base it. The patents law declares that' if a company owns a patent, it must use it or permit the public to use it at a reasonable rate. The question is : What is a reasonable rate? That is a matter which can be determined by a court, but so far those people who declare that the charge made by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for the use of its patents is not a reasonable one have not sought to have the matter determined by a court. Senator Needham says that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has been proceeding with its litigation in a leisurely manner. Any one who has had much experience of matters affecting the patents law knows that it is utterly impossible to do anything more than proceed with litigation in a leisurely manner. We know that the arguments in the Mineral Separations suit involved months and months of delay, and that the Wifley versus Card Table case was .proceeding for years It is my experience of the patents law that you can do nothing more than proceed in a leisurely manner and that, no matter how sound your patents may be, you are always in grave doubt as to what may be the issue of your suit.

I agree with Senator Needham that wireless to-day is of great importance to the people of Australia and to the world in general. It is only a little while ago that ships at sea were in very grave difficulties when they came into a blanket of fog which obscured any lights that would guide them to a haven of safety. Modern conditions of transport require vessels to maintain their speed in all circumstances; but to do that in a blanket of fog is often extremely difficult and dangerous, because of the possibility of a collision, and also because of the inability to determine direction. Wireless has been of very material service to vessels in such circumstances. Along the British Channel a certain wireless station sends out continuous waves. The pilot on the bridge of the vessel in a fog has only to adjust his earphones and direct his antennae or frame aerial until it catches the full strength of the flashing radio message.

This he marks on a chart, and repeats the process until he gets marked on his chart points given to him from three different angles. Then the position of the vessel is known, and it can proceed in safety. The much-despised Marconi company has at South Foreland, in Kent, a special installation for sending messages to vessels at sea. It is a revolving series of radio aerials, sending out signals showing the direction in which an aerial . is pointed at a given moment. As the structure revolves, a number of plates bearing Morse characters, making contact with the transmitter, ensure the signal sent is in the direction in which the aerial is pointing. An officer having a marked chart can by picking up the middle letter of the five letters sent out indicate its position on his chart. That is a continuous service which has considerably added to the safety of life at sea, particularly in wild and foggy weather. In another instance the Borkum Reef Lightship in the North Sea, by means of a submarine broadcaster, sends out the letters B R continuously, and by means of an aerial transmitter sends out B R and then fifteen spaced dotes. Sound, as we know, travels 4,900 feet a second through water and 186,000 miles a second through the air. The exact timing of these signals and the method of their transmission is known to the approaching ship, and by counting the dots until the under-sea message is received, die officer in charge is able to determine how many miles distant his vessel is from the lightship. As vessels are also equipped with directionfinders, they can ascertain their position definitely. That is a wonderful advantage for mariners in such dangerous waters as the North Sea.

Let us now deal briefly with television.


Senator Duncan - That is not provided for in this agreement. That is one of the difficulties confronting us.


Senator MILLEN - It is not yet provided for. Bernard Shaw in his book Bach to Methuselah gives us a prevision of what is likely to happen in the year 2300. He tells us how a Prime Minister sitting in his room with a screen at his side sees a lady in the intimacies of her toilette in the speaking likeness at his side, and is abruptly switched off from visual communication with the lady. Dc tuy friends think that they are going to get all that for nothing? I do not think we are likely to have it for some time; but even now photographs, autographed letters, and even X-ray photographs can be transmitted over distances. An X-ray photograph can he sent from some outstation to a well-known consulting surgeon asking him to advise what ought to he done in the case of some abstruse and difficult problem of surgery. In 1817 Berzelius, a well-known chemist of that day, was acting as consultant in some sulphuric acid works, and found in the acid chamber a deposit which was afterwards called selenium.

Selenium has several properties. One of those, properties is that the more intense the beam of light thrown upon a cell of selenium so its power of resistance to passing of electrical currents is varied. With its use it is possible to send a photograph 7 inches by 5 inches from the United States of America to Great Britain in about four minutes. The process is as follows : When the film is inserted in the transmitter a very small and intense beam of light shines through the film on to the selenium cell. The film is rotated at a uniform speed. The variation in the amount of light striking the sensitive surface gives rise to a current which, through the medium of a vacuum tube amplifier and modulator controls the current flowing. At the receiving end an unexposed film fs similarly rotated. A device known as a light valve collects the electric fluctuations and converts them into corresponding variations of light, in accordance with the. light and dark areas of the photograph, and thus a replica of the original is produced. Practically the same thing occurs in connexion with television.

In connexion with television there are the patents of Belin, a Frenchman. He has a box in which there is a powerful arc light, a condenser, and a photograph. He throws a beam of light through the photograph on to a revolving' series of mirrors, which revolve 5,000 times a minute. A photo-electrical cell converts the impulses and transmits them by radio waves, which are transmitted to the receiving end, and handled by a light valve as before described. Then Jenkins came along with another camera, and transmitted the reflection of light from living persons. Baird brought down only last year a scheme for attaching to a wireless apparatus a television apparatus. Unfortunately, there was considerable, flickering of the image ; it was worse than that which took place when moving pictures were first introduced. Progress, however, in these matters is rapid.

