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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) .- An attempt has been made to make it appear that those who intend to vote for the item are going to commit a very serious mistake. I confess that, when I looked at the item for the first time, it occurred to me that it was quite unusual to ask the Senate to sign a cheque for £10,000, and let the Postmaster-General do as he liked with the money. But when we consider that it is quite outside the run of ordinary items, it puts quite a different aspect on the matter.

Senator Clemons - We ought to be more cautious.

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not think so, although I admit that the subject-matter of the item is very debatable. Certainly there is room for differing as to whether it is correct to pass the item or not. The Postmaster-General, speaking with almost brutal candour, through Senator Playford, has said. " Pass the item. I really do not know where I am going to spend the money. I admit that it is largely required for the purpose of making experiments, but I am not "going to do anything I should not do." To a verv large extent wireless telegraphy is still in its infancy. For the next vear or two any installation would be very largely a matter of experiment. After all. I think there is some justification for the Minister of Defence in asking us to pass the item.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Let us get to a vote.

Senator O'KEEFE - I would advise the honorable senator in future to stick to Papua, and leave King Island alone. It may not be altogether ridiculous to contemplate a very early installation of wireless telegraphy between King Island and Victoria. Within the last few weeks I was a member of a deputation which waited upon the Postmaster-General to suggest better means of communication between King Island and Tasmania or Victoria, and one method suggested was wireless telegraphy. He said it would be a matter for inquiry, and that, if he found that the expenditure would be justifiable, he might accede to the request. Of course, it is entirely a matter for the fullest inquiry, and if it were found justifiable to spend any portion of this item in making an experiment between King Island and either Tasmania or Victoria. I have no doubt that, in his wisdom, the Postmaster-General. or his successor - for probably he will have a successor next year - would spend a portion of this sum in that direction. I feel justified in voting for the item.

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