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Wednesday, 1 August 1906
Page: 2177

Mr SALMON (Laanecoorie) . - I agree with the honorable member for Barker that it is inadvisable for the House to take any action calculated to increase our expenditure. At the same time, I think he will recognise that if we are going to supply the whole Commonwealth with a service which is at present carried on by only some of the States, we must necessarily increase the expenditure in that regard.

Sir Langdon Bonython - Which of the States at the present time have not both services ?

Mr Groom - Queensland has not; she has practically neither service. .

Mr SALMON - I take it that there is a desire on the part of honorable members to assist by every means in our power those who are helping to make the country that which we wish it to be. Whether the study of astronomy is likely to be beneficial in this respect-

Sir Langdon Bonython - Has not the Prime Minister advised the Australian to hitch his waggon to a star?

Mr Deakin - But that costs nothing.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And it was only a plagiarism.

Mr SALMON - I had the pleasure of listening to the Prime Minister when he made that suggestion, and I know that he gave his authority for it. I do not think it can be described as plagiarism.


Mr SALMON - Thetwo services of astronomy and meteorology can very well be carried on separately.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And they could be carried on separately even if they were both taken over by the Commonwealth.

Mr SALMON - Why should we undertake more work than is absolutely necessary ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are we not going to exercise our powers ?

Mr SALMON - The Bill provides that the Commonwealth shall undertake a work which will be invaluable, not only to the people ofAustralia, but to those who are trading along our shores. Vast interests will be served by this Department, and I think we shall best secure efficiency by removing from the duties of the officers of the Department of Meteorology another study that from its disturbing effects may be found inimical to the interests we desire to promote.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Astronomical and meteorological observatories are grouped together in section 51 of the Constitution, which defines the powers of the Parliament.

Mr SALMON - But surely the honorable member will not say that because two dissimilar - and they are dissimilar - services are grouped together in the Constitution, we are bound to carry them out as one. The honorable member will agree that we have the option of taking over either or both of them, and I think that in the absence of a better reason than that advancedby the honorable member for North Sydney, we should not take over the astronomical branch.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the honorable member thinks that we should never take it over ?

Mr SALMON - I do not think we should take it over until it can be shown that practical benefit will result from our doing so. If the States think that any benefit flows from the astronomical branch, either to the Commonwealth or to the rest of the world, they will probably feel disposed to incur the expense necessary to carry it on.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - On this side of the House we are Socialists, and wish to socialize Mr. Baracchi.

Mr SALMON - I believe that this is a deep-laid scheme on. the part of the representatives of New South Wales to secure for that State the services of Mr. Baracchi. The States may desire to obtain more information concerning the heavenly bodies and their movements - not having at my command the poetic language of the hon orable and learned member for Angas, I use more prosaic terms - and I am not going to say at this stage that those movements have no effect upon meteorology. It is quite possible that they have; but it should be demonstrated to us that they have before we are asked to enter upon the expenditure involved in taking over the astronomical branch. We have a duty to perform to the Commonwealth in the direction of securing the greatest possible services at the least: possible expenditure. If we take over the conduct of a branch of science which, so far as we can see, will be of no real practical benefit to the Commonwealth, then we shall undertake a work which we should not enter upon. I am not one of those who believe that the Commonwealth should immediately take over all the services for which provision is made in the Constitution. The fact that these two Departments are linked together in. section. 51 of the Constitution is not in itself an argument that we should take both of them over. No service should be transferred unless it: can be better administered by the central authority than by the States. The astronomical observatories should be conducted' by the universities - the great centres of learning here. If that course were followed, it would enhance the value of our universities as seats of learning, and the employment would be more congenial to those associated with our universities than it is, perhaps, at present to a number of States officials, who carry on the work of these institutions. But it would be a mistake for the Commonwealth to take over the astronomical departments. The Bill has already passed another branch of the Legislature, and it would be a. mistake for us to engraft upon it a provision for which no need has been shown. It cannot be gainsaid that the value of correct observations to those engaged upon the soil or the sea - in fact, to those engaged in every industry, and yet to be employed in others that we hope to see established here - cannot be over-estimated. I should, therefore like to see the meteorological work of the observatories handed over to specialists, who would secure for our people information that would be valuable, and would enable them to provide against possible disaster. In these circumstances, I sincerely hope that the amendment will be rejected, and that the Bill will be passed as it stands.

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