9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Anstey), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. C. McDonald), on the ground of ill-health, and to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), on the ground of urgent public business.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) on the ground of urgent public business.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to make regarding Sir John Monash’s report on cruiser construction in Australia? If not, why not?
– I have no statement to make upon Sir John Monash’s report. The Government is considering it, and when the defence estimates are under consideration. I shall make a full statement of the action the Government proposes to take-
– Is the statement appearing in to-day’s Argus regarding Sir John Monash’s report accurate ? Who supplied the information to the press?
– I have no knowledge of the statement, and cannot say whether it is accurate, or who supplied it to the press.
– Is the delay in presenting Sir John Monash’s report to the House due to the fact that Sir John has reported in favour of the building of a cruiser in Australia?
– I cannot anticipate the contents of the report, but honorable members will have a full opportunity of perusing and debating it, in conjunction with the statement of the Government’s policy in regard to the construction of the second cruiser.
– Did the Prime Minister make a statement to the press this morning in regard to cruiser construction?
– I made no statement to the press on that subject.
– Will the Prime Minister state definitely whether it’ is his intention to table the report of Sir John Monash, and move that it be printed ?
– It is not proposed to move that the report be printed. As it will be tabled concurrently with the consideration of the defence estimates, with an indication of the intention of the Government in regard to it, every opportunity will be available to honorable members to discuss it.
– Having regard to the strong public feeling on the matter, will the Treasurer announce when satisfactory arrangements will be made for the accommodation of soldier mental cases in Western Australia?
– Arrangements were made with the last Government in Western Australia for the building of suitable accommodation for the soldier mental cases, and the Commonwealth is awaiting action by the present State Government to complete the arrangements.
Mr. MACKAY brought up a report from the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence., on the proposed construction of the southern intercepting sewer at Canberra.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster - General whether it is correct that the department has given instructions that mail matter is not to be delivered to residents who live upon unmacadamized roads?
– I am not aware of any such instruction having been issued, but I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Acting PostmasterGeneral .
– In August of last year, when discussing the Land TaxAssessment Bill, I asked the Treasurer if opportunity would be given to temporary employees in the Taxation Department, all of whom I believe are returned soldier’s, to sit for an examination. to determine their fitness for permanent appointment before they were dismissed. The question related to some returned soldiers who, on account of war disabilities, had failed in an examination and desired an opportunity, in common with all other temporary employees, to sit for a further examination. The honorable gentleman gave me an affirmatives answer.. I have since been told that a bill is to be introduced to enable temporary employees to undergo such an examination. Is the Treasurer aware that a few days ago, notice of dismissal was given to twelve men in the TaxationDepartment ofNew South Wales ?The notice was for only a day and ahalf, but,, upon representations being made to then head of the department, it was extended to three weeks.
– Last year I promised, that an. opportunity to sit. for. an examination would: be given to. those temporary employees in the. Taxation. De.partment who either had had no opportunity of sitting for examination or. who, on account of war disabilities, had failed to pass?On Thursday last, when the fact’ was brought under my notice that certain soldiers in New South Wales were being discharged,I telegraphed to the local secretary of the soldiers’ organization, and to the head of the taxation branch, andI have received a. reply this morning that none of the men who are being discharged belonged to either of the classes mentioned, in my reply of last year.
– I understand that applicants for old-age and invalid pensions in the cities are required to state their claim for a pension to a magistrate sitting in camera, but that in country districts the applicants are sometimes required to give in the open police court a detailed account of their private circumstances. Will the Treasurer issue instructions that applicants are not to be distressed by a public inquisition, and that in future all applications shall be Heard* in camera?’
– I shallinquire whether the practice mentioned by the honorable member is in operation.
– Is it a fact that Mr. O’Callaghan, the- Chief Commonwealth Dairy Expert, has submitteda report upon the marketing of Australian dairy, produce in London; and, if so, will the Minister for Trade and Customsmake it available to honorable members?
– It is afact thatMr. O’Callaghan has made a report, and. I’ see no objection to making it available to honorable members-.
Map of Australia
Mi.A. GREEN, asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable’ member’s questions are as follow: -
Subscriptions to Commonwealth Loans
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– It is considered to be against public policy to make available private information of this character, as the publishing of the amounts of individual subscriptions might adversely affect the success of future Commonwealth loans.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
compensation upon retirement.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Ninety-two. 2 (a). New South Wales, 11 permanent, nil temporary, total 11; Victoria, 78 permanent, 3 temporary, total 81; Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, nil.
The period for retirement with compensation is only limited in the case of officers who retire voluntarily. No definite information can be furnished as to when excess officers will be placed in permanent positions or returned soldiers qualified by examination wil1 be appointed.
– On the 22nd August, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), brought under notice the case of a settler who, on his discharge from the Darwin Hospital, after a long period of treatment, was presented with a hospital account for £85, andone for £38 6s., being the doctor’s fee for operations performed at the hospital.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the agreement made by the Northern Territory Administration with the Government Medical Officer, who has the right of private practice, provides that all hospital patients shall be treated free of charge by the medical officer, except for major operations and maternity cases. The agreement also provides that fees charged to patients generally shall not exceed the fees usually charged in rural districts in state of the Commonwealth.
The only account presented by the hospital authorities in the case referred to was for £85, representing the usual hospital fee of 5s. per day for 340 days, and no pressure has been exerted to secure the payment of that amount.
The doctor’s charge of £38 6s. was for two operations performed at the hospital, and, being within the exception referred to, the Administration cannot prevent such a private charge being made, but is in no way associated with its collection.
Imposition of Anti-dumping Duty.
– On the 27th August the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Foster) asked the following question : -
to which is added extra dumping duty of £10 12s. 6d-?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The matter has been fully considered, and it has been decided to revoke the gazettal of German cream separators under the Industries Preservation Act. The dumping duty paid in the case referred to will be refunded. “
– On the 1st August the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked the following question : -
Whether the Repatriation Department in New South Wales is giving applicants for pension the full benefit of section 22 (d) of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920, i.e., recognizing “ wholly or in part dependent, &c.” ?
I have now been informed that the Repatriation Department in New South Wales is giving applicants the full benefit of the section referred to. Should, however, the honorable member be of opinion that the benefit is not being given in any particular case, I shall be glad to be furnished with details so that investigation may be made.
The following papers were presented : -
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 117.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act.
