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Wednesday, 1 August 1906
Page: 2156

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I agree withthe honorable member for Echuca that our first object should be to make the Department useful. I am afraid that if we leave the States to still carrv' on the astronomical work now performed bv them, their Departments will be maintained upon the same footing as at present, and we shall merely be adding another Department to those already in existence, and thereby increase the tota[ expenditure. The very first thing to be aimed at in. connexion with a new Department is efficiency, but economy also must be studied. I do not see what is to hinder us from paving regard to both these matters. I think that, if we had an efficient central bureau, all that we should need besides would be a few small observing stations in various localities, from which results might be transmitted to headquarters. I judge from the figures supplied by the Minister, that the equipment of the States Departments varies very considerably. In New South Wales, the Astronomical and Meteorological Department emplovs nineteen officers, whose combined salaries amount to£4,000. In Victoria twentyfive officers are employed at a similar outlay. The astronomical and meteorological equipment in Victoria is valued at £40,000. No details are given.

Mr Groom - That is the form in which the information was supplied to us.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are told by the Minister that Mr. Wragge estimates that the meteorological service will involve an outlay of £10,000. I should like to know if that amount would include anything bevond salaries.

Mr Groom - That would be the annual charge for the central administration, and for the printing and publishing of the various reports.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then what about the weather telegrams, which I see have hitherto cost £40,500 per annum?

Mr Groom - They will be transmitted over the Commonwealth lines, and even if the Post and Telegraph Department charge for them, the cost will merely be transferred from one department to another, and no additional expense will be incurred. The States now pay us for the weather telegrams, but they will be relieved of that necessity if we take over the Meteorological Department.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the. point is that we shall have to pay for them out of our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, instead of their being paid for by the States out of their three-fourths share. It seems to me that we must add the cost of the weather telegrams to the estimate of £10,000 furnished by the Minister. I think that such an estimate ought to have been submitted to the House upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It ought to" have been possible for honorable members to see whether any saving in the cost of administering this Department is contemplated, and, if so, in what direction. Surely it would not be a difficult matter to get either Mr. Baracchi, or some other officer, to submit an estimate of the probable efficiency and expense of the Department, regarded as a whole. I think that the matter rightly comes up for consideration now that we are allocating the functions of the proposed bureau. The estimate to which reference has already been made was, I understand, formulated by Mir. Wragge, some five or six years ago. However much we may admire that gentleman in certain directions, I have yet to learn that we can regard him as a financier. My experience of him is that his attributes lie in an entirely different direction from that of financial management. Unless we can increase the usefulness of this Department by assuming control of it, we had better leave it alone entirely. I fear that an increase in its usefulness will prove expensive, if we are to deal with it in this piecemeal way. If we are to leave to the States their observatories, their buildings, their instruments, and their many highsalaried officials, and if we are to establish a central bureau with another set of highlypaid officials, we shall certainly increase the total cost of administering the Department, without being able to insure a more efficient service. I do think that all the money which may be spent upon the central Federal bureau ought to be derived from the shearing down of some of the States bureaux. I may be wrong in entertaining that idea, but, if so. it should at least be possible for the Minister to prove that I am mistaken, according to the views of thebest authorities.

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