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Wednesday, 16 November 1910
Wednesday, 16 November 1910

The President took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.


Wireless Telegraphy Stations : Sydney and Fremantle.

The PRESIDENT. - I Have received an intimation from Senator Givens that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., " the delay which has occurred in the erection of wireless telegraph stations at Sydney and Fremantle ".

Four honorable senators having risen in theirp laces,

Senator GIVENS(Queensland) [2.32]. - I move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 11 a.m. to-morrow.

I have taken this course because the establishment of wireless telegraphy in Australia is a very serious matter, and one which is entitled to the fullest discussion. I am aware that a debate upon this question took place in the other Chamber yesterday, and that, consequently, it may seem superfluous to discuss it again to-day. But the chief feature of the debate in the other branch of the Legislature was the pathetic way in which the present PostmasterGeneral attempted to whitewash his predecessor, and the equally generous way in which the ex-Postmaster-General endeavoured, to whitewash his successor. Each loudly declared that if in office he would have done precisely what the other did. I say that if neither of them can do better, the sooner both are wiped out of public life the better. Such a disgraceful mess as has occurred in connexion with the contracts for the erection of wireless telegraph stations in Australia has no parallel in our history. Here is an important matter, which has been under the consideration of the Commonwealth authorities for the past six years. Tenders were called for the establishment of two wireless telegraph stations in Australia, and the contracts were let on the 4th April last - over seven months ago. Yet neither the contracts nor the guarantees in connexion with them have been signed.

SenatorNeedham. - Does the honorable senator wish to saddle the present Administration with the whole of the blame?

Senator GIVENS.-No. I am merely pointing out the position as it exists to-day. I am free to confess that, under ordinary circumstances, there might be some excuse for such a complete mess being made of an important public contract - a mess which might extend over a month or two. But the present deplorable muddle has continued for seven months, and it is no nearer being cleared up now than it was when the contracts were entered into. I think, too, that when honorable senators ask the Government for information on matters of public importance, the information should be supplied, to them fully and frankly. Last Thursday I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General for certain information in regard to this question, and replies to my questions were given by the Honorary Minister. Yesterday I asked further questions, and received further replies. But the replies which were furnished yesterday were a complete contradiction of those which were furnished to me last Thursday. The answers given in another place were also a complete contradiction of the answers supplied to me last Thursday. I claim that when honorable senators ask for information the Government ought not to supply it in the most disingenuous way. I am quite aware that Ministers merely read out the replies which are furnished to them by departmental heads. But it does not matter who is responsible for those replies - my complaint is just as grievous.

SenatorMillen. - There can be only one Government responsible for the delay which has occurred - the Government which accepted the tenders.

Senator GIVENS.-I will come to that aspect of the question presently, if the honorable senator will allow me to proceed in my own way, as my time is limited. On Thursday last I asked particularly if it was not a fact that the Marconi wireless telegraph system was adopted by the British Admiralty, and that that system was installed on the ships of the British Navy. I was assured by the Honorary Minister that it was not a fact, and that the system installed upon those vessels was an entirely different one. I accepted the replies in good faith.

SenatorFindley. - The honorable senator might read the answers which were given.

Senator GIVENS.- Certainly. I asked -

Is it not a fact that the vessels of the British squadron stationed in Australia and also the Australian torpedo boats, are fitted with the Marconi wireless system?

The reply given was -

The ships of the British squadron stationed in Australia are understood to be fitted with the special Admiralty system of wireless, which is not identical with the Marconi. The Australian torpedo boats are being fitted with wireless apparatus by the Marconi Company'.

As a matter of fact, the ships of the British Squadron aras fitted with the Marconi system, though a slight modification of it may be adopted by the Admiralty, to suit the exigencies of the Naval Service. But the British Admiralty are paying the Marconi Company several thousands of pounds annually. for the use of the Marconi system. I repeat that I accepted the Minister's reply in good faith, and no doubt he thought that it was absolutely accurate. But it was not. Honorable senators have a right to complain when they are supplied with inaccurate information, because such information does not permit of them arriving at proper conclusions upon any public matter. I also asked whether Admiral Poore had been consulted upon the question of the wireless system to be installed in Australia., and whether he had offered certain advice. In reply, I was coolly told that he had not been consulted, and that no advice had been obtained from him. The reply was -

No. Admiral Poore. personally was not consulted. The Admiralty, however, was consulted, and nominated the officer then in charge of wireless for the squadron to act as member of a Conference which considered the tenders. It was on the advice of this Conference that the tender for the Telefunken system was accepted.

I was quite prepared to believe the statement that Admiral Poore had never offered an opinion upon this question, and yet I was told, in answer to a question which I asked yesterday, that he had offered a very decided opinion. In such circumstances, what am I to believe? Yesterday I asked -

Is it not a fact that Admiral Poore expressed a decided preference in favour of the Marconi wireless system as against the Telefunken?

The reply given was -

No. Admiral Poore, however, before tenders for the Sydney and Fremantle stations were received, advised that from a strategical point of view Marconi's installation should be fitted,- as, owing tq the existing contract with the Marconi Company, H.M. ships would not be able to communicate with the shore stations or carry out any trials with a view to testing the installations if any other system were adopted ; but in a subsequent communication Admiral Poore advised that the Admiralty were released from the obligation against inter-communication with stations fitted with other than Marconi apparatus, and that the restrictions on H.M. ships from communicating with or carrying out trials with any shore stations fitted with apparatus other than Marconi will, therefore, no longer apply.

In another communication the Admiralty advised that, subject to the system selected being able readily to communicate with H.M. ships and to inter-communicate with any other system in use, the Commonwealth may adopt what system they please, and need not confine themselves to any one system exclusively.

So that upon their own showing the replies furnished by the Government on Thursday last were absolutely incorrect. It is a matter for regret that when honorable senators ask for information on matters of public importance they are not supplied with full and frank replies. It is quite true that an answer may be technically correct from the stand-point of the wording of a question. But I would point out that an honorable senator would require to know what is the actual position to be able to frame a question which could not be evaded.

SenatorFindley. - Surely the honorable senator does not insinuate that there was any desire on the part of the Government to withhold information from him.

Senator GIVENS.- I have already said that' I believe Ministers are merely the mouth-pieces of departmental heads.

SenatorFindley. - If we are " rubber stamps," God knows what position previous Ministers occupied.

Senator GIVENS.-It is obvious that if the contracts for the erection of wireless telegraph stations in Australia were let on the 4th April last, the present Government cannot be blamed for having entered into those contracts. But I fail to see how they can escape censure for having permitted the existing muddle to continue during the six months that they have been, in office. The sooner that muddle is cleared up the better. _ But how did the muddle occur? The Government practically invited tenders to all and sundry for the erection of wireless telegraph stations, but they never took any steps to enforce the conditions of tender. The' result is that to-day we find ourselves in this position : A contract was let seven months ago, but we are no nearer to a settlement, and to the establishment of wireless telegraphy in Australia, than we were before. Every civilized country in the world has installed a wireless system in some shape or other. We have had two torpedo-boat destroyers built for the Commonwealth service. There are installations of wireless telegraphy on those vessels. What is the use of the installations on our ships at sea whilst we have no stations on shore to receive messages from them? It is absolutely useless to have the installations on the destroyers under those circumstances. The British Admiralty have erected wireless telegraph apparatus on all their stations in every part of the world. Vet we in Australia are lagging so much behind. In Canada, where there is a population somewhat similar to our own, and where practically the same conditions apply, there are thirty wireless telegraph stations. Yet -we have not a single one, and the only attempt we have made has landed us in a complete muddle. As far as my information goes - that is to say, as far as I am able to make my information public; because I am in possession of certain confidential information which I cannot use - I believe that a sort of ephemeral company was formed in Australia, called the Australian Wireless Company Limited. It was formed for the puropse of exploiting the needs of the Common wealth for the erection of wireless telegraph stations. It was a well- known fact that, as far as the company was concerned, it had neither the experience nor the capital, nor any other qualification, for engaging in the work.

SenatorFraser. - The company had enterprise !

Senator GIVENS.- The company was formed with a total capital of .£5,000, but my information is that only £300 of that was paid up. However, by a subsequent resolution the company, at a meeting held this year, increased its capital to £12,000. That is the nominal capital, but how much of that large sum has been paid up I am unable to say. Whatever the real capital may be, however, the company has never attempted to do anything to carry out its contract. The only thing it has succeeded in doing so far, is to get from the Commonwealth Government an advance of 50 per cent, on the original contract for carrying out ohe station ; and the probability is that the company will be able to put a pistol at the head of the Commonwealth Government to get another 50 per cent, advance for the carrying out of the other station. The question arises as to whether the company will be able to carry out its contract at all; or whether, if the contract was carried out, it would be of any. use to us.

