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Thursday, 9 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) - - Last year it was understood that a wireless station was to be erected at Thursday Island or Cooktown, to provide communication with a station to be erected in Papua. For military reasons it was subsequently decided that the Queensland station should be established at Thursday Island. Surely it should not take twelve months to put up a wireless station at Thursday Island when vessels can leave Australia for the Old Country and in three weeks be fitted with wireless telegraphic apparatus. We are now told that an expert has been procured to select sites.

Senator Story - That is perfectly true.

Senator SAYERS - If it has taken twelve months to get an expert it will probably take twelve years to have this work done. I say that the people of North Queensland were misled by the statements made on this subject last year.

Senator Pearce - Money was provided on the Estimates for the work.

Senator SAYERS - Then it must be necessary now to re-vote it, because there is no vote on the present Works and Buildings Estimates for the purpose. I do not wish to be continually worried by people writing to me for information, and I hope the Minister will tell me whether a vote for this purpose will appear on the Supplementary Estimates.

Senator Findley - There is £20,000 on these Works Estimates.

Senator SAYERS - I see that there is a vote of £20,000 put down for wireless telegraphy generally, but no statement is made as to where that money is to be spent. A separate vote is provided for the stations at Pennant Hills and Fremantle, but there is no separate vote for a station at Thursday Island or Papua. It is only misleading me or the Committee to saythat there is £20,000 for this purpose on the Estimates when I ask what amount is put down for the promised station at Thursday Island.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator was told by the Minister that the wireless telegraphy expert is to recommend the sites on which this £20,000 is to be spent.

Senator SAYERS - Can the Minister of Defence tell me how many stations this amount will cover?

Senator Pearce - Quite a large number.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales)

L9-37]- - The Minister has mentioned that a wireless telegraphy expert is now engaged in making a report on the whole question. Am I right in assuming that the Government will be largely guided by his advice both as to the extension of wireless stations and the system to be adopted. If we have a wireless telegraphy expert, it is right that his advice ihould weigh very considerably with the Government. Assuming that his advice will be sought on the question as to which system should be adopted in future, I should like to know whether the Government are aware that the gentleman who has been employed was not long since engaged in a legal controversy with the representatives of the Marconi Company.

Senator Pearce - He ought to know the law on the subject.

Senator MILLEN - Yes, but in the course of that controversy he may have become quite unconsciously prejudiced in a certain way, and it would be as well if we were informed on this point also.

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