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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Senator FRASER (Victoria) . - I have listened with pleasure to the speech delivered by Senator Millen, and must say that I heartily indorse it. It is to be regretted that the whole of the States Departments of meteorology are not to be brought into line. It seems that it is proposed to appoint a Commonwealth Meteorologist who will have no power unless the States Departments choose to work harmoniously with him. I am afraid that our knowledge of human nature does not warrant the belief that thev will. Laws relating to meteorology and astronomy are within the scope of the Federal Parliament, and I cannot see what objection there should be to the States Departments being taken over and consolidated into one magnificent institution, which, if based on the J lines of the departments of Canada and the United States, would be of immense value to the Commonwealth. When I was on the hustings I pointed out that we had six Agents-General when one ought to suffice, and six Astronomical Departments when one should be sufficient. When Mr. Wragge was the Government Astronomer of Queensland great confidence was shown in his forecasts by mariners, and also by pastoralists in most parts of Australia. Queensland got rid of him in an extraordinary fashion.

Senator Trenwith - He was too dear for Queensland, and the whole of Australia would not pay for his services.

Senator FRASER - Queensland had struggled under a long and serious drought, and the Civil Service of that State suffered most severely in the retrenchment which thus became necessary. It was found imperative to get rid of really good men, because of the dilemma in which the State found itself.

Senator Gray - It was hardly as bad as that.

Senator FRASER - It was quite as bad.

Senator Givens - What could the honorable senator expect of the Governments of (hat daw which consisted of men of his own kidney ?

Senator FRASER - It is a pity that the Government are not prepared, as it were, to put their foot down, amd to say, " We will take over the States Departments that we have power to federalize." I do not suggest that the States officials should be harshly treated. Thev would not suffer any loss of rights by being transferred, but those who had reached the retiring age should be pensioned off. In this way a great saving would lae effected. People complain with good cause that we have six Agents-General instead of one, that we have six Departments of Meteorology when one would suffice, and that we are spending large .sums in securing telegraphic information when the whole system should be simplified, amplified, and greatly improved. The producers, as well as the mariners of Australia, who, since the retirement of Mr. Wragge, have been lacking much information, would be greatly benefited bv the establishment of one Federal Department. The forecasts issued bv the Government Astronomer of New South Wales have certainly improved of late, but the information at the disposal of our pastoralists and mariners in regard to the weather is hot what it was in Mr. Wragge!s time. That gentleman had a wider experience, and i h'adj made a very careful study of the subject. It is better that the Bill should not to be passed than that one officer should be appointed and left dependent on the States Departments for his information. We need a strong Government, prepared to take the bull by the horns.

Senator Givens - The bull might take them on his horns.

Senator FRASER - If the Government would only tackle him in a proper way they would find that he is, after all, only a very small animal. I do not suggest that these officials should be treated improperly or in a niggardly fashion. We have been in existence as a Commonwealth for five or six years, and this is one of the first matters of administration that should have been taken over. In Canada the Meteorological Department is looked to toy the whole State. In Australia for many months we have had monsoons, and have been flooded with inches of rains, and yet we have had no forecasts, beyond, perhaps, a telegram, which should have been published long before if proper arrangements had been made to cover a wider sphere. The people are determined that this transfer, which would result in much saving, shall be made; and I hope that the reply of the Minister will prove satisfactory.

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