SenatorClemons. - Does not the question arise as to whether there is really a contract at all?

Senator GIVENS.- The contract has never been signed in the strict legal interpretation of the term.

Senator Lt. -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - The tender has been accepted, has it not?

Senator GIVENS.- A tender was ac- cepted on the 4th April this year, but no contract was signed, nor have the guarantors yet signed any guarantee for the carrying out of the contract.

SenatorO'Keefe. - In the face of that fact, has the company received an advance of 50 per cent. ?

Senator GIVENS.- The company has increased its price 50 per cent. The company offered the Telefunken system to the Government at £4,150 for each station. The tender price for the Marconi ' system was somewhere about £19,000 for each station, but the Government apparently never inquired as to the value that they were to get for each of those two offers. The Marconi Company offered its complete invention, which is protected by patents in every part of the world except in Germany. The company' offered its full patent rights to the Commonwealth to be worked in every part of Australia.

SenatorMillen. - That is to say, the Government could have fitted out every station they required when they had obtained the patent rights of the Marconi system ?

Senator GIVENS.- Yes ; under the conditions of tender the Marconi Company were offering to the Commonwealth Government all their patent rights. But the Telefunken Company were giving nothing at all, because they had no patent rights outside Germany. In Germany the Marconi system is not fully protected, and the consequence is that the Telefunken Company has practically pirated a great deal of the Marconi Company's patents.

SenatorFindley. - That is what every patentee says.

SenatorLynch. - Would it not be illegal to do -that?

Senator GIVENS.- Not in Germany. The Marconi Company's inventions are patented all over the world, but for one reason or another its rights are not fully protected in Germany, and the Telefunken Company has practically raided the Marconi Company with respect to a certain portion' of its patents in that country! The consequence is that, were the Telefunken Company's system to be established in Australia, the Commonwealth Government would be practically liable for infringement of the Marconi Company's rights, because this Telefunken Company, according to' all we can learn, would have only £300 of paid-up capital, and we should be left stranded. Surely the fact that the Marconi Company was offering to us the full rights 'over its patents in Australia should have been taken into considera- tion in the letting of the contract. Again, we were told by the Minister that at least 40 per cent, of the wireless systems of the world are under the Telefunken system. I should like to know where the Government got that information from. I have before me a list of no fewer than forty-one of the greatest steam-ship companies in the world, the vessels of every one of which are fitted with the Marconi system. All the vessels crossing the Atlantic, and all those trading to Australia, are fitted with the Marconi system, with the exception of the German mail-boats. All the important Admiralty stations in the civilized world are using the Marconi system. The same system is in use by Canada, by. the United States, by Belgium, by Italy, by Chili, by the Argentine Republic, and by numberless other countries. From what source, then, did the Minister get the fact, alleged by him to be correct, that 40 per cent, of the wireless systems of the world are under the Telefunken system? Will the Minister give us a list? It appears that Ministers are merely trying to shelter themselves behind a general statement, and to obscure the fact that a very great mistake has been made," for. which, however, I do not entirely blame the present Government, who are not wholly responsible. It is also a fact, which I have on the best authority, that out of every nine messages received from ships crossing the Atlantic eight are sent under the Marconi system. Yet we are told that it is advisable for Australia to adopt the Telefunken system. Surely the reasons given are totally insufficient.

SenatorLynch. - I thought the honorable senator was opposed to monopoly?

Senator GIVENS.- It is not a question of having anything to do with a monopoly. We want to establish the best system.

SenatorLynch. - The Telefunken system must have some merits, or it would not be in use on all the German steamers.

Senator GIVENS.-The honorable senator talks about monopoly. The Marconi Company would have had no monopoly. They offered to sell to the Commonwealth Government all their patent rights for something like a reasonable and fair sum, and to give us a service which Australia would have used in common with all the other civilized countries of the world. I maintain that we ought not to be satisfied with anything less than the best.

SenatorMillen. - The very fact that the German Government have accepted the Telefunken system for use in the German Navy might be a very good reason why we should not adopt it.

Senator GIVENS.-That strikes me as being a very reasonable remark. I asked the Government whether it was not a fact that the Telefunken system was essentially a short-range system, whilst the Marconi system was the only one which could be used for very long ranges - for distances over 1,200 miles, as specified in the contract. The Minister assured me that the Telefunken system was quite as capable of sending wireless messages over very long distances as the Marconi system. My information is, however, that the Telefunken system, as was insinuated in my question, is essentially a short-range system, and that the Marconi system is the only one which is efficient for very long ranges.

SenatorFindley. - That is what persons interested in the Marconi system say.

Senator GIVENS.- Ido not know anybody connected with the Marconi system in any part of Australia.

SenatorFindley. - I am not saying that the honorable senator does.

Senator GIVENS.- Nor have I received any communication from any one connected with the Marconi system.

SenatorFindley. - Information does not come from Mars.

Senator GIVENS.- It is an interesting question - How did the Australian Wireless Company get this contract from the Commonwealth Government, and how were the conditions for the contract made out? The conditions, as a matter of fact, were made absolutely impossible of fulfilment by any wireless company.

SenatorVardon. - Who were the company which secured the contract from the Commonwealth Government?

Senator GIVENS.- I have here a list of the shareholders, which I shall be happy to show to any honorable senator. The principal shareholder - and I think the principal guarantor also - is Mr. H. R. Denison, one of the chief men in the Tobacco Combine. I do not know the names of the directors ; I have simply a list of the shareholders.

Senator SirJosiah Symon. - What is the capital of the company ?

Senator GIVENS.- I have already explained that the company was formed with a total capital of£5,000 ;. but my information is that only£300 was paid up.

Senator SirJosiah Symon. - I should say that, on the face of it, that fact condemns the bona fides of the company.

Senator GIVENS.-I have said that the conditions of contract were such that no wireless company could carry them out. The conditions were that the stations erected should be capable pf sending messages over 1,200 miles in any conditions of weather, and should also be capable of receiving messages in any weather conditions. As a matter of fact, there is no wireless system yet invented which can guarantee to receive messages over a distance of even 5 miles in all weathers; because the electrical disturbances at certain times are such that it is not possible to send wireless messages at all until the weather clears up. It is not possible to guarantee to send or receive wireless messages during thunder storms. But these people came forward and put in a tender which was very low compared with the tender of the Marconi Company. If the company were really a bonâ fide concern, why was the tender so very low? The answer is plain on the face of the thing. The tenders were issued for two stations only ; whereas it is a matter of notorious fact that if the Commonwealth of Australia is to be efficiently and well served with wireless telegraph stations, it must have at least twenty or thirty stations byandby. The company in question, therefore, tendered a very low price because they said to themselves, " Once we get these stations established under our system, the Commonwealth will have to pay whatever price we like for other stations, because the Commonwealth will be compelled to have a uniform wireless system all over Australia."

SenatorFraser. - The company had the Government in a hole.

Senator GIVENS.- The company could not have had the Commonwealth Government in a hole if the Government had kept their eyes open, and had gone about this matter in a business-like manner. The proper way to settle a matter of this kind would have been for the Commonwealth to take the right to establish other stations at not more than 25 per cent. advance on the price for the establishment of the stations for which the tenders were accepted. Thenthe Commonwealth could have proceeded to construct as many more stations as it liked.

Senatorrae.-At schedule rates.

Senator GIVENS.-At schedule rates. That was a way to get over that difficulty.

SenatorSayers. - But the Government did not even try to get over it.

Senator GIVENS.-In the limited time at my disposal I cannot go into this matter at length. I have no desire to put the Government to any inconvenience or to make capital for any political party or individual out of it, but I say that the matter is of so much importance that it should command the attention of this House, and particularly of the Government, at the earliest possible moment. It is on the face of it a ridiculous state of affairs that a contract let seven months ago has not yet been signed, and that there is no possibility of it being signed in the near future, or of our being able to get out of the mess without severe loss. If the Commonwealth is to suffer a loss in connexion with this matter we had better submit to it straight away rather than delay the establishment of wireless telegraphy, which is a public convenience in every civilized country to-day. It is useless, apparently, for us to go on witha contract like that now under consideration. The trouble seems to have arisen from the fact that, in the first instance, the Commonwealth authorities did not know exactly what they wanted or where wireless stations should be established, nor did they know which was the best system to adopt, and they had no persons here competent to advise them in the matter with the exception of the officers of the Australian Squadron. In the circumstances, it is passing strange that the decided expression of opinion by Admiral Poore in favour of the adoption of the Marconi system was not acted upon, especially in view of the fact that the two Australian torpedo-boat destroyers now in our waters are fitted withthat system. Wireless communication can only be made between the two systems with great difficulty, in spite of the assurance of the Minister to the contrary. There is a legal difficulty in the way also, since the Marconi peopie object to the use of their system to communicate with stations in which the Telefunken system is installed, except in cases where such communication is necessary to relieve actual distress. It should not be forgotten that the Commonwealth vessels in which the Marconi system is installed will suffer from that limitation. Inall the circumstances we are entitled to a full explanation of the whole matter. It will require a good deal of explanation to satisfy any one why a contract let over seven months ago has not yet been signed, and we have no guarantee for the due performance of its conditions. I should like to know why such loose conditions and specifications were agreed to when the contract was let. I hope the Government will be able to give the information asked for, and that honorable senators will express a decided opinion in favour of having this very important matter cleared up.