Ordinance of 1924 - No. 17 - Licensing
– I move -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of this bill I wish to explain in detail the administration of the Department of Trade and Cus toms, particularly in respect of the Tariff Board, and to reply to some of the criticisms of that board that have not only been heard in this House, but have also appeared in the press and been indulged in by the commercial community. The Tariff Board consists of a chairman who must be an administrative officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, and three members who have been chosen from the industrial and commercial world. It is purely an advisory body. Its functions are to investigate and report to the Minister on matters defined in the Tariff Board Act, the Customs Tariff, and the Industries Preservation Act, all of which measures deal with matters vital to the industrial life of Australia, and cover applications for new or altered duties, or bounties, and requests for exemption from duties under the* tariff items in regard to which Parliament has empowered the Minister to give exemptions, proposals for reciprocal treaty agreements, appeals from decisions made by the Comptroller-General in regard to the classification of goods under the tariff, complaints that manufacturers are taking undue advantage of tariff protection to charge excessive prices, the operation of deferred duties, and other phases of tariff activities. The investigation of these matters involves an immense amount of work which could not possibly be performed by the Minister and the ordinary Customs administration as. at present constituted. An essential condition of tariff investigation is’ that the authority entrusted with it should be able to make its investigations in the various states. If that authority were fixed in one centre it would be practically impossible for it to obtain reliable information concerning industries in the other states, with the result that the claims of distant industries would be inadequately represented or else those concerned would suffer great expense and inconvenience through’ being obliged to make long journeys to the Seat of Government to present their case. If all tariff investigations were again imposed on the ordinary administration of the Customs Department, it is obvious that they would have to be mainly conducted in one centre with the unsatisfactory results 1 have mentioned. The Tariff Board has been able to make periodical visits to the other states and has, in the course of its investigations, visited all the states and has inspected all the more important industrial establishments of the Commonwealth. The business people throughout Australia have therefore been able, personally, to place their views before the board not only on matters of tariff revision, but also on all those complicated matters which fall within the scope of its functions. For some unaccountable reason, a tradition has grown up during the last year or two that the Tariff Board abrogates the power of the Minister, and even of Parliament. It has even been said that its proceedings, from its inception, have been a gross usurpation of one of the most important functions of Parliament.
– That has been said in this chamber a number of times.
– I wish to meet that criticism. So far as my knowledge of the board is concerned, that charge is quite unwarranted. The reports and recommendations of the board have never had any effect until ministerial action has been taken to make them effective. The Minister may reject the recommendations of the board, or he may accept them entirely, or with any modification which he thinks fit. This discretionary power was given to him by Parliament, and he is solely responsible to Parliament for the manner in which, he uses it. The Government now proposes to amend the act to make the board part and parcel of our tariff administration until otherwise ordered by Parliament. Ever since the tariff introduced by Sir William Lyne in 1907, power has been given by Parliament to the Minister to exempt goods from duty by departmental by-law under certain concession items, particularly items 174, 219 and 404, and also to classify many hundreds, if not thousands, of articles of importation which are not specifically mentioned in the tariff. With the rapidly increasing development of our secondary industries, the discretionary administration of these items requires great care. The power should be exercised only after the fullest inquiry, otherwise young and growing industries could easily be throttled by the admission free or at low rates of duty of the thousands of articles that should be classified. Honorable members with a wide experience of the trade of the Commonwealth will know that ever since 1907 certain items of the tariff have given the
Minister great discretionary power, for the exercise of which he is solely responsible to Parliament. In this respect, the Minister has no more and noi less power to-day than he has always had, for the by-law list has always been open for review either for withdrawals or additions. The principal consideration which influences decisions is whether goods of the kind imported can or cannot be commercially manufactured in the Commonwealth. Some attempts have been made in this chamber to frame a definition to cover articles which can be commercially manufactured in the Commonwealth. I consider that such articles are those which can be produced her© in a reasonable time and in reasonable quantities, of a quality and at a price which makes competition possible with similar articles manufactured abroad and landed dutypaid in Australia. In view of the ineffectiveness of some of the existing tariff rates, consideration must, of course, be given to the higher cost of labour and material for the production of the Australian articles as compared with the imported article. It is utterly impracticable to frame a tariff which would name every known article of commerce. It is essential to have some elastic provision to avoid, for instance, charging duty on machinery not made here, but vital to the expansion of production in Australia. Classification can . be, and has been, used under these items to help the establishment of many new industries. In addition to this discretionary power, which is also added to by further items in the tariff which Parliament has said can be administered only in accordance with departmental by-laws approved by the Minister, in 1921 a measure was passed called the Industries Preservation Act.. This act gave great discretionary power to the Minister, after investigation, and report by the Tariff Board, in connexion with the imposition of super or dumping duties supplementary to the ordinary tariff duties passed by Parliament. The act provides that dumping duties may be imposed to counteract the various methods adopted by oversea exporters to exploit the Australian market, the effect of which would be to exterminate some of our own industries. Under no circumstances can this be permitted. This act, in my opinion, has proved, a sheet anchor for many of our primaryand secondary industries.As a result of the war a violent Change occurred in the international situation. Prior to the war the ‘competition which our industries had to meet wasof a uniform and constant nature, comparatively free from sudden fluctuations or abnormal features. The currencyof practically all the countries of the world varied very little from par. ‘Tariff legislation could, therefore, be of a more permanent nature, and stand for a number of years without the necessity formany alterations. It willbe remembered that during the war, owing to the difficulties of transport, Australians were very largely thrown upon theirown resources. A considerable expansion of existing industries and theestablishment of very manynew industries took (place. Recognizing the vital necessity for properly protecting the valuable industries thus created, Parliament passed the present tariff, which aimed atmaintaining our established industries,and developing as faraspossible theAustralianwar-timeindustrial babies.Owing tothedisturbed economic conditions throughout the world, at was readilyappreciated by Parliament that theprotection affordedby meansof the ordinary tariff could only meetthecompetitionarising fromreasonable normal trade. Honorable members will recollect the positionthatthen arose. ‘Oversea countries, which during the war had lost their export markets,immediately sought to re-establishthemselves incountries like Australia, where money was plentiful and little or no risk in trading was involved. They foundthat, during their absence from our market, young industries had sprung up, and had taken over much of their business. Immediately attempts were made to dump, and destroy localindustries,so thatthe lost and valuable trade could be regained. A ‘further and greater difficulty arose throughthe great depreciationof the currencies of the continental countries of Europe. This depreciation placedthem in apositionto ‘ producecheaply,andfurther, therewas the outstanding necessityforattaining markets forexports which must besold toenable the countriesthat were making themto rehabilitatethemselves.Coun- tries like Australia were thus subjected to ‘very difficult competition, and practically every industrial country in ‘the worldtook immediatesteps to protect itself.Even Germany, with her greatly depreciated currency,proceeded toprotecther markets againsttheexportsof her allies where -their currency ‘had deppeciated toagreaterextentthan her own. Following the example ofall thesecountries, Australia placed on the statute-booktheIndustries Preservation Act. Thiswas anattempt by Parliament to protect Australianindustries against Che exceptional competition arising from various formsof dumping.Its ma- chinerywas admittedly intricate, and needed to be carefully and reasonably administered. But this legislation covered entirely new ground, and it was immediately apparent that it was essential to appoint a specialboard to effectively deal with it. Bearing in mind the wishes of the commercial community, freely expressed in past years, the Government decided , to give business interests full representation on theboard, and, therefore, at present it consists of three members of the commercial community and one official. I ammerely stating an obvious fact when I say that, had it not been for thedirect and indirect effect of the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act,our industries wouldhave been submerged by a flood , ofcheapim- portationsfrom oversea countries, and we should have -had the spectacle of industries ruined,our national development seriously retarded, and thousandsof Aus- traliansunable to findemployment.