I desire to call attention to another movement which has taken place. Professor Fiamma, an Italian professor who had been experimenting for about twelve years, carried out a series of experiments in the Gulf of Spezia, which honorable members may remember was where Shelley was drowned. These experiments consisted of controlling a small boat from a distance. Fiamma obtained a small vessel named the Orlando, about 50 feet in length. On" the shores of the gulf be had his controlling apparatus. By moving the control to a point marked " Forward " on the apparatus, the operator immediately caused the boat to go forward; when the indicator was opposite -the point marked, "Increased speed," the boat moved forward more rapidly; and it stopped when the point " Stop " on the apparatus was reached. At another stage the siren blew at the will of the operator on the shore. Finally the vessel was brought back to the point of commencement. That remarkable feat was accomplished despite the efforts of three Italian battleships in the gulf which were doing their best to jamb the controlling wireless waves. The experiment was so successful that the naval authorities, who were watching it, said that it represented the solution of naval warfare problems. They visualized a number of boats filled with explosives being directed from the shore towards an enemy fleet, and causing its destruction.

Let us now consider another scheme. An aeroplane travelling towards the Croydon Aerodrome has in its cabin apparatus capable of being 'controlled from a remote earth point. At a given signal the controlling pilot steps out of the cabin and relinquishes control of the machine ; but, instead of falling headlong to destruction, the machine lands safely at its destination without his assistance. In the light of these happenings, Senator

Needham is right in saying that wireless is of transcendent importance to Australia. There is also a multiplex system of wireless communication. John Hays Hammond, a celebrated mining engineer, succeeded in sending eight different messages simultaneously, and receiving them at the same time on a special receiver. He was using a wave length of 10 metres. He claims his process is practically secret. That was in October, 1926. I could continue with similar instances; but I do not want to occupy the time of the Senate. Let me now refer to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, which is in charge of wireless in Australia - I say that advisedly.

The report of the Royal Commission on Wireless deals Avith nothing but Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. That is easily understood, because wireless in Australia means Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. The success which has attended this company's efforts has given rise to a considerable amount of jealousy. Where there is no headway, there is no jealousy; but progress and success cause jealousy. This company has practically completed the installation of wireless apparatus on over 100 ships on the coast of Australia; it has erected several stations in Australia and in the islands of the Pacific, and now it has been invited by the High Commissioner of the Western Pacific to take control of wireless in the islands of the Fiji group. Throughout Australia it has erected a number of broadcasting stations. Honorable senators who have at any time listened to the programmes broadcast by the company's various stations in Australia will appreciate the quality of the service they give. Australia has nothing of which to be ashamed in connexion with her position in wireless matters. The service given by our broadcasting stations is equal to that of any other country. Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has' trained, and is still training, men in the science of wireless. In has transmitted messages by the beam system over greater distances than were at one time thought possible, even by scientists. This company has now come to the aid of the Government, and has entered into an arrangement which does not mean that the Australian people will be compelled to pay high royalties. Instead of hindering the progress of wireless in Australia, as some would have us believe, it has stimulated interest in the science. It has said to the people of Australia that, in respect of each wireless listener's licence, it is willing to accept 3s. instead of 5s., as heretofore. That reduction in itself is a material advantage to the people of Australia.


Senator Foll - Who will get the benefit of that reduction - the people or the traders ?


Senator MILLEN - It will benefit those who obtain listeners' licences. The Prime Minister in another place, said that it was proposed to reduce the broadcasting fees. That will mean a further benefit to listeners. The Australian people owe much to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. Instead of adversely criticising the company, they should appreciate the immense work it is doing. Australia has the opportunity to control wireless communications throughout the Pacific. I should "not be in order in dealing with matters of naval strategy ; but it is generally accepted that the future cockpit of naval warfare will be in the Pacific. Should war again come, Australia will have the advantage of being practically in control of wireless communication throughout the Pacific. I do not think I need say any more about royalties. I feel disposed to ask those who criticise Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited what position Australia would be in so far as wireless communications are concerned, if that company did not exist. The company possesses the Australasian rights to the Marconi patents. It would have been useless tq say that the Marconi company could not charge for those patents. Even if the Commonwealth Government felt disposed to interfere with international law, it would not dare to do so, because in that event all patents held by Australians would be valueless outside Australia. The great Radio Corporation sold to the Marconi company the whole of its patent rights in the British Empire-. Those rights, so far as they apply to Australasia, have been transferred to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. The company also possesses rights in connexion with the

