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Wednesday, 7 December 1927

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I was endeavouring to point out the desirability of spending more money in connexion with the Meteorological Department, so that its officers would be better equipped to forecast the state of the weather, in the interests of shipping especially. I said that I understood complaints had been made that the data supplied to the department from different parts of Australia were not sufficient for it to issue reliable reports. I referred to an inaccurate newspaper statement in which the Commonwealth Meteorologist took to task people who had said that the season was a bad one, and the outlook unpromising, and in which he stated that the season was normal, whereas it is one of the worst Australia has ever experienced. Already we have lost 10,000,000 sheep, and there is very little prospect of any considerable export trade in wool, meat, or wheat. I complained of an inaccurate report in the press attributed to the Commonwealth Meteorologist.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [4.35]. - I agree with Senator Guthrie as to the importance of the Meteorological Department. The accuracy or otherwise of the statement to which he has referred depends on the time it was issued.

Senator Guthrie - A statement was issued every month up to October.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - In October it was thought that the Queensland wheat crops would be an absolute failure, but, as a result of rains which fell opportunely, the position has changed entirely. Instead of a failure, some portions of Queensland an' experiencing a record year. A Brisbane newspaper which I received this morning says that yields of from eight to seventeen bags of wheat per acre are being obtained in some districts. The Commonwealth Meteorologist has informed me that he would not attempt to issue a long distance forecast.

Senator Guthrie - No one expects him to do so.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Throughout Australia there are numbers of recording stations which gather data as to weather conditions and rainfall, and forward them to the department. The information thus obtained enables the Commonwealth Meteorologist to make his forecasts; but he does not attempt to predict the weather conditions for any great period ahead. I recognize the value of these recording stations throughout the Commonwealth. An intending new settler requires to know more than the annual rainfall of the district in which he proposes to settle.. He should know the rainfall month by month over a period of years. A district may have a good total annual rainfall, but the rain may not fall at times suitable for crops. Evidence of the value of the Commonwealth Meteorological Department was given some time ago. At a time when the indications on the coast of Queensland pointed to a continuance of fine weather, the meteorological station at "Willis Island in the Pacific gave warning of an approaching storm, with the result that the people of Queensland, particularly those engaged in shipping, were prepared for the cyclone when it arrived. The department contains a number of enthusiastic officers who are doing excellent work, but they cannot be expected to forecast weather conditions for any considerable distance ahead.

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