– It isbad enough at the presenttime.
– -I am endeavouring to prevent interference with Australian industries so f ar as I can under the law onthe statute-book. It was realized by the Government of the daythat the complicated provisionsof the Industries Preservation Act mustbecarefully carriedout,anda Tariff Boardconsisting of three members was provided for by Parliament. I shall not weary honorable members by reiteratingarguments that were then used in favour of appointing the hoard. When a member in another place, I made some ratherstrenuous objections to the hoard’s appointment, but my objections were based largelyuponopposition to the creation ofnew boards, a practiceto whichat about thattime the then
Governmentwas very prone.I feared that this additional board would be an excrescence upon the body politic. But few ofus then realized theamount of work the proposed board would have to do, and the issue in mymind was whetherthe work couldbetter be doneby aboard, or, as previously, by responsible ‘ departmental officers. The trill ultimately passedboth Houses, andbecame part of the machinery of the Customs Administration for a period of two years. Last year the act was renewed for a further period of one year, the only amendment being that the membership of the board was increased by one. On 1st Marchnext the present act expires by effluxionof time . In view of the many criticisms of the Tariff Board-criticisms which, in my opinion, are based on entirely wrong premises - it will -be of interest tohonorable members ifIreferto theaction now being taken in othercountries inconnexion with tariff administration.
– Those objections are now dead.
– I wish that they may not rise again and hope that they will not do so after Ihave madethe position clear. As honorable members are aware, the UnitedStates of America has had for many years atariff commission, which is a permanentadvisory body with functions similar tothoseof theCommonwealth TariffBoard. Its administration involves afar more complicated system than that under the effective Australian act,which,I am informed,wasfavorably commented upon by the commissionersof the United States of America when interviewed byMr. Brookes during his trip abroad last year. South Africa has appointed a similar body, known as the Board of Trade and Industries.One of the principal duties of that body is to advisethe Union Government of any action considered necessary , or advisable inorder to assist in the maintenance or the development of industries established,or likelyto be established, in the union. Recently the IndianFiscalCommission reported that it was desirable to establish a policy of protection in India. The Commission’s report laid special stress on thenecessity for the organization of a thoroughly competent and impartial Tariff Board to investigatethe conditionsof industries in India, and to recommend which industries should he protected, end the extent of the protection that should he given to them. The proposalfor a competent and impartial Tariff Board was declared to be theessenceof the Fiscal . Commission’s report. The Dominion of Canada has at present a hoardof officials which deals, to someextent with tariff matters, hut recently the Prime Minister of Canada , announced that his Government intendedto submit to the Parliamentof the Dominion a proposal for the establishment of a Tariff Board. In all these countries the boards appointed,or to be appointed;, for the investigation of tariff problems, are, or will he, permanent bodies. I remind honorable members that as ‘far back as . 1903, theRight . Hon. J. Chamberlain was responsiblefor the appointment of a Tariff Commission, which sat (unofficially up to the time of the recent great war. When the war broke out, the great value of the investigations made by the Tariff Commission was recognised by the British Government, and in connexion with the manufacture of munitions, to which the people of the Mother Country applied themselves with such vigour in the early days of the war, the experience gained provedof , great benefit. From the viewpointof defence alone, it is very desirable that all the information possibleshall be available inconnexion with Australian industries. Myclose acquaintance with thework of the Tariff Board convinces me that thepresent system is working satisfactorily. Previous to the appointmentof theboard,when thedepartmental system of decisions obtained, complaints were madeby merchants and othersthat they had to refer their appeals to the same officers -who had given the decisions. There was a strong feeling in the commercial community that to deal with tariff matters a board should be appointed, upon which business men should be represented. It was considered also that the board should be free from administrative duties, and should have its whole time available for the investigation of tariff problems in the interests of our primary and secondary industries. Inanalyzing the work which the board is called upon to do, I should like to say againthat it does not in any way abrogate the powers either of the Parliament or of the Minister. It is an advisory board only, and simply makes recommendations to the Minister. The Minister’s power remains intact, so long as he refers certain matters contained in the act to the board before taking action. He need not necessarily follow the recommendations of the board, and, in any case, the Minister is the person responsible to the Government and to Parliament. Honorable members are aware that trade and commerce, in regard to both primary and secondary production, as well as to imports, has enormously increased during the last few years, and that, as a result, classifications and recommendations under the elastic provisions of the tariff, and investigations concerning many and varying imports, must be numerous, and, at times, intricate. The work .entrusted to the board really covers the whole range of Australian industries, both primary and secondary. It involves inquiries into, and reports upon, approximately, 1,000 requests yearly, many of which are absolutely vital to our industries, seeing that, they depend largely for their very existence upon a proper and sympathetic consideration of the problems by which they are surrounded. This Parliament supports a policy of protection, developing present industries and encouraging the initiation of new industries. Tariff classifications and exemptions should be finalized by the responsible Minister in the interests of Australian industries. In addition to this onerous and responsible work, covering the consideration of tariff duties involving many hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Tariff Board has reported on other subjects within its ambit, such as bounties and the development of new industries. The proposed amendments included in the bill have been framed as the result of the experience of the working of the act over a period of nearly three years, and among them are two important provisions. The first is that oil inquiries in connexion with the .revision of the tariff and proposals for bounties must be held in public unless the board is satisfied that it would be against the public interest for evidence to be given in public. This will give full opportunity for all interested to know exactly what is talcing place, and enable those particularly interested to place their views before the board. The second is the repealing of section 37 of the original act to remove the limitation of the duration of the board. This must not be confounded with section 4 of the act, in which provision is made for the appointment of members for varying periods from .one to five years. The Government’s decision to ask Parliament to amend the act in the direction indicated was arrived at after a careful consideration of the conditions necessary to make the board as effective a means as possible for the achievement of the purposes that it was intended to fulfil. The bill does not concern the tariff, nor the fiscal policy. The real issue is whether the necessary work that is now done bv the Tariff Board can be better done by the departmental officers. If the board is dispensed with, we must appoint a body of responsible officials to do its work, but if the principle of the board is accepted by honorable members a board of responsible officials will not be necessary. The difference in the expense of the two boards would be little. The personnel of the present board is, I think, as upright, representative, capable and well informed as any country could reasonably hope to obtain. Whether honorable members accept the principle of a Tariff Board or- not, the Minister’s powers will be the same - no more and no less - and he will be solely responsible to this House. But little economy would be effected by abolishing the board, but there would be