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Wednesday, 20 June 1906


The PRESIDENT - The Federal Government wish to take over the Meteorological Department and leave the Astronomical Department behind. I do not want that. The Federal Government say that some of the other States are in favour of retaining the Astronomical Branch.

Mr. Price.The two things are so near to each other that if they were separated there would be a duplication of departments. I think the Commonwealth ought to take both.


The PRESIDENT - Whoever has meteorology ought to have astronomy - the two things go together.

Mr. Bent.Yes, that is carried.

Resolved.- " That the Astronomical and Meteorological Departments be transferred to the Commonwealth together-"


Senator Millen - That answers my question.


Senator KEATING - That is so.


Senator Guthrie - Was there no dissent?


Senator KEATING - No dissent is reported.


Senator Best - Why confine the Bill to the Meteorological, Department? There is no harm in taking full powers.


Senator KEATING - I am dealing with these matters in chronological order as far as I can. I have deviated only in order that honorable senators may appreciate thoroughly what has taken place. This is an enabling Bill, and it is a very small one, but honorable senators should be put in possession of all the facts. I propose not to omit a reference to the matter to which Senator Best has just referred, but I will deal with it when I have finished! with the views of the different States. Tasmania apparently has registered no dissent from the resolution of the Premiers' Conference. Her communication, the effect of which '[ have indicated, is dated the 22nd March, 1906, and the Conference was held in April.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Has the Tasmanian Parliament been sitting since then?


Senator KEATING - It is sitting this week, I think. The communication of the Western Australian Government is in conformity with the resolution of the Premiers' Conference ; and although the communication of the Government of South Australia is opposed to the suggestion for the establishment of a Commonwealth Meteorological Department, apparently since then South Australia has agreed with the other States that the two departments should be taken over. In Queensland the objection was not to the transfer of the Meteorological Department, provided the land and buildings were taken over; but the Queensland people are opposed to the transfer to the Commonwealth of their Astronomical Department, which isnot worked in conjunction with their Meteorological Department. It is attached to and associated with the Survey Department of the State, and the Survevor-General of Queensland is the responsible officer for dealing with astronomical matters. Victoria, according to the statement of Mr. Bent, is willing that both departments shall be transferred, and New South Wales has not given anyexpress direct reply to the communications of the Commonwealth, but has apparentlyjoined in with the opinions of the Premiers' Conference that the two departments or none should be transferred. In Victoria, successive Governments have been in 'power when this question has been considered. Since the communications were enteredupon with the Federal Government, Sir Alexander Peacock was in power at onetime: later on Mr. Irvine succeeded him; and still later Mr\ Bent has been Premier. While these communications were proceed- ing, the Federal Government asked that the Government of Victoria should call for a report upon the transfer of the Astronomical and Meteorological Departments to the Commonwealth. A report was obtained from the visitors to the Melbourne Observatory, who consist of a number of representative and scientific men, all of whom are men of attainments. They have gone very carefully into this matter, and have submitted a report which has been published as a parliamentary paper in the State of Victoria.


Senator Millen - Are they a special set of visitors ?


Senator KEATING - They are. They consist of Professor Lyle, Mr, R. J. Ellery, Professor Kernot, Mr. Theodore Fink, Sir Alexander Peacock, Mr. .T. M. Reid, Captain F. Tickell, and Sir Henry Wrixon. That report is a very important document as bearing upon this matter, because it is signed by men who are quite capable of dealing with it in the best interests of the administration of both departments. They reported to the Chief Secretary of Victoria on the 28th January, 1902, as follows: -

The Melbourne Observatory has, in addition to its legitimate work of astronomical observations and research, time service, chronometer rating, tidal registration, and other public requirements allied to astronomy, carried on many other branches of scientific investigation, the principal of which are terrestrial magnetism, seismography, gravitation, and meteorology. No serious objections can be urged against any of these additional undertakings, excepting' meteorology. Meteorology, which consists mainly in the weather service, is no part of the legitimate function of an Astronomical Observatory, and its association with astronomy interferes with the advancement of the latter. This fact is fully recognised in Europe, America, and in other countries where national weather services are conducted by separate organizations, which are in no way connected with Astronomical Observatories. In them one central bureau receives the reports from all stations, classifies and tabulates the observations, give out weather forecasts for the whole country, and otherwise has complete control of the national meteorological work. Hitherto the conti 01 of the Victorian weather service has been unavoidably enforced on the Melbourne Observatory by State reasons of expediency and economy. But, as the weather services of the various States could be carried on in a much more efficient manner if placed under the control of a Central Weather Bureau, devoted entirely to the meteorological interests of the whole Commonwealth, the opportunity now offered of separating meteorology from astronomy should not be lost. We therefore recommend. - 1st. That all meteorological work at present conducted by the Astronomical Observatories of Australia be placed under a Federal Bureau, which should preferably be located in the Federal city, and controlled by a meteorologist of high standing. On the other hand, when we consider the Observatories as purely astronomical institutions, devoted solely to astronomical observations and research, and those demands of the State Government or the public that are germane to astronomy, we think that nothing would be gained either in efficiency or in economy by bringing them under one Federal control. The standing in the astronomical world of the men who at present direct the leadingObservatories of Australia is such, and that of their successors should be such, that they should have a perfectly free hand to conduct whatever investigation or research they may consider appropriate to their individual resources andability in advancing astronomical knowledge. We know of no observatory of which the director has not complete control of the astronomical work. Local considerations also impel us to strongly favour the continuance of the independence of the Melbourne Observatory. It has gained a high reputation by means of the valuable work that has been carried on in it. It has been liberally supported by the Government of Victoria, and has grown into an institution peculiarly creditable to the State. Its equipment is very valuable, and compares well with that of many European Observatories. Its position in the Southern Hemisphere is unique, it being the most southern observatory in the world. In it have been kept for 40 years continuous records day and night of terrestrial magnetism, which are of immense scientific value. Considering these things, we think it would be a matter of deep regret if our Melbourne Observatory were to be deprived of its individuality, and have the high reputation, it has gained over a long period of years merged in some large organization or department comprising all the observatories of Australia. We therefore recommend - and. That the Astronomical Observatories of Australia, relieved of all their present meteorological duties, remain independent State institutions.