Senator FINDLEY(Victoria- Honorary Minister) [3.3]. - Senator Givens in his opening remarks said, in effect, that there was a good deal of back-scratching between the present and the late PostmastersGeneral.

SenatorGivens. - No, " whitewashing."

Senator FINDLEY.- It comes to the same thing. We were told that the pre sent Postmaster-General said kindly things of the late Postmaster-General, and that these were reciprocated by Sir John Quick. Let me say that the present PostmasterGeneral would be but a very poor man if he did not give credit where credit is due.

SenatorGivens. - There is nothing but discredit due in connexion with this matter.

Senator FINDLEY.- It has been urged by certain honorable members in another place, and also by members of the Senate, that a wrong step was taken in the acceptance of a tender from an Australian company.

SenatorGivens. - " Made in Germany."

Senator FINDLEY.- That is a very empty cry. I have as much regard for a German in Australia as for an Australian. I deprecate the attempt to introduce racial differences into the consideration of this matter.

SenatorMillen. - The honorable senator raised the question.

Senator FINDLEY.-No, I did not. It was Senator Givens who said " Made in Germany."

SenatorGivens. - In reply to the honorable senator's statement.

Senator FINDLEY.- I do not know why the Marconi system should have been mentioned. It is not made in Australia. We are dealing in this matter with an Australian company composed, so far as I know, almost wholly of Australians. The names read out by Senator Givens are the names of well-known citizens.

SenatorGivens. - I read out only one name.

Senator FINDLEY.- I thought the honorable senator also mentioned Mr. McLeod, of the Bulletin.

SenatorClemons. - They seem to have put up£300 between them.

Senator FINDLEY.- If any member of this Senate possessed as much wealth as one of these gentlemen is reputed to have, he would indeed be a wealthy man.

SenatorMillen. - The gentlemen referred to will not be liable. It will be the£300 company.

Senator FINDLEY.- Senator Millen is evidently familiar with the company and its resources.

SenatorMcColl. - Let us have the reply.

Senator FINDLEY.-If the honorable senator will bear with me for a moment he will find that the reply will be given. There is nothing to conceal in connexion with this matter. The responsibility for the acceptance of the tender does not rest upon the present Government, since it was accepted by the previous Administration. Five tenders were received, and that of the Australian company for £4,150 was accepted. The tender of the Marconi Company was for £19,050.

SenatorMcColl. - Are not a number of privileges included?

Senator FINDLEY.-There is not one privilege named in the conditions of contract.

SenatorGivens. - Can the Minister say why the present Government do not insist that something definite shall be done?

Senator FINDLEY.-The present Government have been doing all they possibly can in connexion with this matter. The fault for any delay in the matter does not lie altogether with the company whose tender has been accepted.

SenatorMillen. - Why has the contract not been -signed?

Senator FINDLEY.- There are reasons for the delay in signing the contract. The Defence Department and the Admiralty were consulted before tenders were called. The Defence Department authorities agreed to the insertion in the contract of certain sites for wireless stations. When the tenders were received the Defence Department and Admiralty authorities dealt with them, and at their Conference no question as to the establishment of an inland site was raised. Later on, when the actual location of the site for the establishment came on for consideration, the Defence Department and Admiralty authorities stipulated for an inland station, and that was a departure from the original terms of the contract.

SenatorFraser. - The contract had not been signed. There is no contract until it is signed.

Senator FINDLEY.-I feel sure that Senator Fraser knows that the acceptance of a contract by any Commonwealth Department imposes a binding obligation upon that Department.

Senator SirJosiah Symon. - Not until the contract is signed.

Senator FINDLEY.Iam informed that the acceptance of the contract makes the Department liable. There has been a departure from the original conditions, not by the contractors, but by the Admiralty and Defence Department authorities.

SenatorMillen. - Dates are important in this connexion. When was the alteration of the conditions proposed?

Senator FINDLEY.-In August last.

Senator SirJosiah Symon. - Is not the acceptance of every tender conditional upon the contract being signed?

Senator FINDLEY.-The honorable senator has more knowledge of the law than I have, but I am afraid that the departmental authorities consider them. selves legally bound when they have accepted a contract. When the departure from the original conditions of the contract was proposed the Australian company informed the Department that it would involve additional labour and expenditure.

SenatorGivens. - To the extent of 50 per cent.

Senator FINDLEY.-In the circumstances, they naturally felt disinclined to proceed with the contract.

SenatorGivens. - Why does not the Government let them go then?

The PRESIDENT.- Order !

Senator FINDLEY.- The contractors, then asked for -additional payment, because of the departure from the original conditions. The departmental authorities consider that an additional payment of £2,000 would be fair in the circumstances, and that was granted.

SenatorGivens. - Was the contract then signed ?

Senator FINDLEY.- The contract isnow being proceeded with, so far as Pennant Hills is concerned. The company are carrying out all that they undertake to carry out in respect to the Sydney contract. Some difficulty has arisen with respect to the site to be selected in Western Australia. The Admiralty and Defence - authorities have been at variance in regard to a suitable site there. The blame for delay, it will be seen, does not rest upon the contractors, nor altogether upon the Postmaster-General's Department. I feel sure that every member of the Senate desires that the most suitable site in Australia shall be selected for the installation of this most necessary system. After all, the delay of a month or two is preferable to proceeding with the erection, of these wireless stations on sites which may afterwards be found to be altogether unsuitable. Senator Givens has complained that the information for which he sought was not given him in the replies which I, as the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate, gave to the questions which he put to me yesterday. So far as I can follow those questions, the answers given to them are complete. If the honorable senator is unable to set out in the form of a question the information he desires, the fault lies with him, and not with the Department or myself.

SenatorGivens. - If the honorable senator takes that line in future, he will hear all about it directly.

Senator FINDLEY.- Senator Givens said he would like to know how many stations throughout the world are fitted with the Telefunken system. I am not in a position to state the places throughout the world that are fitted with this system, but I am able to say that out of 1,800 wireless telegraph stations established throughout the world 800 are fitted with the Telefunken system.

Senator Lt. -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - In what territory?

SenatorFraser. - They may all be in Germany.

Senator FINDLEY.- The departmental officer informs me that they are scattered throughout the world. There are some in Russia, in Germany, Belgium, and in other countries. All the main centres in Russia are fitted with this system, but I have not complete information as to the places in which it has been adopted. I wish to repeat that the responsibility for the acceptance of the tender does not rest with the present Government, because it was accepted by the last Administration, and if any unnecessary delay has taken place it is not due to any fault on the part of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. There have been differences of opinion on the part of the Admiralty and the Defence Department. So far as I can gather, the successful tenderers are disposed now, and have been disposed since the acceptance of their tender, to proceed with the works, and carry out the conditions specified. But owing to the site being taken outside the specified area, difficulties have arisen in respect to Sydney nnd Fremantle. The difficulty in regard to the Pennant Hills has been removed. The contract is being proceeded with, and it is hoped that it will be completed within a very short time.

SenatorGivens. - Has a contract forthe Pennant Hills station been signed yet, and has a guarantee been signed?

SenatorGuthrie. - Who is proceeding with the work - the contractor or the Government? The latter are laying the foundations.

Senator FINDLEY.-The departmental officer informs me that there is only one point to be settled before the contract is definitely signed, and that is the period in tvhich it should be completed.

SenatorMillen. - Is that set out in the conditions of tender ?

Senator FINDLEY.- There was a time specified in the conditions, but owing to a departure being made from the conditions by the Admiralty and the Defence Department, the contractors asked for a reasonable time in which to complete the work. I feel sure that that additional time will, in justice to them, be conceded.

Senator Lt. -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - But has a time been fixed yet?

