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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - The sum of £4S,'200 is provided for the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior. That is an increase of £9,787 over the expenditure for 1935-36. The results are most disappointing, in that ' very seldom are rains, floods or storms correctly fore cast. I am amazed that forecasts to-day are not more reliable than they were ten or twenty years ago, when information upon which to base them was obtained by telegram from only a comparatively few centres, whereas now, with broadcasting stations throughout the country, and also in adjacent countries, reliable data, covering a much wider area than formerly, is easily obtainable. It is also possible to obtain very valuable meteorological information from ships travelling to and from Australia. In a primary-producing country like Australia, reliable meteorological information is of immense importance. I do not object to the expenditure of money on the Meteorological Branch - indeed, if reliable forecasts could be assured, I should be agreeable to double the vote - but the forecasts are so unreliable that the expenditure is hardly justified.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.40]. - The increased vote over the expenditure last year is .due mainly to the creation of six new positions, resulting from an extension of meteorological services in connexion with civil aviaton. As honorable senators are aware, meteorological reports are of great assistance to aviators, and, with the expansion of air services, the functions of this department must be extended.

As regards the accuracy of the reports, I sympathize with Senator Guthrie; but I suppose that, after all, meteorologists are only human. In this connexion, I am reminded of an incident which occurred a good many years ago, and in which no present officer of the branch was concerned. One of my daughters contemplated going to a picnic with the daughter of the meteorologist in the State in which we were then living. The day before the picnic- she asked her friend what she thought the weather would be like, and was informed that it would- be all right. My daughter then said, "You ought to know, because your father is the State Meteorologist". She received the astonishing answer, " I do not go by what father says, but by mother's corns ". Apparently even the members of a meteorologist's family do not always regard the official -forecasts as infallible. Apart, however, from the issuing of weather forecasts, the officers of the branch have other services to perform, included in which is the issue of flood warnings, which are of great value. to the Community.

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