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Thursday, 15 April 1915

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - Every Tasmanian senator has approached the Government on the question of the isolation from which the island communities between the mainland and Tasmania have for so long Buffered. I fully believe that the promises of various Ministers to remedy this state of affairs will be redeemed, and I want to inspire the Government to regard the providing of wireless communication with King Island as an absolutely safe revenue producing proposition. King Island is one of the largest islands, outside Tasmania, included in the territory of the Commonwealth. It is in some respects a terrestrial paradise. It may be news to some to learn that in the midst of this great drought there has been an abundance' nf fodder on the island, and that the output of fat cattle this season runs up to 10,000 head from a community of 1,000 white people. It is a community which is growing in wealth and in trading possibilities very rapidly. Senator Keating; has alluded to the nautical difficulties in the way of providing it with regular communication. It is surrounded by reefs which are flung forward, and make navigation at times very difficult, thus adding to and intensifying the isolation of the community. Successive Administrations have poured out money like water on the Northern Territory, in the hope of inducing an influx of white settlement, but in the few years that have elapsed since the consummation of Federation over 1,000 white people have settled on King Island. At that rate they will soon equal the number of white settlers in the Northern Territory. They are a prosperous and enterprising community, and the provision of wireless communication will add to the possibility of remunerative trade with the mainland and Tasmania. In the Northern Territory I found a zealous and useful official dignified with the title of " Excellency," and millions of Commonwealth money being spent, or about to be spent. Although the Territory has been taken over quite recently, hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been spent there to provide railway facilities for the few isolated and somewhatreluctanttoremain white settlers. On the other hand, the population of King Island bids fair to increase very rapidly, but the settlers have pleaded in vain through their - representatives in this Parliament for reasonable consideration at the hands of the National Government. I sincerely urge the Government to take into consideration the fact that this community is distant only 45 miles from the State in which is placed the seat of the National Government, and yet it is more isolated than if it were in the South Seas. Excluding Tasmania, King Island has the largest white population of all the insular parts of the Commonwealth, and certainly deserves consideration. The Department need have no fear that the provision of wireless communication will result in a loss. It is a rich community, and will become richer, and I urge the Department to take heart of grace, to regard' the present opportunity as most auspicious, and to give King Island the communication it so urgently needs, and which will be so useful to it. I have nothing to say as regards the demolition of the wireless station which has been erected for some time on the island. It is impossible to think that any reasonable National Administration would wantonly destroy the works erected there without good excuse. Notwithstanding the political differences that separate us, I credit the Government with sufficient common sense to- refrain from the wanton destruction of such an important wireless station. They must have very good reasons for their action, and, putting the consideration of that question aside, I would urge the Minister to induce the Government to address itself immediately to the question of removing the isolation from which the community on the island undoubtedly suffers at present.

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