Senator FINDLEY.-No; that question is under consideration. The Department is in communication with the contractors, and it is hoped that a date will be fixed within a week or so.

Senator Lt. -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - It ought to have been fixed concurrently with the extra sum which was agreed to be paid.

Senator FINDLEY.-That has not been done.

SenatorClemons. - Is it the intention of the Department to complete the contract ?

Senator FINDLEY.- Yes, we have no reason to doubt the bona fides of the Australian company. There is a large disparity between the two tenders - over £15,000.

SenatorMillen. - It is not a disparity of£15,000, because, according to Senator Givens, one tender covers more than does the other.

Senator FINDLEY.-I am told that it does not, and that the conditions are exactly the same.

SenatorFraser. - We ought to have the papers before us, in order to judge for ourselves.

Senator FINDLEY.-The departmental officer informs me that the conditions are exactly the same, and that the statement made by Senator Givens is incorrect. There is no reason for any grave anxiety on the part of honorable senators, because the work will be proceeded with as speedily as possible, and stations will be installed which will be suitable to the different localities, and, I hope, satisfactory to the constructing Department and to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales) [3.19] - I venture to assert that nothing which has been said in this debate, and nothing which is likely to be said, can constitute such a caustic indictment of the officers of two Departments as did the reply of the Honorary Minister. In the first place, I wish to indorse Senator Givens' complaint in regard to replies which are furnished to the Senate. There is a practice for officers of Departments to take advantage of, perhaps, an ill-chosen word, the purpose of which is obvious enough, to give either a partial reply, or one which, in the circumstances, is misleading. Every honorable senator can recollect that a question has been asked, the meaning of which has been obvious, and that the reply which was put in the mouth of the Minister, and which took advantage of the phrasing in the question, caused a laugh. Why?

SenatorO' Keefe. - Did the honorable senator, when he was a Minister, take steps to correct that?

Senator MILLEN.- If the honorable senator wishes to know, I sent back answers. I am speaking as the result of my experience. I can only appeal to the Senate, which knows that what I am saying is correct, that more than once laughter has greeted the reply to a question. Why? Because it was recognised that the reply fenced with the question.

SenatorO' Keefe. - It is time that we removed those officers.

Senator MILLEN.- It is a practice which ought not to exist, and which certainly does not treat the Senate as it ought to be treated.

Senator Lynch.- It is of no use to blame officers.

Senator MILLEN.- A Minister cannot always watch a question which is handed in here in the afternoon. It is forwarded to his officer, and I venture to say that, in nine cases out of ten, he does not see the reply until he comes to the table here.

Senator McGregor.- He has no right to give an answer which is wrong.

Senator MILLEN.- He must give the answer.

The PRESIDENT.- I hope that the honorable senator does not propose to enter into a long discussion of that question.

Senator MILLEN.- I am finished, sir. Before I deal with the tender itself, I wish to refer to the question of the responsibility for its acceptance. There can be no doubt that the date fixes the responsibility on the previous Administration. But the facts which were known then are not those which are known to-day.

Senator Findley.- They are exactly the same.

Senator MILLEN.- We have received to-day a little information which shows that the facts which were then in the Government's mind are not those which are present to-day.

Senator Findley.- The difficulties in regard to the site arose before the present. Government came into power.

Senator MILLEN.-Whilst the responsibility for the acceptance of the tender was with the previous Ministry, everything which has, or has not, transpired since the end of April must, if there is to be any responsibility, rest with the present Ministry. Let us examine the Minister's statement. On the 4th April, a tender was accepted, and at the end of that month the present Administration came into power. Apparently, after that date, something transpired in reference to the selection of a site. I cannot conceive of a greater instance of departmental bungling than that disclosed by the Minister's statement today. Tenders were invited, apparently, in the most haphazard fashion - without the Department knowing where it intended to place the stations, and without a preliminary inquiry which would have elicited necessary information for inclusion in its invitation of tenders. This went on until August, when a site at Sydney was decided on, and an additional sum of £2,000 was offered to the contractors.

Senator Givens.- And a contract was not signed then.

Senator MILLEN.- It is not signed now, and, I understand that it need not be signed if Mr. Denison and his colleagues are not so disposed. It is two months and a half since the matter of the site was determined, and apparently we are not much nearer the completion of the contract, nor has a period for its completion been fixed. If there was a time when that ought to have been done, it was when the Ministry agreed to give the extra sum. Surely, when you undertake to revise a contract, and agree to pay a higher price because of additional work, or work which is alleged to be additional, that is the time to review the whole matter and the conditions of the contract. If there had been any business capacity, it is then that the Government would have asked, "If we are to pay you this additional sum, what time do you want for completing the contract?" That precaution was not taken.

Senator Givens.- And " Are you prepared to sign it now, and to give us a guarantee? "

Senator MILLEN.- I think it is quite clear that there has been no desire on the part of the company to sign the contract, or the guarantors to sign a bond. One of the gentlemen whose names have been given as guarantors has the reputation of being a man of wealth, but I can quite understand that he would hesitate to sign a guarantee bond for a company whose capital is to be counted by a few hundred pounds. It is immaterial that he is a shareholder in the company. It is a limited liability company, and, therefore, his liability is limited by the number of shares which he holds, but when he signs as a bondsman, his guarantee becomes a personal one, and it would be possible for the company to proceed against him.

SenatorFindley. - The honorable senator is assuming that he is indisposed to sign it.

Senator MILLEN.- Why has he not done so ? I have ' not heard that he has kept Ministers awake clamouring at their premises for permission to sign a bond, nor has the Minister given an intimation that he has the assurance of these gentlemen that they are prepared to complete the contract.

SenatorFindley. - They are, but they want a reasonable time in which to do the work.

Senator MILLEN.-Will the honorable senator tell me why the question of time was not settled when the increased price was arranged ? To my mind, the most deplorable announcement we had to-day was the intimation that the Government propose to go ahead with the work. I venture to say that, during the last few months, there has been a great deal brought to light in connexion with this matter. I believe that it would meet with the public approbation, and make for the advantage and safety of Australia, if the Government, even now, would terminate the work, even although it involved paying compensation to the company, and proceeding on the safe lines adopted by the British Naval authorities.

SenatorFindley. - Does the honorable senator say that we are not proceeding on safe lines?

Senator MILLEN.- I venture to say that there are disabilities attached to this system which explain why it was adopted in Germany.

SenatorFindley. - What are the disabilities ?

Senator MILLEN.- Germany naturally desired to have a system by means of' which it would not be so easy as it would be with the Marconi system to interchange messages with other war-ships. The same thing appeals to us here. Apparently, it appealed to Admiral Poore to have a system which was not essentially that of one of our potential enemies. I think that, in putting that forward, Admiral Poore implied more than he said. It must be an advantage to have the Marconi system.

SenatorFindley. - Since all messages are sent in code in war time, what difference does it make?

Senator MILLEN.- Given enough messages, I undertake to decipher any code you like. I can understand that in the Defence Department there is set out a means of deciphering any code which you happen to drop across. ' It would have been a great advantage if Australia had adopted the system which prevails, not only in the British Navy, but in our own Navy. That is the explanation why the Australian Company tendered at such a ridiculously low price. I am inclined to think that if we looked into the tenders it would be found that the Marconi Company offered something in connexion with the patent rights which was absent in the case of the other company. But, if that was not so, a sinister aspect attaches to the matter. I am not prepared to believe that there is a difference of ^15,000 in a genuine offer under the system. If it undertook to supply the same material and service, it is obvious to be that the buffer' company - the company which stands between the German manufacturer and ourselves - submitted a price knowing that if we installed one Telefunken station we should have committed Australia to that system.

SenatorLynch. - If it is obvious to the honorable senator now, it is strange that it was not obvious to his colleagues in the late Ministry.

Senator MILLEN.- If I have said anything which reflects on a colleague in the late Ministry, I can only say that, if any responsibility is to be apportioned in connexion with this matter, the late Ministry must take their share of it. I am speaking in the light of to-day, not of months ago.

SenatorLynch. - I suppose that the honorable senator reasoned the matter out in this way when he decided to accept the tender.

Senator MILLEN.- I was laid up at the time. But we are speaking to-day with a knowledge which was not then current. To-day we are confronted with this question : " Because a mistake has been' made, shall we persist in the adoption of a system which we have reason to doubt is the best for Australia?" My own judgment is that the Marconi system would be worth infinitely more to the Commonwealth than would the Telefunken system. I regret that the Government have not taken the bold step of declaring that they propose to cancel the contract into which they have entered, to pay the contractors the compensation to which they are entitled, and to establish the wireless system which is in vogue in the British Navy.