That is a calm, cool, dispassionate opinion from men who are capable of appreciating the value and importance of the work doneby these two branches, astronomical and. meteorological. The report was furnished,, we may be quite sure, after' the most careful consideration, and we mav rely upon it that it was not affected by any questions of political or party expediency.


Senator Best - And it was disregarded by the Premiers.


Senator KEATING - It may not have been read bv them.


Senator Millen - If disregarded by them it is affirmed by every competent man throughout the civilized world.


Senator KEATING - The report affirms that it is desirable that the meteorological work should be severed from the astronomical work, and .that the former should bc placed under one Federal control, and recommends that the astronomical work should remain with the States as heretofore. There may be a division of opinion as to whether that latter work should be federalized or not.


Senator Best - It is most difficult to understand why it should affect its efficiency.


Senator KEATING - A certain amount of State or personal pride may be taken in the work which has been done heretofore, and there may be an indisposition on the part of many persons to forego for the States the peculiar advantages enjoyed from being in advance in this particular department of science and investigation. It may be felt that loss would result if federalized with less up-to-date observatories. There can be no question, however, that it is in the interests of meteorology in Australia, and of the great number of persons in every walk of life to whom an up-to-date meteorological service is of value, that the Meteorological Department of Australia should be a Federal Department. There may be a considerable diversity of view amongst persons who are competent to form opinions as to what particular system of organization should be adopted for working a Federal Meteorological Department. There may be many different opinions held as to the nature and classification of the particular branches of work which should be allotted to different parts of that organization. But I think that cold and calm investigation will reveal the fact that if we are to have in Australia an effective and up-to-date system of meteorology we must adopt asystem something akin to that which exists in the United States, although not on such a large scale, in Canada, and in India. The State views we have on these matters are of course the views of the States Governments. Some of the views I have referred to have been communicated by correspondence. One Government, as in the case of Tasmania, has gone directly counter to the opinion expressed by a previous Government. Again, we have the conflict of opinion between the States Governments on the one hand and the permanent officers on the other. Then we have the conflict of opinion between the Government of Victoria and the Board of Visitors to the Melbourne Obseivatory. I think it will be interesting to honorable senators to know what was done at the Adelaide Conference of 1905. The recommendations were dissented from in some paticulars by Mr. Baracchi, the Government Astronomer of Victoria, and he in his dissent emphasized the views which are put forward by the Board of Visitors to the Melbourne Observatory as regards the necessity for an absolute divorcement of meteorology from astronomy in the interests of both departments of science and investigation. But when I read the report, it will be seen by honorable senators that, although the result of the conference was to disapprove of the establishment of a Meteorological Bureau for the Commonwealth, there was no doubt in the minds of all present that something like Federal or organized action throughout the Commonwealth was essential to the success of the Meteorological Department in each State. The Conference . sat in May, 1905. In their reportthey deal first of all with matters astronomical. They say -

The work at present undertaken by the Australian Observatories is that which is most required, and represents a minimum programme. It may be conveniently considered under two aspects.

I do not know that there is anything under the head of " Astronomical " with which I need deal. It relates largely to instruments, observations, manuscripts, and records, and, amongst other things, it recommends -

That absolute and self-recording magnetic instruments be provided for the Sydney, Perth, and Hobart Observatories, and that a Milne seismograph be mounted at Adelaide, Port Darwin, and Hobart.

Under the head of " Meteorological " the report says -

The establishment of one central meteorological bureau to supplant existing institutions, and to singlycarry out the Australian weather services, is, in our opinion, impracticable, for the following reasons : -

Three essentials of an efficient weather service are -

(a)   Accurate observations.

(b)   Rapid distribution of daily reports and forecasts.

(c)   Reliable weather forecasts.

(a)   Under existing conditions, this is provided for by expert criticism immediately the observations are reported at the central State institution. In cases of suspected error, the observer is at once instructed by telegraph to repeat his reading. At present this is done promptly, and the reading is checked and amended. If, however, the control were removed to a central bureau at a great distancefrom the observing stations, this check would be often rendered useless by delay. Moreover, at present, each State Observatory is provided with a complete set of standard instruments, exposed under favorable conditions. It is, therefore, in a far better position than a central bureau to standardize the instruments at out-stations.

(b)   The very earliest information as to present and probable future weather is necessary in the interests of the public, especially those connected with the shipping industries. This is considered so important that recommendations are made by this conference whereby this branch of the service may be improved. If, however, the present methods were discontinued, and the work undertaken by a central bureau, it would lead to an increase in the number of telegrams, and a decrease in efficiency so serious as to deprive the forecasts of most of their value at places remote from the distributing centre.

