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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr STORRER (Bass) .- I am rather surprised at the opposition to this proposal, especially after the vote for the trawler this afternoon.

Mr Reid - Do not say that; only one member of the Opposition has opposed it.

Mr STORRER - I am surprised, inasmuch as it is obvious that wireless tele.graphy is in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. It is particularly in the interests of those communities which at present are living under circumstances that deprive them of frequent communication with the mainland. Take the case of the people of King Island. The Commonwealth is at present spending something like £20,000 per annum on Papua, where there are something like 600 white people and a good many blacks. On King Island there is a community of 600 whites, who have very little communication with the mainland, or with Tasmania. A steamer calls once about every three weeks, when she is not prevented from doing so by stress of weather. The people on Flinders Island, and on other islands in Bass Straits, are similarly badly situated. I have known shipwrecks to occur of which no news has been received until three or four weeks after the occurrence in consequence of bad weather in the Straits. It is not fair for the Commonwealth to treat these people in the way I have indicated. If the Flinders Island group were not in my own electorate I should advocate their cause more strongly than I do. King Island is not in my electorate, and I repeat that, having regard to the consideration shown to other parts of the Commonwealth, it is not fairly treated. I have been endeavouring to secure a grant' of a few pounds per annum to provide steam communication between these islands and Tasmania, and I certainly think that we ought to be connected with them by wireless telegraphy. Honorable members are perhaps unaware of the extent of the shipping passing through the Straits between Victoria and Tasmania, and of. the large number of wrecks which have occurred in the neighbourhood of these islands. If by means of wireless telegraphy we could establish speedy communication between the islands and the mainland many lives might be saved.

Mr.Mcwilliams (Franklin) [11.21]. - This is a very important item, concerning which the fullest information should be supplied, but I am quite prepared to accept the statement of Ministers that they do not intend to expend the whole amount at the present time. If experiments are to be conducted, by all means let them be carried out where they will be of practical use. Instead of erecting stations solely for experimental purposes, we should establish them where they will be of practical use. The honorable member for Dalley has referred rather slightingly to King Island, but in no part of the Commonwealth do people suffer greater inconvenience and receive less attention than do the residents of that important island. As the honorable member for Bass has said, there are practically as many white people on King Island as there are in Papua, where we are spending a large sum of money and getting little for it. If there is one section of the community which will be specially deserving of our consideration when these experiments are being conducted, it is that of King Island, which is now practically shut off from the rest of Australia. We have an opportunity to conduct experiments in wireless telegraphy which may be of practical use to the whole of Australia, and which will certainly confer an absolute blessing on people who are deprived of many of the advantages of civilization.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of the Treasury.

Division 6 (Government Printing Office), £1,500.

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