Senator GARDINER(New South Wales) [3.31]. - Senator Givens is to be congratulated upon having brought this matter under the notice of the Senate. Whilst I recognise that it is the duty of the Minister to defend his Department, I cannot avoid saying that his defence, in at least two phases of it, was somewhat weak. Misleading answers should never be supplied by any departmental officer to Parliament through a Minister. The sooner Ministers recognise the wisdom of taking up a firm stand in reference to such matters the better. The answers supplied to the questions put by Senator Givens were undoubtedly misleading, and I hope that we have witnessed the last of that sort of thing in this- Chamber. I' do not intend to discuss which Government is to blame for having entered into contracts for the adoption of the Telefunken system. If that system be not a proper one to install in Australia, undoubtedly ' the responsibility rests with the Postmaster-General who accepted those, contracts. But, in the light of recent events, it is patent to everybody that a bungle has been made, and there is even a suspicion of something worse than bungling. I am told that an additional £2,000 is to be paid to the contractors for erecting a wireless telegraph station at Pennant Hills instead of at South Head. I know something about the erection of buildings, and I should very much like to be paid an extra £2,000 for erecting a building at Pennant Hills instead of at South Head. If I also had the right to proceed with the work, notwithstanding that no contract had been signed, I should be upon velvet. This contract savours very much of a system which is in vogue in America, under which options are granted to companies. Many of these companies practically build themselves up upon these options or franchises. It may be that the wealth of one gentleman who is associated with the company to which the contract has been let is a guarantee of its good faith. Personally, I am not acquainted with him, though I have seen his name mentioned in the public prints. But in dealing with contracts, everything should be done in a business-like way - in a way that is safe alike to the Commonwealth and the contractors. If our officers cannot prepare contracts in such a way as will insure that they shall be carried out within a reasonable period, it is time that they were displaced, and that the services of new men were requisitioned. , I am altogether dissatisfied with the present condition of this contract, and with the action of the Government in connexion with it. Now is the time for the Ministry to take up a firm stand, even if by doing so they involve the Commonwealth in a small loss. I venture to say that a loss of £5,000 or £6,000 will be regarded as insignificant if it prevents the Commonwealth from sustaining a greater loss hereafter, and from incurring serious danger in the future. I trust that the Government will initiate the strictest inquiry into all the conditions sur* rounding, not merely the contract, but the contracting company itself. If it be a bond fide company, let the work proceed in a business-like way. But if, after a contract has been let without it being signed, the Government can increase the amount of that. contract by £2,000, where is the matter to end? I am somewhat astounded that the Government do not appreciate the magnitude of such a step. Private individuals do not do that sort of thing. Having entered my protest against the deplorable condition which at present obtains in regard to these contracts. I will resume my seat.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Australia) [3.37]. - When this matter was first mentioned to-day I was under the impression that a great blunder had been committed. But since glancing at a book bearing upon the subject, my view has been considerably modified. I find that the Telefunken system is much better established than I thought it was. We must recollect, too, that wireless telegraphy is a new science, and that as yet it is in its infancy. In these circumstances, it is difficult to say which system is the best one.

SenatorFraser. - But one system is thoroughly established.

Senator DELARGIE.- Quite a number of systems are established. From the remarks of Senator Givens, one would be led to believe that only a single system has been properly established throughout the world. But that is not so. Even in Great Britain itself no fewer than three different systems are in use. The cry, therefore, that our Navy will be able to use only one system is sheer nonsense. As a matter of fact, the Marconi, the de Forrest, and the Lodge-Muirhe'ad systems are already established in Great Britain.

SenatorGivens. - Is the Telefunken system established anywhere in Great Britain ?

Senator DELARGIE.- I do not think that it is, but there are no less than three different systems established there. I would also remind Senator Givens that the Telefunken system has been installed at twentystations in Russia, at thirteen in Austria., at nine in Denmark, at five in Spain, at thirteen in Norway, at fifteen in Holland, and one hundred and fifteen in Germany, and at one in South America. Therefore, it is not the partiallyestablished system which the honorable senator claims it to be.

SenatorGivens. - My point is that it is not the best system for Australia.

Senator DELARGIE.- I am not able to determine the respective merits of the various systems. Nor do I think that Senator Givens can enlighten us upon that matter.

SenatorGivens. - I do not know which is the best system, but I do know that there ought to be uniformity in the matter.

Senator DELARGIE. - There is no uniformity in the matterof wireless telegraphy. Even in Germany there are more systems in use than the Telefunken system, although the latter is the most firmly established. We must remember, too, that an attempt was made to establish a system of wireless telegraphy in Australia some years ago. But nothing came of it, because the Government of the day did not regard the time as ripe for the installation of such a system. But suddenly a cry was raised that the Commonwealth was behind the times, and consequently an attempt was made to establish a wireless system in Australia. When we recollect that a preference has been given to an Australian company, I do not think it can be urged that anything very wrong has been done.

SenatorFindley. - Especially when the Admiralty nominated a man upon whose suggestion the tender was accepted.

Senator DELARGIE. - The fact that our Defence Department approved of what has been done-

Senator Lt.-Colonel SirAlbert Gould. -When ?

Senator DELARGIE.- We heard the statement from the Honorary Minister just now.

SenatorFraser. - It looks as if the company had been created to exploit the Commonwealth.

Senator DELARGIE. - I do not know that. The fact that it is an Australian company is evidence that the Government did a right thing in accepting its tender. Whether the Telefunken system is better or worse than is the Marconi, I am unable to say. Nor is any other honorable senator in a position to speak in a dogmatic way upon this question.

SenatorGivens. - It is the delay which has taken place, and the mess which exists to-day of which I complain.

SenatorLynch. - Is it not better that we should have delay than that wireless stations should be erected in unsuitable places ?

Senator DELARGIE.- Certainly. If the Government choose to alter the conditions of a contract after it has been entered into, they must expect to be called upon to pay an additional price.

SenatorGivens. - Have we any guarantee that the contract will be carried out ?

Senator DELARGIE. - I think we have sufficient confidence in our officers to warrant us in assuming that it will be done.

SenatorGivens. - The alteration in the contract was made, in August, but nothing has yet been done.

Senator DELARGIE.- And if nothing is done for a few months no great calamity will overtake the Commonwealth.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [3.44]. - I am not prepared to express any opinion upon the relative merits of the system which is known by the euphonious name of the Telefunken, and of the Marconi system. But as one who has observed the great advance which has taken place in wireless telegraphy during recent years, it seems extraordinary that we should adopt a system which owes its use and its credit to Germany and Russia.

SenatorFindley. - We are doing it on the representations and advice of the

Admiralty, the Defence Department, and the Post and Telegraph Department.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- That is not what I have gathered from this debate. It has been reported that the Admiral on the Australian Station held a different view. But I did think that it was a very extraordinary thing that we should adopt a system which has been adopted on German war-ships and mercantile vessels rather than a system which has been adopted by the British Navy and generally by the British mercantile marine. Of course, I do not pretend to pit my view on the relative merits of these scientific systems against the views of experts ; but I should think that there are good reasons for adopting the system which is in use in Great Britain and on practically all British vessels rather than a system which is used by certain great Continental Powers, and especially by one Continental Power with which at present Great Britain is engaged in naval rivalry that we all hope may not lead to any bitterness or to consequences that would be greatly deplored throughout the world.

Senator McGregor.- Does the honorable senator think that Germany would adopt a system if it were not up-to-date?

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- I do not think that Germany would. But, at the same time, we ought not to adopt a system which would permit of messages being easily interchanged between German vessels and our shores rather than a system which would render it more difficult for such messages to be interchanged. I do not, however, wish to enter into that matter further, but there are several things in connexion with the subject which have struck me very forcibly. Some of them have been alluded, to in strong terms by Senator Gardiner. The first is that 1 cannot understand the position taken up by Senator de Largie, that it is much better to have delay than to choose a site that might be found to be inappropriate. In the next place, it is said that we are now in a position which binds us to adopt the Telefunken system, and that it is impossible for us to extricate ourselves from the difficulty, if we happen to be in a difficulty. The next point is that we have entered into business relations with an Australian company, "and that we ought, I suppose, to be blind to its demerits and dumb in regard to our opinions concerning it.

Senator McGregor.- No one ever said anything of the kind.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- Then I do not know why these references to an Australian company should be repeated over and over again. It does not seem to me to be material whether the company is established in Australia or anywhere else.

Senator McGregor.- It must not have a German name!

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- If the conditions attached to this work are wrong, and if the whole of the circumstances show that there has been a gross muddle, and that the public interests of the Commonwealth have been disregarded, it is perfectly immaterial to me whether it is an Australian company that is concerned or whether it is not.