(c)   At the Intercolonial Meteorological Conference, held in Melbourne in1888, the following resolution was carried : - " No meteorological forecast or prediction made in one colony, and having reference to any other colony, shall be communicated by telegram to any other person or destination than the meteorologist of the colony to which such prediction refers."

Mr. Wraggedissented, and, ignoring this decision, the Queensland Meteorological Department continued its practice of issuing forecasts not only for its own colony, but for ail the colonies now forming the Commonwealth.

In order to see how far these forecasts were fulfilled, a strict record was kept at the Adelaide Observatory for a period of over twelve years (1891-1902), of the local forecasts, and those issued by Brisbane. These were compared with the actual weather conditions during the ensuing twenty-four hours, or the period covered by the respective predictions, with the following results : -

I do not propose to read the results in detail. It is sufficient for my purpose to mention that it is stated that of the forecasts issued from the Adelaide Observatory in that period 83 per cent. were correct, and 17 per cent. were either partially or wholly wrong, while of Mr. Wragge's forecasts for South Australia 62 per cent, were correct, and 38 per cent. were either partially or wholly wrong.


Senator Best - How could they judge fairly, seeing that his forecasts would be of a more general character?


Senator Gray - Was that return checked by Mr. Wragge?


Senator KEATING - No; it was prepared by the man at Adelaide.


Senator Lt Col Gould - I presume that the figures would be fairly correct.


Senator KEATING - I do not think that the officer would be unfair.


Senator Millen - Taking the figures as fair, it is not an argument either one way or the other.


Senator KEATING - No, but in any case, I think it is better that honorable senators should have the views of the Adelaide Conference laid before them.


Senator Lt Col Gould - It is an argument against the establishment of one central bureau.


Senator KEATING - Yes.


Senator Millen - It may be an argument against the particular official who issued the forecast, and not against the system itself.


Senator KEATING - That is the very point I referred to just now. With regard to the question of one administration of the matter, I think there is practical unanimity ; but with regard to organization and details of administration there may be room for great difference of opinion. The report proceeds -

It is, however, highly desirable that a central institution should be established for theoretical and scientific meteorology, where the observations for the whole of Australia should be collected, discussed, and published, and where all the higher problems of meteorological science may be investigated, but such institution should have nothing to do with the daily weather service and issue of forecasts.

There is an affirmation of my statement that there is practical unanimity on the part of those who are competent to judge, that the matter of meteorology should be federalized, but that the details' of administration and the particular methods of organization are matters which form a very wide field for speculation and controversy.


Senator Lt Col Gould - And which this Bill by no means settles.


Senator KEATING - No, and desirably so, I think, as I shall point out presently. The report continues -

The above reasons, and others arising from a consideration of the requirements of the Australian weather service, lead us to make the following recommendations : -

7.   That a Central Institution be established for theoretical and scientific meteorology.

8.   That in each State there shall be an official whose duty it shall be to see that observations are properly taken, and all necessary local information supplied to the public. This official to be the Government Astronomer in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth : but in Melbourne (as the Government Astronomer and his " Board of Visitors" desire to be relieved of all meteorological duties on account of his more extended astronomical and scientific work) : also in Brisbane and Hobart, where there is no Government Astronomer, the Weather Department shall be in charge of an officer appointed for the purpose, to be styled "State Meteorologist."

To that paragraph" there is a note stating that Mr. Baracchi dissented, and referring the reader to Appendix A. He did not dissent from a proposal that he should not be the Meteorologist in Victoria, but be dissented from the recommendation that the Government astronomers in the other States should do this work. He was of opinion that it was a matter which should be separately dealt with.


Senator Lt Col Gould - That the Government Astronomer should be relieved from that work?


Senator Millen - Who represented New South Wales at the Conference?


Senator KEATING - Mr. H.E. Lenehan, Acting Government Astronomer.


Senator Millen - The officer in charge of astronomical work, and not the officer in charge of meteorological work.


Senator KEATING

9.   That the weather services of Queensland and Tasmania be placed on a basis similar to that of other States.

Queensland's position now is very different from what it was some years ago. In Tasmania very little provision is made upon the Estimates' for carrying out this work, which, nevertheless, has been carried out there excellently by Mr. Kingsmill.

10.   That weather forecasts shall be issued by each meteorologist for his own State, and for that State only, and shall be telegraphed immediately to the meteorologists of the other States, who shall see to their prompt publication.

11.   That a system of storm warnings for coastal districts shall be established upon some uniform basis for the whole of Australia, the warnings to be issued when considered necessary by the forecasting officials, each for his own State.

12.   That a definite period, say half an hour, shall be reserved each day by the Telegraph Department, during which weather telegrams shall have precedence. (This is the practice' in the United States.)

13.   That weather forecasts and storm warnings shall likewise have precedence over all other telegrams.

14.   That astronomical and meteorological telegrams shall continue to be transmitted free throughout the Commonwealth, but under amended regulations, in order to avoid the delays and difficulties which now occur.

15.   That meteorological reports be transmitted and exchanged on Sundays in order that weather charts, forecasts, and synopses of the weather may be available for all days of the year without interruption.

16.   That postmasters having charge of meteorological instruments shall take all necessary readings, &c, and forward reports, as required, without any special remuneration, as is now done in several of the States.