an increasing difficulty in protecting industries, especially some of our war babies. Honorable members know well that should the life of the Tariff Board be determined, it would be necessary to provide a number of highly-paid responsible officers to carry on the work now being done by that body. This would mean that the commercial community would not be represented at inquiries, and unquestionably the old complaint of want of representation by business men would be heard on all sides. As a result of personal experience I am convinced that the expansion of some Australian primary and secondary industries has been materially helped because of the careful and thorough investigations made by the Tariff Board. What is the present position? The depreciation of currency still exists, the dumping intentions are as keen as ever, and our valuable trade is still urgently desired by outsiders. The removal of the special precautions supplementary to the tariff would immediately result in the crippling, if not destruction, of not only many of our valuable secondary industries, but also some of our primary productions. These special precautions were never more necessary than they are to-day. There can be no retreat from the stand this Parliament has taken up of safeguarding and encouraging the development of existing industries, and the initiation of new industries. Our importance as a nation depends upon the thoroughness with which we carry out this great national task. The Commonwealth Trade and Customs Department is a great and important department, being charged with administering tariffs and excise that brought into the Commonwealth exchequer last year a revenue of £36,000,000. In the last two months there has been a considerable increase in revenue from these sources, compared with the corresponding period of last year. The Tariff Board is the guard appointed by Parliament to keep a vigilant watch over our industries, to warn the Minister and Parliament of any dangers that threaten the industrial life of the nation, and to advise as to the means of repelling them. This duty must continue to be necessary as long as our industries need protection, and it would be unwise to change the body which should discharge this duty. Another aspect to be considered is that the appointment of the Tariff Board has enabled the producers and manufacturers of states other than Victoria to place their views personally before the board. Previously, this opportunity was not presented to anything like the same extent, and one of the most fruitful sources of dissatisfaction was the lack of opportunity to industries, remote from Melbourne, to place their cases ‘ before the authorities concerned. The Tariff Board system may as yet be by no means perfect, but it is being, or has been, adopted by other Anglo-Saxon countries. Taking into consideration the very complicated, responsible, and arduous duties to be performed, no disinterested man with an insight into what is going on, can deny that it is incomparably preferable to the system which it displaced. I believe thai’ the service the Tariff Board will be able to render to the Commonwealth will bo increasingly valuable. For these reasons, therefore, the Tariff Board system should be made permanent. The board has to perform work which no Government, Parliament or Minister can do - work which is vitally necessary for the welfare of the nation. From my experience as a responsible Minister. I hold the present members of the board in very high esteem. They are carrying out their arduous duties with great ability, and without fear or favour, in an earnest attempt to do the best they can for Australia. While I am the administrative head of the department under which the board functions, I shall, without inflicting unnecessary pin-pricks on the trading community, endeavour to see that administration is effected in accordance with the will of Parliament, and in strict conformity with the law. My guiding principle will always be the preservation and development of our primary and secondary industries. The Government has also decided that the position of chairman of the Tariff Board shall not be held by the Comptroller-General of Customs. Consequently, the experience and advice of the Comptroller-General will always be independently available to the Minister. Should Parliament make the Tariff Board permanent, the safeguards provided for the administration of this great department will be as humanly perfect as possible. In the administration of the department we shall have, first, investigation, the report, and advice of the Tariff Board, and then, as a further check, the independent experience and assistance of the Comptroller-General. Finally, the Minister will make his decision in accordance with the facts presented to him, and the policy of the Government within the law, and for that decision he will be responsible to Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mann) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 3522), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill is a short one, with a long tail. Like the bull ant it has its sting in its tail, and is poisonous, but unlike that interesting insect, it is not indigenous to Australia, but had its origin abroad, and wilt, serve the interests of foreign capitalists..
Its purpose is to ratify the agreement made between His Majesty’s. Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. The Prima Minister (Mr. Bruce), who inttroduced it, stated that it would modify the existing agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the company. In fact, it does much more than modify that agreement, for it sets up a new agreement, in which all the objectionablefeatures of the old one are intensified. It will relieve thecompany of. the performance of a number of obligations placed, upon it by the agreement executed on the 28th March, 1922. An interesting’ matter of comment is that it proposes to adopt a new agreement already signed.. The new agreement has been executed by the parties, who stipulated in it that it should not have effect until it had been approved by the Commonwealth Parliament. Still, it is worthy of note that the previous agreement came before Parliament unsigned, and I mention the fact now because it occurs to me that the present) procedure is a tactical party move by the Government, As the agreement already bears the signature of the Prime Minister as an accomplished fact, the gentlemen who sit behind him will be much less likely to refuse to endorse it than if it had not been: signed.
– The object is to coerce followers of the Government:
– Yes, but the procedure cannot coerce members of. the Opposition. Another curious fact about the agreement is that in the words of the familiar’ song, “ It may be for years, and it may be for ever.” No term is set to it.
– That is extraordinary.
– It is; in agreements of this kind it is very unusual. Members of. the party to which I belong opposed the ratification of the former agreement, and for reasons that the march of events has greatly strengthened, they are likely to oppose the ratification of the agreement covered by the bill. At all events, as a member of the- rank and file of that party, I am unalterably opposed to it. It must not be thought that the opposition of the Labour party is captious, on that members of that party feel themselves under an obligation to oppose, merely for. the sake of opposing’, everything suggested by the Government. This party has always been ready, as a progressive, highly intellectual body, to exploit any new idea that was worth en tertaining, for it realizes that in the development of civilization it is necessary and expedient to harness the forces of science to the chariot of progress. Honorable members on this; side know that wireless is effecting a revolution in the intercourse of nations and individuals throughout the world. My opposition to the bill is based upon a deep and’ serious principleI have also some criticism to offer concerning the methods of the Government and as to details; but my first answer to the challenge offered by the presentation of this bill is that we are asked to ratify an agreement under which the Commonwealth binds itself to foreign trusts and combines in respect of a national service, when such a national service should be under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am not unmindful of the fact that the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who sat in the corner when we discussed’ the last bill, offered only a mild word of criticism upon it, to the effect that if he had his way we should’ not ally ourselves with the company, and’ that the matter was entirely one for private enterprise.
– Did he not say that if hehad his way the railways would be disposed of?
– He did..
– He has since sold himself.
