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Wednesday, 1 August 1906
Page: 2142

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - There can be" no two opinions asto the usefulness of this measure. It relates 'to one of those peculiar Federal functions, the discussion of which is not characterized by any conditions of political storm. Perhaps it is just as well that thisBill is being ushered into the Chamber during a dead political calm.. One is very much impresed with the present stormy aspect of things, and it doesoccur to me to be fitting that, this proposal should be originated when things appear to be set so fair. Of course, I speak of the present only. The present aspect of the Chamber may be merely the calm which is the prelude to the storm. That remainsto be seen. But just at present indicationsare decidedly of a peaceful character, and? perhaps it is well that we should discussthis question amidst such surroundingsIt may be that the reason why the atmosphere in the Chamber is so calm is that the measure under consideration is a really useful one. If it were less useful to the peopleoutside, and to the Commonwealth as awhole, it is just possible that more attention might be devoted to it. and- that agreater degree of animation might be manifested. I think we shall do welt to pass the Bill, and I rise chiefly 4o point out that, in my judgment, the Minister of Home Affairs is proceeding far too cautiously. He is dealing with this matter in altogether too tentative a fashion. It is a subject upon which we are empowered to legislate under the Constitution, and in regard to which I think we ought not to hesitate to carry out our functions to the full. It is one of those matters in the control of which I think we can show "greater economy and efficiency, and altogether furnish the people with more substantial advantages than can the separate States. By this time every man and woman in Australia is intensely interested in a proposal of this description. Now-a-days we are all accustomed to our weather forecasts, and in that respect we are well catered for by the daily press of the Commonwealth. Almost every child looks at the newspapers to see what the weather is likely to be, before attending a picnic or any other small family conviviality which may be arranged from time to time. Consequently, this is a matter which reaches to the ramifications of our home life as weN as to every corner of our business and commercial experience. I hope that in taking over this new Department we shall endeavour so to widen its scope 'as to make even for more accurate weather forecasts than we obtain to-day. Of course, it is to be expected that, in assuming these new functions, State feelings, prejudices, and predilections may be disturbed. But we cannot help this rustling in the State dovecote when we proceed with the amalgamation of these departments for the purpose of securing a unified - and, we hope, a more effective - control. One is not surprised to find State officials looking askance at proposals for federalizing them. It was somewhat amusing to hear the Minister relying so much upon the recommendations of State officials.

Mr Groom - Some of the gentlemen 'to -whom I referred are not State officials. For instance, I mentioned Professor Lyle, qf the University.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought that they were all State officials. At any rate, Professor Lyle would be merely a visitor. The Conference, I understand, was an -official one?