17.   That it is essential that meteorological out-stations be periodically inspected.

18.   That uniform methods of publishing the daily weather information are desirable, similar forms to be used in each State.

No matter how desirable they might be, these are proposals which would be difficult to carry out as long as the departments remained under separate State control -

19.   That each State Meteorological Department should have a room at the General Post Office of the State, to which all weather telegrams shall be transmitted, so that no delay may occur in publishing the samefor the information of the public. Facilities should also be provided by the Postal authorities of each State for exhibiting at the General Post Office and other selected offices weather maps and bulletins.

20.   That daily reports should again be exchanged with New Zealand, and similar information should also be supplied by New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, and Fiji.

21.   That meteorological and ocean current forms be distributed to over-sea shipmasters, the results to be discussed and published by one State or the central bureau.

22.   That each observatory shall not, as at present, issue an annual statistical report, but until the establishment of a central bureau as recommended in (7), the observations shall be collected by one of the Government Astronomers, and published upon some uniform basis as 'a report upon the Meteorology of Australia. It is suggested that this work be done by the Adelaide Observatory.

From that recommendation Mr. Baracchi dissented, and gave his reasons.


Senator Guthrie - Because the work was not to be done in Melbourne.


Senator KEATING - I do not think that was the reason. He was. of opinion that the work should not be done. Mr. Baracchi's views on these questions are to be found in an appendix to the report. They are as follow: -

On the question of Federalizing the Australian Observatories now being discussed at this Conference, the Board of Visitors of the Melbourne Observatory has, for reasons set forth in its thirty-seventh report, recommended -

Then come the two recommendations I have read. He continues : -

I fully concur in the above recommendations as the course which, in my opinion, is most suitable to serve the best interests of both meteorology and astronomy.

But as a great diversity exists in the character and administration of the institutions concerned, it becomes necessary to fully consider the practicabilityof the above recommendations. In the following remarks I propose to point out how these recommendations could be carried out : -

The Federal Government is empowered, but not necessarily bound, to take over those Departments which carry on -

1.   The meteorological work.

2.   The astronomical work.

This involves three probable cases, namely : -

(a)   That the State Weather Services, alone, be taken over by the Commonwealth Government, leaving the astronomical work under the independent control of each State.

(b)   That both the Meteorological and Astronomical Departments of all the States be placed under Federal control in their total capacity.

(c)   That neither the Meteorological nor the Astronomical Department be taken over by the Commonwealth Government, but that they be left to their respective States, as at present.

As tothe first case - that the State weather services be taken over, and that the astronomical service be left to the States, Mr. Baracchi says -

Under this regime the main difficulties arise in regard to the Observatories at Perth and at Adelaide, where local conditions, interests, and opinions are against the divorcement of meteorology and astronomy ; but an adjustment can bo made to permit the weather services alone to be transferred to the Commonwealth, leaving the astronomical under State control, as at present. For this purpose I recommend -

That a Central Weather Bureau should be created, and eventually located in the Federal Capital, with a new and specially qualified man at its head.

In each State capitalthere should be a weather office, with a chief, to be styled the " State Meteorologist," subject to the control of the Central Weather Bureau.

The duties of the Central Weather Bureau should be the general administration of the whole weather service of the Commonwealth, the preparation and publication of all meteorological statistics and results, the investigation of all problems connected with the meteorology of the Commonwealth as a whole, and with the progress of meteorology as a science.

In the weather office of each State capital the State Meteorologist should issue the daily forecast for his own State, and that State only, deal with all local questions, distribute timely information, and serve local interests under the regulation of the Central Bureau.

He then sets out what he thinks should be the work undertaken in each State, but as these are matters of detail, the consideration of which is not involved in the question of the control of the Meteorological Department, I shall not read them all. He mentions, incidentally, that -

The Weather Office of the State of New South Wales should be located at Sydney, but quite apart from the Astronomical Observatory, and the director of the latter should be entirely relieved of any control whatever over the former.

The Victorian Weather Office should be at Melbourne, but separated from, and independent of, the Melbourne Observatory, which should have no duties whatever in connexion with the weather service.

The South Australian Weather Office could, on account of the reasons given earlier, remain, as at present, at the Adelaide Observatory, in charge of the Government Astronomer.

The Western Australian Weather Office could, for the same reasons, also remain, as at present, at the Perth Observatory, under the direction and control of the Government Astronomer. In both cases, however, the above arrangement is, in my opinion, and in that of my Board, against the best interest of astronomy and meteorology.

Under this proposal, the Government Astronomer of South Australia would act in two capacities. In the one case, as Astronomer, he would be a State servant.


Senator Guthrie - Not now.


Senator KEATING - But under Mr. Baracchi's proposal he would occupy two positions. As Astronomer he would be a State servant, and as the Chief Weather Officer he would be a Federal servant. The same remark would apply to the Government Astronomer of Western Australia. With regard to Queensland and Tasmania, the officers would be purely Federal. In Queensland the Astronomical Department is administered by the Survey Department, whilst in Tasmania the astronomical work may practically be put down at nil.Mr. Baracchi continues : -

Under the above arrangement the Astronomical Observatories at Sydney and Melbourne would remain purely astronomical institutions, maintained by their respective States.

The Hobart and the Queensland Weather Offices would be entirely Federal institutions, dependent on the Central Weather Bureau.

The Brisbane Astronomical Observatory would remain an independent establishment of the Queensland Survey office, under the sole control of the Chief Surveyor.