Mr.BRENNAN- I do not wish to be too severe; I. merely wish to- point out that in his devotion, to the principle: of private enterprise we secured: from him a declaration in favour of every national service, including, wireless, telegraphic and. telephonic- services, being controlled by what weterm private enterprise. The postal and railway services of this country are almost by common consent? - -not by the consent of the Treasurer - controlled by the nation, through one or other of our Commonwealth or state instrumentalities and I venture to suggest that the post office, as a means of intellectual communication between the people in the years that are ahead of us, and probably during the lives of many of us now living, will be a back number or, at least, obsolescent. For reasons patent to every one of us; the members of the labour party realize the vast importance of this scientific triumph. We wish to give every possible encouragement to the development of wireless telegraphy, and to; make1 use of- it” in.’ the Best interests’ of* the wholly people”’ of Austrafia- ; we’ ctb1 not wish, that it. shall’ Be’ used’ to serve* the special’ interests of. dividend^ hunters.. In. order to shaw how far thi* Government andi its predecessor have* departed from the wise? safeguards-‘ necessary Vo> preserve the’ national interest against the greed of private enterprise, it. Becomes, necessary to. shortly examine- the history of the* matter.. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes)’! presented et 4b.-a.fH agreement to this House- for acceptance by Parliament in December, 1921, during the closing, nouns of. tha session. The agr.ee- ment; waa’,, as this.- one is, between, the> Commonwealth and1 Amalgamated’ Wireless, and was evidently influenced’ by the. bluff of interested parties who had.’ in, at certain sense- “got at: him’ - I db> not use? the- words’ itf the1 more offensivesense1 - while- he was attending’ an Imperial’ conference. The draff agreement was, as Is have stated?, introduced fir the closing’ hours’ of UK.B’ session when’ there- was scarcely any time in which to discuss’ it, arndt i. *is not; too much to” say that an attempt was made tff foist’ it upon Parliament without the House Being’; given an. opportunity to> discuss- it. I may also say that it is> certain, notwithstanding’ anything the Treasurer may say to- the,contrary, that but for’ the action taken by this party that- agreement would have been accepted. The- opposition’, led by tha- Leaden’ of: the Labour’ party (‘Mr. Charlton), counselled! ai further inquiry, and asked that the- result of- that* inquiry should be communicated to- Parliamentin; the form of? a report’ which could’ be discussed. That was-‘ opposed1,- hut nevertheless we managed to arrange that the- agreement be referred to a .Parliamentary committee- for’ consideration, the understanding being - not as we desired, that the- report should come- back to this House for discussion - that if the committee accepted the agreement, or remodelled’ ‘it, it’ should’ then be accepted and signed- by the- Government. That was the best we could obtain from the Government. The agreement was referred to a committee1, of: which the present Prime Minister’ (Mr. Bruce) was’ a member, and he was appointed’ Treasurer while the deliberations1 of’ the committee- were1 in progress.
-. - He ought to have resigned from the committee.
– 1 think he ought’ to have done? so. But as- 1 mentioned’ the’ matter once- before, I do not insist on it now, further than to concur with, tha hon.orable member. Doubtless-,, he> Brought great ability, and gave* it generously to’ the. consideration’ off the subject; T db” not wish* to detract from, his capacity, in that regard. Although, an endeavour was made, to- foist the- agreement- on> this) Parliament, in which the- Nationalist party assisted theGovernment?, when* the committee,, of which r Had the honour’ to be. a member, considered, tha. agreement,, the representatives of. the- Nationalist party, the1 Country party and tha Labour party unanimously rejected” it, as they considered’ that it failed: to- safeguard tine nation. This unanimity, was shared by tha honorable gentleman who became Treasurer under the Right Hon. ,. “W. Ml. Hughes Hie’ report furnished’ to- the1 House by the* then.” Treasurer, was a flat condemnation of,, and* a vote of censureupon,, his. own. leader.. The. agreement was a very serious matter.,, and- one* of serious bargaining, because it involved a national service. Nobody can overrate the importance of the whole- matter. The present Prime Minister was a member of the committee which, sai’d that the1 agreement should never have Been signed, and could never have been properly signed’ on behalf of the Commonwealth in the form in which it was first- presented’; but he joined’ the Government and1 Became Treasurer under the Prime Minister he thuscensured. The. committee worked upon the agreement,, and, it” must, be admitted, greatly, improved’ it in many particulars; -an’d in its improved’, and,. I think, still objectionable form, it was eventually signed1 on Behal’f of the Commonwealth. T furnished a report dissenting; from the. view of the- majority, and’ urging: that the agreement ought not te have- been accepted’, on the general grounds which’ I have already stated today in respect of the present document. I’ may, perhaps’, be- permitted te> quote a few words’ from that minority report, not that I’ wish to- flatter myself, bub because in the light of history that hae been’ since made, my statement seems to have Been prophetic. I said, on page 14 of the report -
Without making any charge against the present contracting party, it is prudent to bear in mind that the shareholders of smaller companies are more often than not also interested in larger corporations, and vice versa. If the smaller one succeeds in a great venture, the larger ones share the advantages. If the lesser one fails, its losses are limited to itself and its partners.
During the inquiry one gathered that there was at least one large corporation having a fatherly interest in Amalgamated Wireless Limited, without any responsibility to the Commonwealth. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that the shareholders of the larger body cherish a hope that their company will benefit in the result of the experiment in longdistant radio telegraphy, now proposed to be made largely at the expense of the Commonwealth. Ido not think that the Commonwealth should even indirectly subsidize capitalists, however influential, and especially foreign capitalists, to so experiment. We have legislated much against trusts and combines. By virtue of this agreement we are likely to make the Commonwealth a cog in the wheel of a very large trust indeed.
True, the agreement now provides for certain indemnities and guarantees, but “ unforseen circumstances “ and “ impossibility of performance “ are useful phrases when one party seeks relief from its obligations. Further, the prospect of the Commonwealth engaging itself in costly litigation with vested interests to enforce its contracts is neither edifying nor, judged by experience, hopeful.