Mr Groom - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We can understand State officials looking askance at a proposal which means some diminution in their prestige, and, perhaps, in the total number of these observatories, should they be taken over by the Commonwealth, and placed under a unified control. Consequently, I do not know whether we Ought to pay too much attention to their recommendations. For instance, who would expect agreement amongst them regarding a proposal to take over some of their State judicial functions, which would necessarily mean the retirement of a number of their State Judges? Who, for example, would expect unanimity in the event of a favourable recommenda-tion, from a Commonwealth stand-point, concerning the amalgamation of our State Agricultural Departments? So we might - go through the whole list of these Departments, all of which view with a very great deal of misgiving any proposal to unify them, and bring them under one control. The same objections were urged against our action in respect of our Statistical Department. Scarcely any of the States - acting on the recommendation of their officers - could see any advantages to be gained from a Federal tabulation of our statistics, but all could see many benefits to be derived from the maintenance of the States Statistical Departments. . So it is in connexion with our States Parliaments. Who would expect any of them to suggest any diminution in their so-called sovereignty and of the functions which they at present discharge? Is there not a constant tug-of-war' going on between the Federal and State authorities, which tugofwar, I fear, will continue for many years, or, at least, until the permanent relations of the Commonwealth to the States have been fixed ? There must necessarily be friction, and consequently we cannot pay too much attention to recommendations which come from State authorities, and which have to do. with the maintenance intact of State functions. Nevertheless, it is our duty to assume, as far as possible, a unified control in connexion with purely Federal functions. If Federation is intended to mean anything at all, it means that Federal control of these departments must lead to greater economy and efficiency than can be attained by the States acting separately. The Meteorological Department is one of those in regard to which we may take up a bold and safe stand, so far as those functions are concerned. It would have been better if the Minister had been able to formulate for us some estimate of the probable financial requirements of these Departments. For instance, he should have been able to show us whether we were going to effect any saving in the cost of their control or to secure a much more efficient service for the same' amount of money that the States are now expending. The Bill might very well have been accompanied by an estimate of the advantages which would be conferred by the Federal as opposed to the State control of the Department. But I do not think that the matter needs to be seriously argued. Everybody will admit that we can do very much better by a Federal control of these functions than can be accomplished by the States in their separate capacities. Why there should be any hesitation in taking over the whole of the astronomical observatories, as well as of the meteorological stations, I am quite at a loss to understand. I am aware that the matter presented difficulties some time ago, when Mr. Russell - who had a sort of prescriptive right to his position by reason of his long service, and the way in which he had associated himself with his Department - filled the position of Government Astronomer . in New South Wales. A similar difficulty was presented in South Australia in respect of Sir Charles Todd. But both of these officers have now retired in the evening of their lives, after having rendered very effective service to their respective States, and, consequently, there need be no longer any delicacy in assuming control of that Department.

Mr Glynn - We do not need a clearing; house for astronomical observations.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It occurs to me that we do not want half-a-dozen such observatories.

Mr Glynn - We must have local observatories,

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps the honorable and learned member will tell us why ?

Mr Glynn - The greater the number; the greater is the efficiency that is secured.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that several observatories are, perhaps, needed in Australia, but I do not think that we require six or seven separate astronomers in the six different States. O.wing to our separation, and the way in which we have been apt to regard these matters, these observatories have grown up, but I have yet to hear any valid reason for continuing them in all their trappings and expensiveness.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We want certain observations to be made in each State, but we do not require observatories there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. It seems to me that if 'we had a central astronomical observatory as well as a central meteorological station. Ave might very well reduce some of our State institutions, and thus save the funds necessary to maintain and equip our central observatories, at the same time making the system a more effective one than it is at the present time.

Mr Glynn - In the United Kingdom, they have several astronomical observatories established within a much smaller area.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have a number of these observatories in Australia outside of the Government domain. For instance, in New South Wales, one of the very best astronomical observatories is a privately-owned one. It has been established in my own electorate, at Windsor. I think that everybody in Australia has heard of Mr. Tebbutt and his observations. He is one of the best men in the Commonwealth, and all that he does is done at his own expense, and in pursuance of his own private studies. _ Nevertheless, he renders very important service to the Commonwealth as a whole, and there are many others in Australia who betake themselves to that study quite apart from its bread-and-butter aspect. They make it a private hobby. It 'will thus be seen that in Australia there are probably many more than six astronomers. Indeed!, we might multiply that number many times over before we ascertained the total of those who are earnestly engaged in studying the heavens and in conducting astronomical observations. But w,hen we speak of this matter in its official sense, we have a right to see that we spend no more than is necessary for the purpose of providing a complete and fully-equipped institution. Therefore we should do well to unify our astronomical as well as our meteorological observatories. I entirely concur in the remarks of the Minister as to the advantages which the Bill will confer, upon the commercial community. I think that we might make much more use of meteorological knowledge than we do at the present time. Indeed, one of the results of Federation up to date has been a distinct curtailment of this information in the various States. I know that it has been so in New South Wales, and I venture to say that that remark applies more or less to other States of the Union.. I do not think that we have yet seen -a side of the. development of our Federal functions which we shall see, if we extend our powers as we should, and make our equipment as complete as possible. For instance, it is a fact that in many European countries they so easily and accurately forecast the development of storms as to be able to warn the public not only as to the approach of floods, but as to dangers associated with mining, and so forth. I remember that it was a common thing thirty years ago for one to find in the English morning, newspapers a warning to mining districts that certain depressions were approaching, and that miners should beware of outbursts of gas and falls of earth, which might be caused by the disturbance. So far as I am aware, nothing in that direction has been attempted in Australia. That may be owing to the extent of the area to be covered, but it occurs to me that if we had full control of the geographical limitations of Australia we might so arrange our observations as to make our forecasts valuable to those engaged in mining as well as in pastoral, agricultural, and other pursuits. That is one side of meteorological development about which we know very little in Australia. There may be geographical difficulties in the way, but I should not think so, since, in some countries, it is found possible to forecast storms two days before their actual approach.

