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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) . Apparently the honorable member for Wilmot has not looked at the Estimates. The money involved is £10,000. The honorable member tells us that, owing to stress of weather, the cable system between Tasmania and the mainland is liable to become deranged. The Postmaster-General, however, has not told us how the money is to be spent. I like to see Australia keep up-to-date in all matters, but, in my view, if wireless telegraphy is to be installed on anything like a useful scale, the expenditure proposed is insufficient. If it is desir-able that we should have it at all, we should have the system right round our coasts. Certainly, £1.0,000 would not suffice for that. The remarks of the Postmaster - General regarding shipwrecked sailors were attractive from a sentimental point of view, but they really had no value, because all thats is at present proposed is, as I understand it, a system of wireless telegraphy between Australia and Tasmania. 6n the occasion of the installation at Queenscliff, it is remarkable that the Governor-General's message and the PostmasterGeneral's message got through all right; whereas the most angelic message sent by the Prime Minister never got through while we were there: It must, somehow, have got wafted up to the spirit regions.

It was so beautifully, worded that even the Marconi system broke down under it. That is a fact which the Treasurer cannot deny. His own message never got through, either.

Mr Reid - It was that beautiful line of poetry -

By the long wash of Australasian seas, which upset the apparatus.

Mr WILKS - The message of the Prime Minister was even more angelic than, that of the Treasurer, and we have had no explanation as to why the Marconi machine broke down under it. It is all humbug to talk as though what is proposed is for the benefit of Australia generally. It is nothing of the kind. £10,000 will not nearly supply the coast of Australia with wireless telegraphy apparatus. What is more, wireless telegraphy can never be of much use to us unless the coasting vessels are compelled, under the Navigation Bill, to instal the system.

Sir John Forrest - Block all progress !

Mr WILKS - It is all very well for the poetical Treasurer to be anxious about this matter. But he is not now travelling up the Mediterranean with dukes and duchesses and other frequenters of St. James's Palace. It is not such people as those who will have to pay for wireless telegraphy in Australia. The hard working people of this country cannot afford to indulge in luxuries in quite so extravagant a fashion as can those with whom the Treasurer leads us to believe that he is in the habit of associating. I cannot see much utility in the proposed expenditure under present circumstances. Even if, as I have mentioned, the system were installed on all our coastal vessels, I am told on good authority that the officers ' of the ships cannot work the machines, and that highly trained telegraphists are required to manage them.

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