My reference to a large company, of course, referred to the Marconi trust which, at that time, was suspected to be lurking in the background, but which now, if you please, struts upon the stage as the brightest star actor of the piece. The agreement, having been ratified, the matter came before Parliament, and the discussion, especially in regard to the appointment of the seventh member, created a certain amount of scandal, reflecting not too pleasantly upon the Government. On that occasion, the Prime Minister made a speech in which to the best of his not inconsiderable ability he held me up to ridicule as a person whose views on this subject were not worthy of very serious consideration. He told me - I have not forgotten it, although, no doubt every one else has - that he had paid me the compliment of listening to me from the beginning to the end of my speech. Since then I have frequently paid him a similar compliment, and I may add that mine is the greater compliment, since I have, I think, the smaller store of patience. In his speech on the 14th July, 1922, as reported on page 506 of Hansard, the Prime Minister said -
That the practicability of direct wireless communication with Great Britain is not yet established is undeniable. No man can say whether or not this can be done with certainty, and that was the consideration which more than anything else impressed the committee. All of us were seized of the wonderful value to Australia which direct wireless communication with Europe would be, but we were not prepared to risk a great sum of Commonwealth money in such an undertaking on the evidence at present available. The experts examined by the committee are confident that wireless communication with Britain canbe established on the basis of a commercial service for 300 days in the year, twelve hours per day, and 20 words per minute. The experts said that such a service was possible if we erected the necessary stations. We asked them toadduce evidence in support of their theory, and all they could tell us were the results obtained by what is called “ listening-in “ with their own instruments in Australia. A study of the summarized evidence will show that the experts have obtained very considerable results in that way over periods of weeks, and for many hours per day. With the very inefficient receiving installations at present in existence, they have been able to pick up wireless messages from Bordeaux, Leafield, and other stations in Europe. The committee-
And this is the passage to which I invite the special attention of honorable members - were notsatisfied, however, that that evidence was ‘ sufficient to warrant the Commonwealth spending a great sum of money, and we pointed out that the only basis upon which we could agree to recommend the purchase was that we should have some guarantee of the service which the Commonwealth would get in return ‘ for the money expended.
– We are still waiting.
– No. We are not waiting for those guarantees, because the Marconi trust stepped upon the stage and entered into guarantees satisfactory and acceptable to the present Government. But nothing has been done under the agreement, and now, two and a half years after the signing of the document, we are asked to release the Marconi people from their obligations. Honorable members, no doubt, admit the triumph of the Prime Minister in that he was able to say, three years ago, that the guarantees would be forthcoming, but, after waiting for three years for. something to be done, we are now proposing, by legislation, to relieve the company from those guarantees. The PrimeMinister, by marking time and by making a heavy noise with his feet, really persuaded himself that he was making some progress, while in truth and in fact he has made none whatever.
– What are you going to do about it?
– It is for members of the Country party to tell us what they are going to do about it. They will be invited to give an answer to that question. The facetious and jocular member for Indi will find himself in a very serious position when this subject is’ discussed in his own division.
– His supporters will ask him what he is going to do about it.
– I advise the honorable member for Indi, for his own good, not to interject. The Amalgamated Wireless Company covenanted to do many things, including those from which it is now being relieved. I find, on page 10 of the existing agreement, that the company undertook - (<i) To construct, maintain, and operate in Australia the necessary stations and equipment for a direct commercial wireless service between Australia and £he United Kingdom.
The date of the agreement is the 28th March, 1922-
– And this is a business government !
– And that has been allowed by a strictly business government ! What excuse does the company offer for its failure to observe its part of the contract ? If honorable members will turn to the schedule to the bill, they will find the following recited : -
And’ whereas at the time of the making of the principal agreement, the parties thereto believed that the British Government would bc ready and willing to grant licences for the erection’ and operation of a trunk station and other stations in the United Kingdom for communication with Australia. And, whereas the British Government refuses to grant licences for the erection and operation of commercial wireless stations in the United Kingdom with a view to communication with Australia, and the Marconi Company is, by reason thereof, unable to obtain the necessary licence to erect or operate the said trunk station in the United Kingdom for that purpose And whereas the Commonwealth is desirous that the company should (notwithstanding the fact that the Marconi Company is prevented at the present time from providing a main trunk station in the United Kingdom) proceed with the erection of the main trunk station in Australia, and has requested the company to endeavour to arrange with the Marconi company to proceed with the erection of such station, and the company has agreed to do so provided the company is relieved from certain obligations under the principal agreement. Now, in consideration of the premises it is hereby agreed-
– The whole point in the bill is that the company is to be relieved from its obligations.
– That is the main purpose of the bill. Honorable members will notice that the basis of the company’s application to be relieved from its obligations under the principal agreement, and to have a fresh agreement, giving it a new lease of life, to enable it to undertake fresh experiments and obtain, if possible, dividends, is that it understood that it would be granted a licence to erect trunk and other stations in Great Britain, and that those expectations were not realized. Did the Commonwealth Government covenant to invest £500,000 of Commonwealth money in this venture on the mere chance of the British Government agreeing to the Marconi trust erecting high-power stations in Great Britain? If it did, that was a very reckless act, and one for which trustees in private life might well be sentenced to ten or twelve years’ incarceration. ‘Of course it was an -easy matter to put that question to the proof. A cable to the -British -Government at the time would have satisfactorily cleared that issue. The representative df Amalgamated Wireless Limited in Australia - a gentleman whose promises have borne such a slight relation to his performances - assured us that it was the easiest thing in the world to secure a licence to erect high-powered stations in Great Britain. Perhaps I should explain that Amalgamated Wireless Limited entered into contracts with the Marconi Company for the -erection -of those stations, and that the latter furnished the necessary guarantees; but, m the colloquial phrase of the day, Amalgamated “Wireless Limited is merely a “ pup “ of the Marconi trust, an appendage in Australia having the appearance of an Australian company, but in reality only an .inconsiderable . agent and representative of the Marconi trust in -this country. The question -to he answered is, is this .failure to obtain a .licence to erect .stations in Great Britain merely an accentuation of Other failures by the company, or is it something more? .1 suggest .that the statement regarding it amounts to an allegation of breach -of -faith on the part of the British Government. I am led to that conclusion by taking what is recited in the bill and -reading it .in .cob junction with the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who has told us that, when the agreement was entered into, we had reason -to believe that such lioemo.es would be .granted, brat that after we had .entered into the .agreement, the British Government did not favour that .policy.
– On what grounds .did the right honorable gentleman believe’ that those licences would he granted?
