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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro) (Postmaster-General) . - I admit that the sum of £10,000 would not be sufficient to instal any complete system of wireless telegraphy along the coast of Australia. That system is an innovation in this country. But it has passed the experimental stage, 'and is already being used with very great advantage in other parts of the world. The Government have placed this sum upon the Estimates, because - whilst we recognise that it is necessary to proceed with extreme caution - we cannot doubt the wisdom of introducing the wireless system into Australia, not only for commercial purposes, but with a view to protecting the lives of persons who " go down to the sea in ships."

Mr Wilks - Does the PostmasterGeneral think that the ships which trade around the Australian coast can afford to be armed with the necessary wireless telegraphic instruments ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - It appears to me that we may expect the greatest benefit to accrue from the installation of the Marconi system to the vessels which trade along our coast. As far as I can gather from the Estimates which have been placed before me, it will not be a very expensive proceeding to equip those ships with the necessary apparatus when once wireless telegraphy stations have been established. I trust that in the near future every passenger ship will be fitted with a wireless installation. I dare say that when the benefits of wireless telegraphy become better known, and people realize its usefulness, not only for business purposes and as a general convenience, but also in times of danger at sea, the Government will insist on passenger ships carrying the installation just as they are compelled now to carry life-saving appliances. However, the arrangements are at present only in the initial stage; and a number of suggestions have been made as to the places at which there should be installations, and as to the cost which may be incurred. I should be pleased to give honorable members further particulars on the latter point; but I have come to the conclusion that in regard to the adoption of any system there should be open competition. It is an advantage that we have complete control over our shores, and thus complete control over shipping.

Mr Henry Willis - What will be done with the £10,000?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The money will be expended where we consider it wise to do so in order to provide some of the benefits and conveniences of wireless telegraphy.

Mr Mcwilliams - What is the present arrangement by the Government with regard to the Tasmanian cable?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The Government have given a guarantee to the Eastern Extension Company, and that guarantee does not expire for three years. While we should be glad to have wireless telegraphic communication with Tasmania, we must be careful not to come into competition with ourselves during the term of the guarantee. There are places, however, where there is no telegrahic communication of any kind, and suggestions have been made for resorting to wireless telegraphy in such cases. One suggestion is that there should be communication with New Guinea, and there is another suggestion that there should be a power station in New Zealand, and another on the mainland here, connected with Tasmania, King Island, and other places. We must proceed very cautiously, however, in order to ascertain, first of all, which is the best system. In the meantime, we cannot ask for definite estimates, considering that presently the rival companies may come into competition.

Mr Wilks - What is the £10,000 for? Is it to purchase the stations at Queenscliff and in Tasmania?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The Government have no idea of buying those stations, which were erected simply to enable the Marconi Company to demonstrate, as they did, what can be done by wireless telegraphy. Another company is prepared to offer their services ; and I have invited the representatives to instal communication between Tasmania and Sydney, so that we mav be enabled to judge as to the value of their system. There is the Marconi system and the International system ; and now we have been informed that there is what is known as the Lodge-Muirhead system, which has been very successful in India.

Mr Wilks - What is to be done with the £10,000?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - We shall spend it, I hope.

Mr Reid - Where?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - We hope to expend it in connecting places in Australia, though no definite decision has been arrived at.

Mr Mcwilliams - Why not open communication with King Island?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The money will probably be spent in connexion with some places I have already mentioned. So far as expenditure is concerned, no preference will be given to any company or person, but open competition will be invited, and there will be every opportunity for honorable members to express an opinion as to the system to be adopted.

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