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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Mr JOHN THOMSON (Cowper) . - I am glad that the Minister of Trade and Customs availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself this afternoon to introduce this Bill, since the transfer of the lighthouse service to the Commonwealth has been too long delayed. It has been under the consideration of successive Ministers for many years, and the service has been, to some extent, neglected because the States have not thought it desirable to expend any considerable sum upon it, in view of the fact that it was likely to be transferred in a very short time to the Federation. I wish particularly to draw the attention of the Minister to the Solitary Island lighthouse, which is deserving of special consideration. The name of the island suggests the loneliness of the place. It occupies a prominent position on the New South Wales coast, is about six miles from the mainland, and is one of the most important reporting stations that we have. The lighthouse serves not only to warn shipping of the rock on which it stands, but to furnish information as to the movements of shipping along the coast and the condition of the weather. At the present time, however, the lighthouse keeper can communicate with the mainland only by means of flag signals by day, and by Morse lamp by night. It may readily be understood that in stormy or foggy weather - and the island is on one of the stormiest parts of the coast - it is utterly impossible on the mainland to pick up the signals. The station, consequently, is often isolated for two and three days at a stretch, with the result that much valuable information is not available, and a great deal of inconvenience is experienced. We have asked for a considerable time that the lighthouses shall be connected by telephone with the mainland, but the excuse always given by the PostmasterGeneral has been that, since the light house service is State-owned, such a work could not ba undertaken by the Commonwealth. I hope that with the passing of this Bill steps will immediately be taken to lay a telephone cable between the island and the mainland. It is scarcely necessary to recall to the memory of honorable members a very sad occurrence on Solitary Island a year or two ago. The daughter of the lighthouse-keeper became seriously ill, and ultimately died. The weather was so bad that it was impossible to communicate with the mainland, and the body of the unfortunate young woman had to remain there for several days before a coffin, or the material for making one. could be sent over Further inconvenience was caused by the inability to communicate with Newcastle, but ultimately, after the body, to the distress of the deceased's friends and to the horror of the community, had Iain for some days on the island, it was eventually taken away by a tug which had to be sent up from Sydney. This distressing incident would not have occurred had there been telephonic communication with the mainland. I ask the Minister to take a note of my request, and to see if arrangements cannot be made without delay to supply this much-needed want. The Solitary Island lighthouse is of considerable importance. A number of men live on this very small rock off the coast of New South Wales, and they should have, at all times, the means of communicating with the mainland in case of sickness or misadventure.

Mr. FLEMING(Robertson) [6.13J.-I wish to add my protest to those which have already been uttered this afternoon regarding the proposal of the Commonwealth to take over the lighthouses from the States at a valuation and only to pay interest in perpetuity in respect of them. We have been told by the Minister of Home Affairs, by way of interjection, that 3^ per cent, per annum is a very fair rate of interest to pay in perpetuity.

Mr Tudor - The honorable member was not present when I introduced this Bill or he would know that I am simply trying to give effect to the action taken by the late Government.

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