– He believed it, because the -cocksure representative of the Amalgamated Wireless Limited in Australia told him that such was the case, aud he did not take the trouble to verify the statement of his informant. As a matter of fact, there has ‘been no breach of faith ‘On the part of the British ‘Government. If the position were as stated by the Prime Minister, there -would in deed have been’ a breach of faith, in that the British Government had given us tounderstand that facilities - - would be given to us to erect these stations, and subsequently had refused the concession. As a matter- of fact, the attitude of the British Government for years past in regard to the control of wireless in Great Britain has been well known. The feud of which the right honorable gentleman spoke the other day,, between the Marconi ‘trust and the British Government, centred round this intrusion of a largely foreign company into Great Britain, and its competition with theBritish Government for the control of a national service. There has been no feud in the strict sense of the term; but, to their honour be it said, succeeding British Governments - Conservative, Liberal. and Labour- - have offered stern and continued resistance to the Marconi trust in itsendeavour to control wireless in Great Britain. I venture to say lhat, if one wanted an .outstanding illustration of the extraordinary .tactlessness .of the Commonwealth ‘Government in its handling of ‘this matter, it .is afforded by the fact that it deliberately .allowed the Maneoni trust to obtain the controlling influence in Amalgamated ‘Wireless Limited, and in our efforts to establish trunk stations in ‘Great Britain, well knowing that that trust was wot persona grata to the British Government or the British peop’le. With its eyes open it has allowed .this trust, under the nominal direction of Amalgamated Wireless Limited. to he the only tenderer .for the erection of .these highpower -stations.. Nobody can get into the business except the Marconi trust, and the Government knew ‘perfectly well that the Marconi trust was in constant .antagonism .to the British Government, and it .should have known that, on national and .imperial .grounds, any .British Government with a high sense of its duty as the trustee of the na.ti.on., would resist a scheme by which a company, wholly foreign, -could sift at the heart of the .Empire with its finger upon the prise of communication between Great Britain and every other country in the world. ‘From strategic, -defence, and commercial points of view, it was of vital importance to Great Britain that, in the last resort, her wireless should be controlled by the British people The Commonwealth Government .seems to have -disregarded that necessity. What is the Marconi trust? The Marconi Wireless Company, England ; the Radio Communication Company, United States of America; the French Wireless Company, and the Telefunken Company, Germany, are merely branches of the Marconi trust; and the Amalgamated Wirelessi Company is what same honorablemembers in this chamber once referred to as “ the pup of the Marconi trust. “ Whenthe Prime Minister told us that licences would be issued for the erection, of trunk and other stations in Great Britain, and quoted Mr. Bonar Law in support of that assertion, he seemsto have mixed, has dates. The right honorable gentleman said in a recent speech -
Negotiations were carried on for some time, based by Australia to aconsiderable extent upon the undertaking believed to, have been given at the. Imperial’ conference in 1921 that my obstacle would be placedin our way in making, any arrangements we desired for a direct service to Great. Britain and the erection of a reciprocal station there. In March, 1923, Mr. Bonar Law, the thenPrime Minister of Great Britain, made a statement whichhas always been, interpreted to mean that the British Government; was prepared to alter its policy in regard to the issue of licences to private companies orindividuals for theerection of stations for communication with the dominions,He. said-. - “ It. was not considered any longer necessary to exclude private enterprise from participation in wireless’ within the Empire, and the Government were ready to issue licences for wireless stations in this countryfor communication with the dominions, colonies, and foreign countries, subject, to the conditions necessity, and subject to Great Britain controlling: the suitabje arrangements for the working of the traffic.”
That statement by Mr Bonar Law in 1923 was quoted by the Prime Minister as indicating a change of policy on the part of theEmperial Government, but the original agreement of whichI am speaking; was madeon the 28th March, 1922, a . year earlier, sothat Mr. Bonar Law’s remarks expressed merely a very guarded modification of the policy of retaining complete governmentcontrol of wireless stations. The well-known policy of the British Government even as enunciated by Mr. Bonar Law, was to exclude foreign companies from operating high-power wireiless in Great Britain. The Prime Minister said that when he reached England it seemed! to be expected that he would throw the weight of his position as Prime Minister of Australia on the side of Amalgamated Wireless-.
Me. Bruce.. - No; on the side of the Marconi company..
Me. BRENN AN . - That suits my argument better. If the British people were familiar with the history of the Commonwealth’s relations with Amalgamated Wireless, they must naturally have expected that the right honorable gentleman would throw his weight on the side of the Marconi trust. But he said that he took no sides; of course not, he was not likely to do so:. He found that the British Government had strong views upon foreign companies operating wireless in Britain, and’ he decided wisely, but belatedly to remain neutral. Nevertheless he had created the impression in Great Britain that he was supporting the claim of Amalgamated Wireless and of the Marconi trust to take control of highpower, stations in Great Britain.
I come now to a consideration: of the revolution which according to the Prime Minister has takenplace in wireless on account of the discovery of what is known as the”beam” system. Having done nothing for the Commonwealth but much for itself and the Marconi trust, the Amalgamated Wireless Company cast about for. excuses and a way out of its dilemma. Either it had. to confess its failure or allege a revolution and new conditions, or, asI said in my report two years ago, admit. “ the impossibility of performance.” So the company brought to its aid the “ new “ beam system of wireless telephony and telegraphy. The wireless conference in London, which was presided, over, by Sir Robert Donald, and was sitting, while the Prime Minister was. in Great Britain reported in favour of. a high-power station for Australia to be erected’ by the. Government.. The Prime Minister has. suggested’ that at that time the committee knew nothing of, the beam system but that is nonsense. Her said that an innovation known as’ the beam system Became a. practical possibility about the time that the Donald committee made its report, and. thus changed the whole aspect of the wireless agreement. One curious features about the Prime Minister’s references to the beam system is that, although he alleges that it is to. revolutionize our relations with Amalgamated Wireless, and is to lead to a new agreement, new obligations, and new commitments, he gave the system only that faint praise which is traditionally said to damn. He said, that the system will be useful merely in a directional way, and for only a few hours a day, or, rather, in the dark, and he should have admitted that the Navy and shipping companies generally were opposed to it. The British Government, having been asked for advice in the light of the Donald committee’s report, which was, at the time, the last word on the subject of wireless, advised the Australian Government to proceed with the proposed high-power station. I find this report in the London Times of the 24th July, 1924-
Trial or the Beam System.
Mr. HARTSHORN, PostmasterGeneral (Ogmore), replying to a question by Sir L. Worthington-Evans (Colchester, U. ), said: - The Government have decided to adopt the main recommendations of the Donald Committee in regard to the Empire wireless service, which were as follows: - (1) That the State, through the Post Office, should own all wireless stations in Great Britain for communication with the Overseas Dominions, Colonics. Protectorates, and Territories; and (2) that the Post Office should operate directly, under an improved business organization, all the Empire stations in Great Britain.
It is a condition of the contract that the installations shall only be accepted and paid for by the Government if they fulfil certain minimum guarantees, which are as follows: - Communication at 100 five-letter words per minute (exclusive of any repetitions necessary to ensure accuracy) for the following average number of hours daily throughout the year: between Great Britain and Canada, 18 hours; between Great Britain and South Africa, 11 hours; between Great Britain and India, 12 hours; between Great Britain and Australia, 7 hours. Communication is only possible when the average altitude of the sun between the terminal points is below a certain maximum; in other words, communication can only take place during the hours of darkness and during one or two hours ‘before and after twilight. The hours of communication being outside the ordinary business day, stations of this type will as a rule only be available for deferred traffic. For long distance communication at all hours and for simultaneous long distance transmission in all directions at all -hours (conditions which the Government regard as essential both for strategic and for other reasons), high-power stations of the type of that being erected at Rugby will still be necessary.
Sir L.WorthingtonEvans. ; Does that mean that Australia and South Africa are abandoning the intention to erect a high-power station ?