The Astronomical Observatories at Adelaide and Perth would still be State institutions, but their directors would also take charge of the weather offices of their respective States, and in the latter capacity would come under the control of the Federal Weather Bureau. The adjustment of this apparent anomaly could be arranged by the directors remaining State officers, and the Federal Government paying a proportionate part of their salaries, the salaries of the meteorological assistants, and a proportionate part of the cost of the maintenance, &c, of the office.

That is in the case of the taking over, of the Meteorological Department alone. Mr. Baracchi deals much more briefly with the second case - the proposal to take over both departments. He writes with regard to these -

In this case the Observatories of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth would come under the Commonwealth in their total capacity, and the time service of Brisbane and Hobart would also become Federal work.

Should this course be decided upon by the Government, I recommend -

That the astronomical work of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth be controlled, so far as may be necessary or desirable, as reagards co-ordination and distribution, by a Board of Visitors for each of the four Observatories, should be nominated by the Federal authorities, and consisting, as in the case of the present Board for the Melbourne Observatory, of University professors, high officials possessing expert knowledge, and other leading men.

These Boards should meet annually at their respective Observatories, and report to the Federal Government as to any steps required in the general interests of astronomical work.

With regard to the third case, that neither of the departments be taken over, he says -

In this case it is only necessary to point out that, -were the astronomical observatory and weather services to remain under the control of the States, as at present, the recommendations embodied in the report of the Conference -

Under certain conditions would still be applicable. He says, in conclusion -

I wish to explain, in conclusion, my reasons for dissenting, from my colleagues at the Conference on the two vital question in clauses 3 and S. In regard to clause 3, I am of opinion that, if any method of ruling is to be laid down as to the character of the astronomical work to be undertaken by the Observatories, the ruling body should not be the Astronomers themselves, but a Board in each State similar to that in connexion with the Melbourne Observatory.

In regard to clause 8, bearing in mind the recommendations of the Board of Visitors, in which I fully concur, that the absolute separation of astronomical from meteorological work is desirable in the interests of both these branches of science, it follows, as a consequence, that the weather services at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth should be in charge of persons other than the Government Astronomers. If, in my recommendations, set forth in this appendix, I have suggested that the weather services at Perth and Adelaide continue to be conducted by the Government Astronomers of those States, it was only in order to avoid difficulties of a local nature in the transference of the Observatories to the Commonwealth.

My objection to the last clause (22) is that it would be inexpedient and undesirable, at present, to assign any part of the functions of the Central Weather Bureau to any one State institution, until we know definitely what action will be taken by the Federal Government with regard to the future of the existing Observatories.

Having regard to the disposition on the part of Queensland to transfer its Meteorological Department, with the condition that its equipment and land iba taken over, and also to the further fact that the opposition of the Tasmanian Government to the establishment of a Commonwealth Meteorological Department must be considered in conjunction with the contrary opinions held bv its predecessor, and that the present Premier gave his adherence to the resolution passed at the Conference of Premiers - having regard to all these facts and' to the views expressed by such a competent body as the "Board of "Visitors to the Melbourne Observatory, we may take it that there is in official circles a general preference for the federalization of the Departments of Meteorology. So far as the disposition of South Australia to oppose the establishment of the Meteorological Bureau is concerned, I think we may 'read it, in the light of this report of the Conference of Meteorologists, which unmistakably approved of some uniform action throughout the whole of the States. It seems to me that they are opposed, not so much to the principle of federalization itself, as to a particular system. What the particular system should or should not be if the Department is federalized is a matter for the most careful consideration. Some of these gentlemen oppose anything in the nature of national forecasts as distinguished from local forecasts, and the illustration given in the report, of the contrast between the local forecasts of South Australia, supplied from the Adelaide Observatory, and those supplied by Mr. Wragge, is used as an argument in favour of local forecasts! as against those issued from a central office. A good deal may be said on both sides of that question.


Senator Millen - We have conclusive' evidence from the United States in favour of central forecasts.


Senator KEATING - America affords some excellent illustrations as to that, and I think that Canada also furnishes instances of a most efficient service being provided at a comparatively small cost. In Canada: A Memorial, edited and published by E. B. Biggar, of Montreal, in 1889, there is a reference to this matter under the heading of " Marine." At page 167 the author writes -

There have been thirty-four new stations added during the year to the meteorological service. During nine months of 1S81 there were issued 404 warnings of approaching storms, of which 331 were verified.

Honorable senators should not lose sight of the fact that this was seventeen years ago, and that meteorology as a science has since made considerable advances -

This service, which is increasing in value each year, was organized in i87r with forty-six stations in all, and at an expense of $5,000. In 1876 the daily forecasts of weather, known as " probabilities," were first issued. In that .year roi stations in Canada and six in Newfoundland reported by telegraph, of which fourteen sent reports three times a day. On these reports, and on a collection of reports from the United Slates, the daily forecasts were issued. In 1884, a system of train signals was organized -

That system is used extensively in the United States - by means of which those in sight of railway trains could know the weather from discs shown on the cars indicating " rain," " fair," &c. There are now 354 stations reporting to the central office at Toronto, the whole cost of the service being only $55,000. The director of the service is Charles Carpmael, F.R.A.S.

That is an indication of the work done in Canada so long ago as the date mentioned. Honorable senators would doubtless like to have some idea as to the character and quality of the work that could be done in Australia, and what it would cost. About the time Mr. Wragge's services were being lost to Queensland and to Australia he published a scheme for proper meteorological observations as affecting Australia; and, I think, considered it would be necessary to provide something like £10,000 a year.