Senator Givens.- This is an Australian company with an imported article.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- It does seem a very extraordinary thing, as Senator Millen has pointed out, that there should be a difference of about £15,000 in reference to this comparatively small job. I cannot understand it. It strikes me that there- must be something wrong. It suggests, as has been said by an honorable member in another place, that there must be " something fishy " about the position. That view is supported by the great delay which has taken place because of the alteration of the position of the Sydney station. Either this company has entered into the arrangement without any intention of carrying it out, or else, having entered into an unprofitable bargain, the company does not wish to go on with it and desires to escape from its obligation. There must be some reason why this delay of nine months has taken place since the tender was accepted, and why no progress has been made with this pressing public work. But there is another thing that I should like to say. My honorable friend Senator Findley emphasized the point that the Commonwealth is bound to go on with this business. I suggested that, in my experience, when a tender was invited and accepted the acceptance was always conditional upon an agreement or formal contract being solemnly entered into. I have been furnished with a copy of the printed conditions of tender, and they show quite plainly that it was intended - and I think the late Government are to be congratulated on not having departed from the ordinary conditions of tenter - that a formal agreement or contract should be entered into afterwards. That has not been done. This is the ordinary form of tender applying to the carrying out of public works. Under it the tenderer undertakes to enter into a bond in a form approved by the Postmaster-General for the due fulfilment of the contract. Can any one deny that there must have been the grossest carelessness somewhere in view of the fact that a tender of this kind for a work of pressing importance should have been left in this inchoate and indefinite state for nine months without the contract having been - as far as I know - prepared, or the signatures of the persons concerned having been obtained? The first thing that strikes one is the disparity in the prices. We have not got all the papers, but it is perfectly obvious that the Marconi contract must have been for more efficient work or for a better service, or for entering into an arrangement which the other people did not take into account.

SenatorFindley. - Five tenders were sent in, and three out of the five were a third lower than the tender of the Marconi Company.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- We have not the papers before us, and, therefore, we are not able to form an opinion on that point. The second thing is that throughout this form of tender it is stated that there is to be an agreement, a formal contract, between the parties. That has not been entered into. The next thing is that it was specially stipulated that there should be a bond or guarantee. This guarantee was to be entered into and completed to the satisfaction- of the PostmasterGeneral within fourteen days after the receipt of notice that the bond and agreement were ready for signature. Was that done? Has that notice been given? Has that bond ever been prepared? Has the agreement been prepared? Has the intimation been given?

SenatorFindley. - Yes, the agreement was prepared.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- Was notice given to the contractors to complete the agreement within fourteen days?

SenatorFindley. - Yes, but the question of site was then raised, and that altered the conditions of the contract.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- Another question then arises. Has notice been given since the point about the site was disposed of in August?

SenatorFindley. - Yes.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- That was three months ago - six months after this guarantee ought to have been signed.

SenatorFindley. - The company have been granted ,£2,000 additional because of the alteration of the site.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- Why have they not signed the contract?

SenatorFindley. - I believe the Department is negotiating with them now, and the contract will be effectively signed within a few days.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- Negotiating what for? I am greatly obliged to my honorable friend for the information !

SenatorFindley. - I may as well make myself quite clear by saying what I mean by "negotiations." The Government are in communication with the contractors with respect to the time for the completion of the work. That is the only difference that exists now, and when reasonable time has been given the contract will be signed.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- I was about to say, " How long, 0 Lord, how long," are these negotiations to go on? When will the guarantors sign the guarantee? May I also tell my honorable friend that these conditions of tender, when advertised nine months ago, provided for the time allowed for the completion of work ?

SenatorFindley. - For a particular site.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- I will point out something as to the site in a moment. But surely it is not a businesslike thing to allow three months to elapse since the site was determined, and since the £2,000 concession was given to the contractors, before they are asked to sign the guarantee. The Government have absolutely nothing to show. They are entirely in the hands of the contractors, as to whether the contract shall be carried out or not. If the contractors are humbugging the Government in respect of the time allowed them, and the guarantor says, " I am sick of this thing," there is nothing binding upon the contractors. They have not even been notified to come and sign the bond.

SenatorMcGregor. - Then the Commonwealth does not need to pay any money to them.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON. - That is a pretty explanation ! That is a pretty excuse for a muddled contract ! We wait nine months for a person to enter upon a work which is in the public interest, and which is believed to be necessary for the defence of Australia ; and then, after waiting that time, and being humbugged by the contractors, the representative of the Government says, " It does not matter whether they back out of the contract or not, because, if they do, we shall not have to pay them any money." Surely that is a peculiar way of doing business. The next thing in regard to this contract is that the conditions of tender stipulate that within fourteen days after the receipt of notice from the PostmasterGeneral that the bond and guarantee are ready for signature, they shall be signed. That notice was given nine months ago. The matter should have been settled then. But the contractors extracted £2,000 more - over 50 per cent, above the original price - from the Government, and having secured that they humbug three months longer as to the time of completion. Then the conditions go on to say that there is to be a bond of two approved sureties. As far as I know, one of the sureties mentioned is a capable man. But he is also capable of looking after his own interests, and may decline to- sign the guarantee in the present unsettled condition of affairs. But there is one other important question, and that is the alteration of the site. I take leave to say that the Government have been robbed in having agreed to pay that £2,000. There is not a single word in these conditions in regard to the site which entitles the contractors to any compensation whatever for any change of the kind. In fact, no site is stipulated at all. The Government have simply been humbugged. The paragraph states that it is left to the tenderers or contractors to suggest the exact location of each station, but that the final decision must rest with the Government. The following conditions are, however, given as an indication of the principal requirements. The station at Sydney was to be located between the South Head, at the entrance of Sydney Harbor, and Botany Bay, or in the vicinity of the North Head, at the entrance of Sydney Harbor. That is wide enough.

Senator Lt. -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. It is a very limited area all the same.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.- The advertisement continues - '

In arriving at a decision as to the exact location of a station the Government will give careful consideration to any representation made by the tenderers. Preference will be given to sites which are easy of access and adjacent to existing telegraph land lines, and within easy reach of some settled township.

The undertaking is only that preference will be given in certain circumstances to certain sites.

The PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator's time has expired.

Senator SirJosiah Symon.- That is all I desired to say.

SenatorFindley. - The honorable senator has answered himself. The authorities went beyond these conditions.

Senator SirJosiah Symon. - But the company would be under no additional expense, as the buildings were all to be put up by the Government.

Senator McGREGOR(South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.2]. - Before the question is put, I should like to remark that I consider that it was a very mean thing on the part of the Leader of the Opposition to say that, because he happened to be ill at the time when the Government of which he was a member decided a certain question, he was relieved from any responsibility in respect of that decision.

SenatorMillen. - I did not say so.

Senator McGREGOR.-In reply to an interjection, the honorable senator said that he was ill at the time, and was therefore not responsible.

SenatorMillen. - Nonsense.

The PRESIDENT.- I hope the VicePresident of the Executive Council will not pursue that line of argument.

SenatorFindley. - The Leader of the Opposition wished to relieve himself of responsibility because he was sick.

SenatorMillen. - I did not want to do anything of the sort.

Senator McGREGOR.-I do not intend to pursue that line of argument, but I wished to direct attention to the inconsistencies of the Leader of the Opposition. If any member of the Senate is a member of the Government he is responsible for all the actions taken by that Government, whether he is sick or well.

SenatorMillen. - Quite right; that is what I said.

Senator McGREGOR.-That is all I wish to say on that question. With respect to the argument of Senator Symon, that this, that, and the other should have been done, let me say that the honorable senator has replied to himself. He has mentioned an area which was set down in the conditions of contract, and it was decided by the Defence and Admiralty authorities that there was no suitable site for a wireless telegraph station within that area. As to the objection urged by some honorable senators, and particularly by those two learned gentlemen, Senators

Symon and Givens, to the Telefunken system, let me say that it is a euphonious term, and there would appear to be something in a name after all.

SenatorVardon. - We are all " funking " it now.

Senator McGREGOR.- Some people are " funking " it, but I do not think the Government or the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department have any need to funk it. Difficulties have arisen, and they have beenexplained. When I tell honorable senators that it is fairly well known that after three years' experiments the American Navy are about to adopt the Telefunken system, and that a very large station in which that system will be installed is to be erected in New York, the information will probably relieve their minds to some extent. It cannot be such a bad system after all. I challenge any member of the Senate to make all the inquiries he pleases, and he will find that the Marconi and the Telefunken systems are the two most generally recognised. When we remember that a country like Germany, that attaches as much importance to the perfection of all its utilities as any other country in the world, has adopted this system, it is surely some guarantee that it is a good system. Russia. I dare say, is as great as any other country, and her authorities as wise and judicious, and her adoption of the Telefunken system is a further guarantee that it is generally recognised as a good system. I can leave out of consideration Austria, Belgium, Holland, and other countries that have adopted the system. Honorable senators must recognise that there are wise men in the countries to which I have referred, as well as in Great Britain, or even in Australia. When the people of these countries have adopted this system,. Australia will not make a very serious mistake in adopting it.