Western Electric Company's patents, as well as the Telefunken and the French patents. Australia, through Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, obtains the benefit of all those patents. Surely in that case the company has benefited the people of Australia. The agreement before us is of tremendous advantage to the people of the Commonwealth. In my opinion Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, has been extremely generous in the way it has made its patent rights available. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Senator SAMPSON(Tasmania) [5.42"|. --I desire to refer to the value of wireless in the defence of Australia. Senator Millen has truly stated that the Pacific will be the cockpit of future naval warfare. Whether that be so or not, Australia is dependent on the maintenance of communications. Some of us who have had experience of war know the meaning of the term "fog of war." When constant and rapid communications between the different parts of an army or navy is interfered with, the situation is known as " the fog of war." As a trooper of mounted infantry in the South African war of 1399-1902 I had a little experience of the value of wireless in war. At that time the science was in its infancy and consequently wireless, as an aid to military operations, did not receive very great attention. Few people realised then that its development would be so rapid and so remarkable and that in a short space of time wireless would be of supreme value from a military and naval point of view. The last war gave to it a great stimulus. All the nations engaged in that titanic conflict used it extensively and most successfully. Up' till then armies that were more or less static depended on a network of telegraph and telephone lines for the maintenance of their communications. Whenever these were destroyed by enemy action it was an exceedingly difficult as well as a dangerous task to restore them. When armies began to move the problem of maintaining communication by means of the ordinary telegraphic and telephone lines was complicated a thousandfold and indeed was almost impossible. The maintenance of communication by wireless is a much simpler matter though it is true that at times - and this happened during the last war - wireless communications may be interfered with to some extent by "jambing," and delays are caused by the need for the deciphering of code messages. I well remember our experiences in South Africa, before much was known about wireless. On several occasions I was in charge of a patrol of a dozen or so men with instructions to repair lines of communication that had been cut by Boer farmers. As often as not, when we discovered the break, we found also a number of the enemy concealed and waiting to give us some " hurry up " stuff. Sometimes we found that those who had cut the lines had made a break of anything from 400 to 600 yards so that it was not always possible to restore communications quickly. This problem is not present when armies depend upon wireless for their means' of communication. It is true that a wireless station may be destroyed by gunfire or bombing by aeroplanes, but provided there is a fair supply of spare parts the damage should be made good in a few hours. If ever we are called upon to fight on our own soil in the defence of Australia, we shall find wireless of incalculable value. The capital cities of the Commonwealth will be able to keep in touch with each other, in touch with our troops at their bases and with all naval and aircraft that may be carrying out joint operations. In a sparsely populated country like Australia it would be a comparatively simple matter for enemy agents to destroy the ordinary land lines of communication between say Melbourne and Sydney. If they cut those lines in half a dozen places, it. would take considerable time to effect repairs and it would be necessary to employ a large number of men to guard against any further interference, whereas a comparatively small number would be sufficient to protect the wireless stations in our capital cities. We have learnt a lot about wireless since the South African war. Probably honorable members will recall that in the Balkan war which preceded the last great war, Adrianople which was beseiged, maintained communication with the outside world by wireless. No doubt they will remember also that when General Townshend who was in command of British troops in Mesopotamia, was beseiged at Kut el Amara, he also was in daily communication by wireless with the British forces. Admiral Von Spee, when he was cruising in the Pacific during the earlier period of the war and up till the time when his squadron was destroyed at the Falkland Islands battle, was in constant communication by wireless with Berlin. There can he no doubt also that Australia has good reason to be grateful for .wireless. It is probable that Von Spee would have given the people of this country first-hand knowledge of what hostile warfare means by coming in and shelling some of our capital cities, but for the fact that he knew that the battle cruiser Australia, which was larger and more heavily armed than the largest of his squadron, was in Australian waters and in constant touch with the Admiralty. Senator Millen this afternoon spoke of the possibilities in connexion with the further development of this wonderful science. It is almost impossible to realize what the future has in store for us. Aircraft, which will play an important part in the defence of Australia, must be largely employed in any future warfare for fighting, for reconnaisance, for carrying supplies and the delivery of despatches. It would be absolutely essential for our aircraft squadrons during war to be in constant touch with our capital cities, with our army head quarters, and with our depots and aerodromes. Without wireless it would be impossible for .them to do really effective work. In 1918 when I was attending a school of instruction for senior officers at Aldershot, we assembled one evening in the gymnasium to listen to a wireless transmission of a gramophone selection from the House of Commons Lobbies. The majority were very sceptical as to the probable success of the experiment. I should say that about 90 per cent, of the officers believed that it would be impossible to transmit over that distance, but all were astonished at the result. That was only nine years ago. Since then extraordinary developments have taken place. During the war wireless was used for direction finding, and the guiding of aircraft by day or by night. In Great

Britain, Europe and America, regular air services were fitted with direction finding apparatus by means of which ground stations were located and communicated to air pilots their position. Zeppelins and other hostile aircraft were located frequently by wireless direction finding apparatus and the necessary defensive operations were made possible. By this means the Admiralty was advised that the German grand fleet had put to sea, hence the battle of Jutland. Battle ships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and all auxiliary aircraft in any part of the world are now in daily communication by wireless with the Admiralty.


Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - When the Emden reached Cocos Island to de,stroy the cable station, early in the war, the second message received came by wireless.







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