Senator Guthrie - Would that cover all the States?


Senator KEATING - That would cover the whole of the States. Mr. Wragge is, at any rate, a man competent to estimate the cost likely to be involved in a scheme to provide Australia with a suitable, efficient, and up-to-date meteorological service, and I should like to take the opportunity to read what he has said.


Senator Lt Col Gould - Has the Minister any other estimate but that of Mr. Wragge ?


Senator KEATING - No; but I think it my duty to inform the Senate what Mr. Wragge's estimate is.


Senator Lt Col Gould - According to one estimate, telegrams would cost about ^10,000 per annum.


Senator KEATING - Of course that would be a matter for administration.


Senator Walker - Is Mr. Wragge in Australia at present?


Senator KEATING - I believe Mr. Wragge is in London. The scheme is set forth in an article originally published in the Pastoralists' Review on the 15th May, 1901. Mr. Wragge says : -

The establishment of a first-class meteorological service, thoroughly practical, and for the benefit of every section of the community, for the entire Commonwealth of Australasia, embracing also New Zealand, New Caledonia, and surrounding areas of ocean, is of immense, nay, paramount importance.

The following, then, are our suggestions : -

1.   The Federal Meteorological Service of the Commonwealth should have a most sure and stable foundation, following the example set by the famous chief Weather Bureau at Washington.

2.   The whole should be managed from one great central office, which, preferably, should be situated near the east coast of Australia, by reason of facilities afforded for aggregating telegraphic reports. Brisbane and Sydney form excellent examples.

3.   The central office, on which meteorological researches for all the stations would depend, should be concerned in meteorology only, following the example set by Great Britain, Canada, India, the United States of America, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Roumania, and other civilized countries, and should not be hampered by astronomical work or other branches of science, which, professionally, have no direct bearing on the work of the weather bureau.

5.   The work of the central bureau should be divided into two main points, the one embracing climatological research, and the other forecasting the weather. A sub-branch should deal with ocean meteorology and the study of ocean currents. Data should be collected from all incoming ships, and pilot or track charts prepared, in the interests of maritime commerce and the seafaring community, for all the waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The charts should be similar to those published by the Meteorological Office, London, and the Weather Bureau, Washington, for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Moreover, masters of vessels should be supplied with proper entry forms, and their meteorological instruments tested and examined by official standards whenever possible, and every encouragement should be given to them, embracing, say, certificates of merit for such meteorological logs as are worthy of them. With regard to climatology, it is well known that every physiographical feature, scientifically considered in accordance with latitude, has its own peculiarities of . local climate, different climates on the hill top, slope, in the scrub track, in valleys, on plains, and by the sea coast, as example. All these peculiarities should be studied by the most rigid system, embracing punctuality of observation, and the most perfect method, by the best observers, possessed of the best instruments, in pastoral, agricultural, horticultural, sugar planting, and especially hygienic interests and others.

I read this in detail, not as a scheme to be necessarily approved, but in order that honorable senators may appreciate the work Mr. Wragge had in view when he made his estimate.

If we take agriculture as an example, various plants and seeds require different climatic conditions in which to thrive and germinate, and herein we include a study of the climate of the very ground itself, on which geological factors have a bearing. Moreover, stock can be better raised in certain types of local climate than in others. From the statistics aggregated in the great central bureau, doctors and patients should be enabled to obtain knowledge of those climatic conditions that would be likely to restore an invalid to health. Many other matters should be discussed in connexion with climatology, including evaporation, and solar and terrestrial radiation, also the actinism of the sun's rays, &c, for this branch of research has numerous ramifications, and is of the most practical moment. Household meteorology and the preservation and regulation of a healthy atmosphere in the very dwellings of the people come under this branch, and the public should be encouraged to study the subject by popular brochures issued for their benefit by the central weather bureau. By no means less practical should be the forecasting branch of the work. Forecasts of coming weather, accurate to about 95 per cent., should be promulgated by short telegraphic code words, within, say, three hours from the time of their issue from the central office, throughout Australasia, in which chambers of commerce, pastoral and agricultural clubs, and large business centres, as in the United States, should be included. Forecast signal flags should be hoisted at the principal post and telegraphic offices throughout the Commonwealth, indicating by different colours and designs every coming change of weather, such as hot winds, cold spells, rain, times of drought and floods, directions and forces of wind, cyclonic blows, dews, frosts, electric disturbances, snow storms, and all other meteorological phenomena, and, as has been done in America, special forecast signals should be attached to the guard's van. of mail trains, and also to mail coaches, so that they that travel may read, and such signals would also be availed of by people living near railway lines and general coach tracks. Not only so, but the storm signal service at present in use on the Queensland coast should be improved and extended to the entire Australian seaboard for the great benefit of shipping and passengers by sea. Of so eminently practical a nature are reliable weather forecasts that every interest and vocation in life, from the wealthy squatter and the great shipping companies, down to the humble housewife, are touched by them, and, speaking of shipping, we have no hesitation in saying that by an extension of the forecast signals as proposed, loss of life, wreckage, and commercial damage on the Australasian coasts would be reduced by, say, 50 per cent, if they were heeded.

Then he goes on to other matters about the practical inspection of the different stations.


Senator Best - I suppose Mr. Wragge gives no statement as to how he makes up the £1 0,000?