SenatorGivens. - Why have we not installed that system on our two torpedoboat destroyers?

Senator McGREGOR.- The honorable senator knows everything.

SenatorGivens. - I am merely asking a question. I want a little more information.

Senator McGREGOR.-Of what use is it for the honorable senator to ask questions when no answer given satisfies him? It would be better for his own sake that he should never ask any questions, because he repeatedly declares that he never receives answers that satisfy him.

In the circumstances, I should prefer that he would not ask me any questions. I wish to inform honorable senators that there is no difficulty in the interchange of messages between different systems of wireless telegraphy. No country would adopt a system which was not interchangeable with the system adopted by other countries. It is because the Telefunken system can be interchanged with other systems that it has been adopted by the countries in which it is used. Thisis probably the reason why the Postmaster-General of the last Government and his advisers thought it well to adopt the Telefunken system. They knew that with it communication would: be interchangeable with other systems, and that no difficulty would arise from the fact that Australia had adopted the Telefunken, and Great Britain the Marconi, or the other two systems mentioned by Senator de Largie. But honorable senators must have something to talk about. The session is coming to a close, and, apparently, they have not said enough' already, and so this or the last Government must suffer from an infliction of the kind at the close of the session. I believe that the late Government did the best they could in the circumstances, and the present Government, in taking over the responsibility, have done the best they could ever since.

SenatorGivens. - It is a very bad best.

Senator McGREGOR.- I am not aware that anything which Senator Givens has ever taken in hand has been much more successful. He should not begin to throw stones, and should remember that other people may be actuated by as good intentions as those by which he is actuated himself

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [4.9].- The great object we wish to attain is to discover where the truth lies in reference to this business. So far as I can see, there is very little evidence to justify insinuations of anything of an improper character in connexion with the matter. At the same time, we have so far received no satisfactory explanation from the Government. Tenders appear to have been invited for the erection of these stations in particular localities. A certain number of tenders were received, and one was accepted. Some time later it was discovered that the site selected for the erection of a station was not suitable, and should be changed. One would have thought that previous to the selection of the sites in the first instance the officers of the Department would have consulted with the naval and military authorities to ascertain whether they had any objection to sites suggested by the Department, or were prepared to suggest sites themselves. It is patent that any wireless station established on the coast of Australia should be in a place safe from attack by any foreign Power.

Senator Findley.- The Admiralty and the Defence Department were consulted, and approved of the area laid down in Sydney in the original conditions of contract, but they afterwards found that it was unsuitable for the erection of a station.

Senator Lt. -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - Am I to understand that the Admiralty authorities and the Defence authorities stated that they were satisfied that a suitable place for the erection of a station was between South Head . and Botany Bay, or on North Head or its immediate locality?.. If so,. I should like to know whether that was approved, not merely by the local authorities, but by the Admiral on the Station? If the Imperial authorities, as represented by the Admiral on the Station, were consulted, the Senate would like to know when it dawned upon those concerned that it was necessary to make a change. If the papers were laid on the table they would not, I think, disclose that the Admiral on the Station gave any authoritative opinion that a suitable site could be found between North Head and Botany Bay.

Senator Findley.- They were consulted before tenders were called, and expressed approval of a site. After a tender was accepted, they disapproved of that site, and suggested another area.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - When the Government determined upon the selection of a new site they should have come to a definite understanding with the tenderers as to how that would affect the conditions of the contract, especially in regard to the time limit for the construction of the work. An alteration of the proposed site involved an abandonment of all the original conditions of the contract, and before the Government agreed to pay the successful tenderer an additional sum of money new conditions should have been determined upon, so that no difficulty might arise later. The Government, by their action, placed themselves in a position of very great difficulty, and I imagine that if they went into the law Courts they would find that certain portions of the specifications would not be worth the paper on which they are written.

Senator Findley.- How can the Government be held responsible?

Senator Lt. -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - They were responsible for the negotiations with the tenderers. We may have the best scientific experts in a Department, but if they do not understand the business aspect of a proposal the Government may very easily be led into .a difficulty.

Senator Findley.- The difficulty was due to the change in the area for the selection of a site.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - That involved an alteration in the original terms of the contract, and the Government should have insisted upon a definite agreement with the contractor as to the time within which the work was to be performed, and how far the conditions of the specifications were to be applicable.

Senator Findley.- That is being done.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - It should have been done when the agreement was being made as to the additional amount to be paid. What is the position to-day? We do not know when the work is to be carried out. As to the system to be adopted, are we to adopt this German system, or the system universally adopted by the Empire to which we belong?

Senator Findley.- We ought to adopt the system recommended by those who have been appointed to advise us.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I should be prepared to follow the Imperial authorities on a question of this kind in preference to any experts in Australia.

Senator Findley.- The honorable senator will pardon me for reminding him that on a Conference of three that determined the matter there was a representative nominated by the British Admiralty.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - Was it not rather a matter of concurring with the desire forced upon him for the adoption of a particular system?

Senator Givens.- There was merely a negative report that there was no particular objection to the Telefunken system.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD.- Just so. Senator McGregor has told us that communication may be exchanged between the Telefunken and

Marconi system. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that that is all correct; is it not very much better for us to be guided by the experience of the Imperial authorities, and to adopt the system which has been adopted by the Imperial Navy, and by the bulk of the mercantile marine of Great Britain? The Telefunken system may be a very good one, but it is not adopted by our own nation and countrymen. Its use is confined to a comparatively limited area. It is used in Russia, Germany, Austria, and possibly one or two other continental countries.

Senatorde Largie. - In Norway, Spain, and South America.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I shall assume, if the honorable senator likes, that it is used throughout Europe. He will find that there are special reasons why these continental countries should have the one system. They are all likely to have interchange of communication, but they have no great oversea dominions to instal with a system, as has the United Kingdom.

SenatorFindley. - Forty-four per cent. of the stations in the world is a big percentage.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTCOULD. - We have asked where these stations are established, but we cannot get any satisfactory information on the subject. If they are all established on the Continent, that does not justify the Government in departing from the system adopted by the Admiralty.

SenatorGivens. - Forty-one of the biggest steam-ship companies in the world have the Marconi system.

SenatorFindley. - That does not prove anything.

SenatorGivens. - Even some of the German lines use that system.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - The matter is in an inchoate state. The whole business seems to have been bungled. Once a foreign system is introduced, it will have to be adopted throughout Australia.

SenatorFindley. - Not necessarily.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - But probably. It would be far better to adopt a system which has stood the test of time as far as it has gone, and has everything to commend it to us. I admit that there is a great difference in regard to the prices, but until the papers are furnished it is quite impossible for the Senate to know the cause for the difference.

Senatorde Largie. - There would have been a nice hue-and-cry if the highest tender had been accepted.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - The papers ought to be submitted to enable us to form an opinion as to the relative merits of the two systems and the business aptitude displayed by the Government. Some stress has been laid on the fact that it is an Australian company which sent in the lowest tender, and that, therefore, it ought to have some advantage. The Telefunken system is a German one. I dare say that the gentlemen who formed the Australian company arranged with the patentees to have the rights in Australia, and, therefore, they put in a tender to install the system. It is one which has been developed and worked in countries outside Australia. If we are to choose between two systems - one which comes from a foreign power and one which comes from our own country - which ought we to adopt ?

Senatorde Largie. - Do you say that the Marconi system is a purely British affair ?

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - No; it is a British-speaking affair. It is owned in America and England.

Senatorde Largie. - It sounds very much like maccaroni.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - It would be a good thing if the Government would call a halt and reconsider the whole question. It is perfectly true that if that course were taken, and another system adopted, the gentlemen whose tender has been accepted would be entitled to compensation, but it would be far better to compensate them, even to the amount of the contract, than to introduce a system which probably would not prove the most suitable for our requirements.