Mr Groom - Where is that?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was referring to European countries. The development of the work of the bureau in the direction I have just indicated might very well be kept in mind. The Bill itself is drawn on a very moderate scale, and I think that the Minister would have acted wisely had he taken the cherry whole instead of making two bites at it. It is hardly worth biting at it in this piecemeal fashion. The honorable and learned gentleman spoke of the position in the United States of America, and told us that there were several stations-

Mr Groom - Seven forecasting districts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - America is a very large place, and these stations are, no doubt, designed to disseminate rather than to collect information.

Mr Groom - There are seven large forecasting districts, and there are smaller districts employed in the distribution of forecasts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be so; but I do not know that, in this regard,

America and Australia are parallel. America has a settled population of 80.000,000 people, whilst we ha%'e a population of only 4,000,000. In other words, we have six observatories for a population of 4,000,000, whilst the United States of America, with a population of 80,000,000, has only seven observatories.

Mr Groom - There are four astronomical observatories in Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking now more particularly with regard to weather bureaux. The Bill is a very small one, and I notice that it contemplates the taking and recording of meteorological observations by State officers. What is meant by " State officers " ? Is the term intended to apply to officers ki the Meteorological Department ?

Mr Groom - It covers any State officer. Some of the observations may be taken by police officers and others.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I dare say that there are many hundreds engaged in connexion with the weather reports.

Mr Groom - There are 4,000 persons voluntarily engaged in taking observations for the Astronomical Department of the United States of America, and many persons interested in shipping do the same in England. .

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think we should have any difficulty in this regard if we gave a little more encouragement to voluntary effort.

Mr Groom - We have in some cases voluntary effort.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We should save much trouble, and be able to distribute much more accurate information, if we encouraged voluntary effort. At present our operations in this regard are often confined to one official in a district, whereas many people would be glad to take up the work as a labour of love, if we supplied the necessary' instruments.

Mr Groom - In one provincial town in Queensland there is a society which voluntarily carries out this service.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I notice that the Minister also contemplates an interchange of meteorological information between the Commonwealth and States authorities. Why should there be provision for such' an exchange?

Mr Groom - Because this is concurrent legislation, and the States may desire to continue the Department under their own control. We may not be able to compel them to transfer the Department to us.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it is not likely that the States would continue their bureaux upon the establishment of a Federal institution.

Mr Groom - This provision is only for greater caution.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that be so, nothing more need be said about the clause, I repeat that the only mistake made by the Minister is in failing to provide in this Bill for the transfer of the Astronomical as well as the Meteorological Departments. He should not have paid too much attention to the States authorities, who are very much interested in the maintenance Qf States institutions in all their dignity. He might very well have brought down an estimate showing that a saving would be effected, and that more efficient scientific results would flow from the taking over of both branches. Had he done that, we should have had no difficulty in convincing the States of the superiority of Federal over State control. That, after all, is what we have to do. It is because of our failure to do so that the States are so shy of the surrender of functions which have been given to us) under the Constitution. The moment we can show them that the Commonwealth can carry out work of this kind to greater advantage than they, can, the people as a whole mav safely be left to determine in favour of Federal, as against the continuance of State, control.

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