Senator KEATING - No, he gives no details. Mr. Wragge goes on to deal with the subjects' of a branch bureau in charge of an assistant meteorologist in ea:h State, directly responsible to the central office ; providing observatories or stations, and dividing them into three classes ; details of rainfall ; the nature of the instruments to be used in each ; the standardization of the instruments ; a uniform system as the basis of the service ; the hours of observation ; an international system of exchange of publications, and so forth. Then, after dealing in great detail with the system, he says, in paragraph 17 -

As to the annual vote for such a service as that suggested, we may mention that, although the sum granted annually to the Meteorological Office, London, is ^15,300 (the American vote exceeding this amount), we consider that the service proposed could be well initiated for a sum, shall we say, not exceeding ^10.000. This would be a first-class investment in the interests of Australasia, and would yield sound interest in the well-being of the people.

As I said just now, I do not read Mr. Wragge's scheme for the purpose of influencing honorable senators to believe that, by passing this Bill, it is proposed to establish in detail a similar system ; nor do I ask honorable senators to believe that the actual cost set down there is the cost the Commonwealth might be involved in by the establishment of a bureau. But Mr. Wragge is an experienced man, and he indicates in that article a system which might be adopted with great advantage, as he says, to all classes of the community throughout Australia. By this means information could be supplied which would be reliable and of great value, because, as pointed out, it touches the interests of everybody, from the wealthy squatter to the humble housewife; and in consequence of the information supplied", much damage to property, and danger to life and to person, which otherwise would be incurred, could be avoided. Mr. Wragge points out that such a system would be an excellent investment for Australia, and in the light of his knowledge and experience, he is prepared to say that it could be initiated' at an expense of ^10,000. I have quoted Mr. Wragge's words simply that honorable senators may understand what class of work might be effectively clone by a Meteorological Department under the control of the Commonwealth, and that honorable senators may learn what, in the opinion of an expert, who has had very recent experience in Australia, is likely to be the cost. I have only now to refer to something said by Senator Millen by way of interjection. In the Y ear-Book of the Department of Agriculture of the United States for 1899, there appears a report on the work of the, meteorologist, for the benefit of agriculture, commerce, and navigation. This is a most interesting report, but I do not intend to do anything more than refer honorable senators to it. The report appears on page 71 of the volume, and is by Mr. F. H. Bigelow, Professor of Meteorology in the Weather Bureau, to whom I have already referred. There are two passages to which I should like to draw particular attention. On page 84 Mr. Bigelow says : -

The magnificent result of receiving at Washington D.C., and at all the larger cities of the country at the same time, the complete records from one hundred and fifty stations within an hour after the observations are made, is testimony to the skill and experience of the electricians of the weather bureau and the telegraph companies.

A paragraph appears on page 85 which commences with this significant announcement : -

The discovery of the laws affecting the seasonal changes would certainly be of such benefit to mankind in the complex civilization upon which modern life is entering, as to justify the expense and the patient labour involved in such a contribution from each generation to its successor. The crude method of tilling the soil common in these days will certainly give way to an exact economical procedure, based largely upon the result of meteorological research, increasing in precision with the lapse of time. There already exists in the archives of the weather bureau an immense quantity of valuable material calculated to serve these purposes.

When we read that and think of the possibilities of the future, one must see the importance of meteorological work being carried out as efficiently as possible in all the countries of the world. There are some competent to judge who entertain the very strong belief that the work done by meteorologists to-day is but a fraction, and an insignificant and unimportant fraction of the work which, perhaps, will be done by such Departments throughout the world within a short distance of time. If meteorology will be able in, the near future, not only to forecast for us the nature of the weather within a certain area during, say, twenty-four or forty-eight hours, but to predict with something like certainty the character and nature of the season before that season has been entered upon, one can readily understand what an immense influence such a science wil 1 have in the economic production of the world's requirements in the future. The United States has taken action in this direction, and has done good work. I have referred to the fact that Canada has done good work also. The record of her work as far as 1889 is set down in the extract which I have quoted'. More recently India also has been carrying on extensive work within its territories, and has communicated with Australia to ask the co-operation of the Commonwealth in carrying on what, after all, is not the work of one country only, but the work of all the countries of the world. A letter which appeared in a Sydney newspaper, written by Mr. Robert Binnie, .some time ago, contains the following paragraph. He says : -

I note by your issue of the 18th inst. that Mr. H. A. Hunt, meteorologist, of this State, " who has frequently urged the desirability of receiving telegraphic data from as wide an area as possible for weather forecast purposes, has received a communication from the DirectorGeneral of Indian Observatories requesting cablegrams showing periodic changes in the distribution of atmospheric pressure over Australia, in order to assist in the construction of their monsoon or seasonal forecasts; further, that" the cost of such cablegrams is to be borne by the Government of India."

So important does the Government and Director of Observatories of India consider the information which can be supplied from Australia for the purpose of seasonal forecasts, that they are prepared to pay the whole cost for transmitting the information from Australia to India by means of the cable. The letter concludes as follows: -

If Australian data is necessary for the DirectorGeneral of the Indian Observatories, how much more must it be necessary for the local meteorologist, when our rain comes from the tropical zone, and as the India Meteorologist Office is likely to be so much more fully equipped than our own, reciprocity with it is likely to be all in our favour.

What I have said goes to show that the different countries of the world are alive to their responsibilities in this matter, and are fully sensible of the great possibilities opened out bv the scientific pursuit of the science of meteorology.