Senator Lt.-ColonelCAMERON (Tasmania) [4.22]. - I congratulate Senator Givens on having brought forward this very important question. If there is anything which appeals to my mind, it is the absence of information on the subject, not only on the part of the Government, but on the part of honorable senators. I do not claim to possess much knowledge, but I do remember that when the wireless telegraph system became a practicable utility, the Marconi and Telefunken systems - which were then the two most prominent ones - were considered by a Commission composed of the representatives of the leading nations in the world. It was decided then and there that the Marconi and Telefunken systems could be utilized for separate purposes, so as not to be made interchangeable. Whether they could be made interchangeable is quite another matter. On this ground, the Telefunken system was adopted by the German nation, and the Marconi system was adopted by our own people for purposes connected more particularly with marine questions and great questions of naval warfare. It is for this reason that I ask the Government to be a little more careful before they adopt a Continental system in preference to our own system. I think that in the volubility of the conversation which goes on here it is forgotten that Australia could be very easily isolated in a time of national crisis. The cables could be cut. Surely if there is anything which can appeal to the spirit of Australia it must be the necessity of having means of communication with our Royal Navy. If our instruments were attuned to the Telefunken system andthe Royal Navy to the Marconi system, we should be in darkness. That is, I think, a point which the Government might very well pause to consider, and also whether it is not advisable to work in harmony with the Admiralty. I understand from views he has expressed in public that Admiral Poore thinks that we ought to adopt the Marconi system.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland) [4.26]. - In bringing up this matter I complained, and very justly, I think, that the information supplied in answer to questions by honorable senators was not of that frank and ingenuous character which they had a right to expect. The Minister defended the Department by a cheap sneer. He said that if an honorable senator could not frame his questions in such a way as to elicit full replies that was his look-out. Without being in any way egotistical, I think that I can match my intelligence against the Honorary Minister's at any time.

Senator Findley.- Hear, hear; I was not referring to that.

Senator GIVENS.- Then why was a cheap sneer indulged in ? I want to show the Minister that his reply on this matter was neither frank nor ingenuous, but quite the contrary, and that in trying to inform the Senate he gave information which was entirely of a misleading character. It is within the knowledge of those who have listened to the debate that he said that the matter in regard to the Pennant Hills station, near Sydney, was now fixed up, and that work was being proceeded with.

Senator Findley.- When did I say that?

Senator GIVENS.- In the course of your speech.

Senator Findley.- Work is being proceeded with.

Senator GIVENS.-The Minister led honorable senators to believe that a contract was fixed up, and that the contractors were proceeding with the work. I ask him now if the contractors are proceeding with any work there?

Senator Findley.- They are proceeding, with work.

Senator GIVENS.- I venture to say that they are not spending a sixpence or doing a particle of work there. All the work there is being done by the Government in preparation.

SenatorFindley.- The contractors are doing some.

Senator GIVENS.- We have not altogether to thank departmental officers for inaccurate or misleading replies when the Minister will try to mislead the Senate on an important question of this kind.

Senator Findley.- I did not do anything of the kind.

Senator GIVENS.-When the VicePresident of the Executive Council spoke in high terms of the Telefunken system - I do not know that it deserves all the high praise that he gave to it - I asked him by way of interjection, if it was so very superior as he suggested, why was it not adopted for the Australian torpedo-boats ? Instead of giving a frank and. ingenuous answer, as one would have a right to expect, he did not give any answer, but merely shuffled with the question and indulged in a cheap sneer.

Senator McGregor.- I did not hear you mention the torpedo-boats.

Senator GIVENS.- I am sorry that I referred to the incident if the honorable senator did not understand what I said. 1 shall let it go at that. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the rival systems, we should have uniformity. It is of no use to have a Telefunken station here and a ship with a Marconi system 100 or 1,000 miles away, and a Telefunken system there and a Marconi system somewhere else. We want a uniform system, not only in Australia, but on the ships which will have to communicate with our stations.

Senatorde Largie. - Will you say that the apparatus which is on the torpedo-boats cannot communicate with a Telefunken station ?

Senator GIVENS.- I am borne out by the military knowledge of Senator Cameron, who remembers a conference in which it was pointed out that the advantage to a country in adopting the Telefunken or Marconi system was that they could be rendered non-communicable with each other.

SenatorFindley. - The honorable senator is entirely wrong, because the conditions specifically lay it down that they must be able to communicate with the different stations.

Senator GIVENS.- The honorable senator forgets that the Marconi people have a distinct condition in their agreement with companies using their patent that there shall not be communication except in case of actual distress.

SenatorFindley. - That is not so. Marconi stations will receive and send communications.

Senator GIVENS.-But will ships?

SenatorFindley. - Yes.

SenatorMillen. - The point raised by Senator Cameron was not that the two systems cannot communicate with each other, but that you can make them noncommunicable.

Senator GIVENS-Exactly.According to the information in my possession, it is a fact that vessels which are fitted with the Marconi system are prevented from exchanging communications with vessels or stations fitted with any other system except in cases of actual distress. Then what is the use of installing the Telefunken system in Australia, seeing that all the vessels which trade here are fitted with the Marconi system? The vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, of the Orient Steam-ship Company, of the NordDeutscher Lloyd Line, of the Union Castle Line, of the Aberdeen Line, and of the White Star Line are all fitted with the Marconi system. Indeed, with the exception of the German Mail Line, all the boats trading to Australia have installed that system. Another strong point is that our own torpedo boats are fitted with it. It is plain that we should make up our minds to adopt either one systemor the other, and thus secure uniformity throughout the Commonwealth.

SenatorFindley. - There is no advantage in uniformity.

Senator GIVENS.- Does the Honorary Minister mean to tell me that the British Government have not adopted a uniform system ?

Senatorde Largie. - They have adopted three systems.

Senator GIVENS.- They have done nothing of the kind. All the stations of Lloyd's, that great marine insurance corporation in Great Britain, are fitted with the Marconi system, as are all the postoffices in Great Britain which are possessed of wireless installations. The same remark is applicable to the lighthouses. All the wireless telegraph stations in Canada have installed the Marconi system.

Senatorde Largie. - The PostmasterGeneral of Great Britain has accepted tenders for the installation of three different systems.

Senator GIVENS.-The honorable senator cannot point to a single station in Great Britain which is fitted with any other system but the Marconi, or a modification of it.

Senatorde Largie. - I have already mentioned three different systems which are installed in Great Britain.

Senator GIVENS.-They may be worked by private individuals.

SenatorMillen. - Where is the authority for the statement that the British Government have established three different systems ?

Senator GIVENS.- I cannot get that information from Senator de Largie. I was told the other day, in answer to a question, that it was not a fact that the vessels of the British Navy are fitted with the Marconi system. Yet we all know that it is a fact. But the gravamen of my complaint is that a complete muddle has been made in the matter of letting these contracts. They were let on the 4th April last, but, as the Honorary Minister has explained, there has been some dispute or delay in the matter of deciding upon the best possible sites for the proposed stations. The best site for one of those stations was determined in August last, and yet, although the Government have agreed to pay the contractors an additional £2,000 for undertaking its erection, the Commonwealth has no guarantee that the work will be proceeded with.

SenatorMcDougall. - Perhaps it is better that it should not be proceeded with.

Senator GIVENS.-That may be so. But from a humane stand-point - from the stand-point of life-saving - it is essential that we should have wireless telegraph stations erected round the coast of Australia. From a commercial point of view, it is also necessary that we should know the progress which ships are making, and that we should be acquainted with their positions at sea, so that we may know when they may be expected to arrive in port. From a defence stand-point, the establishment of wireless telegraph stations along our coast is of vital importance to us. It is also necessary that the outlying portions of the Commonwealth, which are not connected with it by cable, should be provided with that means of communication to which they are entitled under our progressive civilization. At the present time there is no communication with King Island, which is situated in Bass Straits. During recent years a series of shipwrecks has occurred there, and but for the kindness of its inhabitants the survivors might have starved. Then, it is desirable that we should have communication with Papua and other outlying possessions. Consequently, it is important that no further delay should occur in the erection of these wireless telegraph stations. If the company to which the contracts have been let will not carry them out, those contracts shouldbe taken from it.

Senator Findley.- If it will not carry them out.

Senator GIVENS.- There is no sign of it carrying them out. Up to date the contracts have not been signed, nor have the guarantees, and we have no assurance that they will be signed. As I read the conditions of the contract the company must assign all its patent rights in Australia to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth claims a monopoly in the matter of communication by means of wireless telegraphy in Australia, and consequently we have the sole right to any particular system that we may choose to adopt. If the Marconi Company had erected stations in Australia it would have had to relinquish all its patent rights in this part of the world to the Commonwealth. Possibly, for that reason, its price was higher than that of the company to which the contracts have been let. But I do not know whether it was excessive. I do know, however, that a disgraceful muddle has been made of the whole business- a muddle that the Senate should insist upon having rectified at the earliest possible moment. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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