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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) . - I do not think that the information, if it can be called information, which the Government have vouchsafed justifies us in voting ,£10,000. At the same time, there have been demonstrations of the practicability of wireless telegraphy between Tasmania and Victoria, and sooner or later that means of communication may come into general use, where it is not expedient or commercially economical to lay cables. Under the circumstances, I feel justified in voting for the reduced sum of £5,000. I make this explanation, because I am of opinion that, having put our hands to the plough, we should not turn back. If the Government were to frankly ask for ,£4,000 or £5.000' for the purpose of making further experiments, which the Commonwealth Government could very well, and, probably, ought to make, I do not think we should refuse to vole the money.

Senator Clemons - The Commonwealth has not spent any money yet.

Senator MULCAHY - That is so; the expenditure has been gladly undertaken by those who hold the rights to particular systems of wireless telegraphy, and up to the presenttheir work has been satisfactory.

Senator Turley - It is their place to demonstrate the practicability of the system.

Senator MULCAHY - They have done so. There are places where cables have been laid, and have been damaged several times; for instance, between Swan Island, where there is an important lighthouse, and the mainland of Tasmania. There are other places similarly situated where it might be a matter of urgency, 'when the cables have parted, to establish more permanent communication such as that afforded by wireless telegraphy. It will be seen, therefore, that there are some reasons for intrusting the Postmaster-General with a sum of money for purposes of the kind, which cannot be definitely described without further expert knowledge. The criticism which the Government have received on this matter is thoroughly well deserved. The Minister of Defence is in the habit of bringing important questions before the Senate in a most slipshod manner. After placing on the table proposals for usto worry at without proper explanation, he later obtains information which he ought to have had at hand at first. The honorable gentleman now contends that we ought to pass the motion, because he has been "brutally frank" enough to say that he knows nothing about the matter. Had it not been for the speech of Senator Guthrie, we should have been justified in throwing the item out ; but under the circumstances I shall support the reduced vote of £5,000.

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