Senator Dobson - Has the Minister any figures to show the correct forecasts as against the incorrect ones in different countries? Has he, for instance, Mr. Wragge's percentage of accurate forecasts?


Senator Millen - The Minister has mentioned the accurate forecasts for one country - Canada.


Senator KEATING - Yes ; they were for the year 1888, when there were 404 warnings, 341 of which were verified.


Senator Givens - If the information were based upon a wider area the forecasts would be more accurate.


Senator KEATING - And since then,, of course, there have been greater opportunities for observation. ' The science has been brought more up-to-date, and we may assume that the percentage of accurate results would be very much higher. Mr. Wragge estimates in the report which I have quoted that an Australian meteorologist should be able to issue forecasts that would be verified up to 95 per cent. We may expect in the near future that meteorologists will be able to attain something like accuracy in seasonal forecasts. The 0 immense advantage of this in a country like Australia must be apparent to everyone, as the seasons here vary more than they do in some other countries. This is a country which, according to experts, lends itself most readily to the study of meteorology, and, not only for its own sake, but for the benefit of other countries, meteorological research can be conducted in Australia with very great advantage. I feel perfectly certain that if we establish a Meteorological Department, working on efficient and uniform lines, we shall1 be able to repay ourselves, if not directly, at any Tate indirectly, many times over. For these reasons, and at this juncture, in framing legislation to enable us to assume control of the Meteorological Department, it is desirable that the terms of our Act should be distinctly wide and elastic. We must legislate before we can assume. We cannot take over the Departments of the States by proclamation, nor do they come to us by the direct operation of the Constitution. We are empowered to legislate with regard to astronomical and meteorological observations. This is, in fact, an enabling Bill to empower the Government to acquire from the States their responsibilities and their duties in regard to meteorological observa-tions. We want as far as* possible to advantage ourselves of the existing institutions. Honorable senators - who, I must acknowledge, have paid me the very courteous compliment of following very closely, even when I was reading from some of these very dry reports - have recognised the diversity of conditions existing in the different States. Mr. Baracchi, for instance, makes the recommendation that the States of Western Australia and South Australia should be differently treated, and again differentiates in the cases of Queensland and Tasmania. All these different local conditions must necessarily be considered by the Administration in exercising the powers that I trust will be reposed in it by the passage of this Bill. It is for that reason, as well as for many others, that it is absolutely necessary that the Bill should be as wide as possible in its terms, so that the Government of the day may be enabled to assume the control of these departments, either simultaneously, or as near as possible simultaneously, and may have due regard to the varying conditions of the different States, the varying degrees of equipment and efficiency of their departments, and the cost attendant upon the assumption of them. I have here in some detail an account of the equipment attached to each department in each State. Some of the equipment is for meteorological purposes almost solely. Some of it, on the other hand, is for astronomical purposes mainly. But I speak of that which is used for meteorological purposes, including the land and the buildings, as well as particular instruments. If any honorable senator wishes to have this information I can supply it to him before we finally deal with the Bill. The measure provides that the GovernorGeneral may establish observatories, which, are defined in the Bill as meaning places for " the purpose of meteorological observations." In empowering him to establish observatories, we are not therefore granting power to establish astronomical stations, but places purely for meteorological observation. The Governor-General is empowered to appoint an officer, to be called the Commonwealth Meteorologist, who is to be charged with the following duties : -

The taking and recording of meteorological observations ; the forecasting of weather ; the issue of storm warnings; the display of weather and flood signals; the display of frost and cold waves signals; the distribution of meteorological information ; and such other duties as are prescribed to give effect to the provisions of this Act.

In addition to those provisions, there are others, enabling the Commonwealth to arrange with the States Governments for the transfer of the Meteorological Departments of the States, and for securing the services of State officers wherever necessary for taking the records which would be essential for the Meteorological Department of the Commonwealth; and the Government is also empowered to make arrangements with the States for the interchange of information between the Commonwealth and the States. Further than that, provision is made for the Governor-General to enter into arrangements for other matters which may be incidental to the execution of the purpose of the measure.


Senator Dobson - What is the present arrangement with regard to the interchange of information?


Senator KEATING - The Commonwealth is receiving none whatever. There is, however, a certain amount of interchange between the States.


Senator Millen - Are the telegrams being sent free now?


Senator KEATING - The cost of them is debited to the respective States. Though it may be said to be only a bookkeeping matter, still they are paid for. If ^100 worth of telegrams are lodged in New South Wales they are debited against that State ; but of course the State also gets the credit of some of that revenue in the adjustment between Commonwealth and State.


Senator Millen - Does the payment come out of the 73 per cent, of Customs revenue?


Senator KEATING - No, because the Post and Telegraph Department's accounts are kept separately from the Customs accounts. The cost of the telegrams is debited in the first instance to the State which sends them. There is no provision in the Constitution, it will be remembered, with regard to the payment of only a certain proportion of the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department to the States. I have gone more fully into this matter than might at first sight appear to be necessary, as this is such a small Bill. But the object I had in view was that honorable senators might see that we have to legislate before we can, assume control of these departments, and that in legislating we must have regard to a variety of conditions and circumstances, onlY a small portion of which X could possibly deal with in the time I had allotted to myself, but which are all revealed by the reports and by the correspondence before me.

Debate (on motion by Senator Lt.-Col. Gould) adjourned.







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