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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- I am very much interested in wireless telegraphy, and should like to see it installed between Thursday Island and Papua. Such an undertaking requires inquiry and the command of funds, and I agree with honorable senators who say that we should be asked to vote specific sums only for some specific purpose. The Postmaster-General, in his memorandum, tells us that he wants £10,000 for wireless telegraphy, and does not know where the money is to be spent. He says that he is going to make inquiries, and when he has done so will call for tenders for certain installations, and we have not the faintest notion where they are to be. I never previously heard of a vote being submitted, and a Minister justifying it by saying, " I shall make inquiries as to when and where it should be spent, and what amount should be spent." This is a good illustration in support of my contention that we are asked to vote money in an extravagant and reckless fashion. Let me give one reason why I think this vote should be struck out. Honorable senators will very likely be called upon to discuss the legality, and also the morality, of establishing wireless telegraphy between Victoria and Tasmania. We are under an agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, and have undertaken to give them a monopoly in connexion with their submarine cable. Can we, in the circumstances, legally instal a system of wireless telegraphy, and can we honorably and morally do it? If Ministers should seriously consider the advisability of establishing wireless telegraphy between Tasmania and Victoria, they will be confronted with the question of whether it would be right to do it in the circumstances. I am inclined to think that it would not. If I sold out a coaching service between two places, and, in doing so, undertook not to carry passengers by vehicles between those places, and then were to take advantage of the latest developments of science and establish communication between them by means of a flying machine, although I might feel legally justified in doing so, I think I should also feel a little ashamed of myself. All the speeches I have heard on the vote go to show that Senator Playford would do well to withdraw the item. I should be prepared to vote money 'for the establishment of wireless telegraphy between Thursday Island and Papua if the Minister, on inquiry, could tell us that it could be done for a reasonable sum, but I am not prepared to support this vote.

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