Mr. HARTSHORN.; That appears to he their general attitude at the moment, at any rate until they have given this thing a trial.
Sir L. WorthingtonEvans. ; And they will be content with communication after dark?
Mr. HARTSHORN. They have not yet reached a definite decision.
Mr. P. Harris (BethnalGreen, S.W., L.).Is it not daylight in Australia and New Zealand when it is dark here? (Laughter, and cries of “Answer.”)
It would appear that the united wisdom of the House of Commons was not quite equal to answering the question, “How long is it dark at the same time in both Australia and Great Britain” ? and I doubt if the united wisdom of the House could give a satisfactory answer to it. However, the discussion directs attention to the important fact that the beam system is applicable only to hours of darkness. Of course, hours of darkness are suitable to a government that acts in the dark; but I am advocating a system which works in the light. I believe that, as the light has been switched on, we should follow the advice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in that regard, and keep it on. As a matter of fact, without deciding just for the moment the vexed question of how long it is dark at the same time in both Great Britain and Australia, I have been led to believe that the beam system cannot be relied upon to operate formore than two to four hours each day. It follows, therefore, that it can only be useful for deferred messages at the best, and must be quite useless and hopeless in competition with the ordinary cable system, which works during all hours of the day and night. The Prime Minister, in that light-hearted way in which he has approached this subject, in marked contrast to the dolorous solemnity with which he approaches the question of the taxation of leaseholds, has said that under this agreement we are to have 21,600 words a day each way for 300 days a year, at the rate of 50 words a minute for 7 hours a day, instead of 20 words a minute for 12 hours a day as provided for in the old agreement. One would think that we had been so long accustomed to 20 words a minute for 12 hours a day that we were pining for something new. The mere fact that we are not getting one word a day has not affected in the slightest the optimism of the right honorable gentleman. But even his statement in this regard is open to criticism . on many points. ‘ For instance: are they to be repeat words and are they to be effective words 1 The truth is that the right honorable gentleman lacks authority to say that this can bc done. Everything he spoke of in that speech quoted by me earlier about the impracticability of the whole thing remains unchanged to-day. He now says that the introduction of the beam system constitutes such a vital change that we are justified in changing our outlook on wireless entirely. But the system is not novel. Honorable members will probably be surprised to learn - the Prime Minister will not be surprised, because he knows it already, although he did not tell the House about it - that Marconi applied for a patent for the beam system in 1917, and the ground upon which his application was refused was that there was no novelty in the idea, and there was nothing about it for which a patent could be justly given. All that the beam system amounts to is that there is a certain amount of concentration of energy upon a short wave; but such is the effect of light upon this short wave that the system can only operate during a very few of the 24 hours, and it is also subject to our old friend atmospherics, about which the right honorable gentleman knows so much”. Nothing has been done to overcome these disadvantages, and no evidence has been given by the Prime Minister to indicate that the beam system is a practical one. In a paper read by him at the Royal Society of Arts on the 2nd July last, Marconi referred to radio telephonic transmission from the experimental station at Poldhu being received by Mr. Fisk, managing director of Amalgamated Wireless, at a station near Sydney, and explained that reflectors were not used on that occasion. In other words, the transmission was normal, apart from the use of very short waves, such as so-called amateurs have employed for experimental transmission over considerable distances, using an input of only a few watts - a fraction of the power used at Poldhu. Here let me quote the comment of a correspondent - I am not at liberty to disclose his name, but the facts can be tested by communication with Marconi, and I take the responsibility for what he has said. His comment is as follows: -
The particulars given in that paper showed that such a system is likely to be of much value for working over comparatively short distances at night-time, but for long-distance commercial working we must rely upon highpower stations transmitting on much longer wave lengths than those which can be used for beam working. To put the matter beyond all doubt, Marconi replied to a question on the subject of working to Australia by saying that, “ The indications were that in the middle of the day any practical amount of power would not get through very long distances.” and that “ lt would appear to be very difficult indeed, if not impossible, to get messages to Australia by day-time as far as he had tried.”
These were the words of Marconi himself. It is important to remember that the British Government are proceeding with the erection of their high-power station at Rugby, although they are permitting, under very severe safeguards, an experiment with the beam system on the principle that if it works well it will be taken over by them, and if it does not work well it will not be taken over.
-.- And without pay- “ ment. In spite of advice and evidence, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in speaking of the determination of the Government to proceed with the, beam system, says lightly -
Our reason is that such amazing developments have occurred in wireless during the past two or three years that by the time a highpowered station had been erected, at a cost of nearly £50(3,000, it would probably be obsolete and useless.
For that statement we have one authority - the right honorable gentleman himself. To the contrary I quote Marconi, the Donald Committee, the British Government, and every local expert I have been able to meet; and I. challenge the right honorable gentleman to quote a single expert in support of his view. He says -
As recently as July, 1.921, a committee of British experts, which included several representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department, declared that wireless communication over a distance of more than 2,000 miles was quite impossible for commercial purposes, irrespective of the size or power of the stations which might be erected. To-day, I do not think that any one who is familiar with wireless developments will affirm that communication over 10,000 or 12,000 miles is either impracticable or difficult of accomplishment.
That is a most extraordinary statement. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well, as a member of the committee to which I have referred, and as one who has given a little thought to the matter, “that radio communication is possible over 10;000 or 12,009 miles. That point is not in dispute; the question is whether :a practical commercial -service over -that distance -can be established. The Prime Minister, a day or two ago, spoke as if a revolution had :been effected in .this regard, whereas, in truth and ‘fact, since “Ohe date on which the original agreement was made, not a single step of any considerable ‘importance .has been taken to overcome the practical difficulties of establishing a commercial ^service. Not a single advance “has been made, unless the right .’honorable gentleman is speaking of the D.ame Melba concerts, sealed sets, and other ‘broadcasting developments, which ar,e not worth considering in dealing with the matter of establishing high-power radio communication. Then the right ‘honorable gentleman became, unconsciously perhaps, but still actually, a little amusing. Dipping into the -future ‘he said -
I feel confident -that in the .very near ‘future t’lie ‘beam system will. -make even greater developments.
We are invited to invest on .his prophecy -
The objection to the beam system from the strategic point of -view, that we -Should not be dme .by -it ‘to communicate with our fleet in ‘the ‘Pacific, will, i also feel. sure, be overcome .very -soon
That would be a very lame conclusion even on the part of an expert, but, coming as it ‘floes ‘from ‘one w.ho does mot, pose as an expert, it is -somewhat amusing. This practical ‘business ‘Government is suggesting that we -should invest £500,000 in rainbows ‘On the Prime Minister’s prophecy that he feels sure these difficulties -will %e got over in the near future. Like tennyson, he -
Dipt onto the future, far as human ,eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the would, .and ‘the wonder that ‘would ibc
If T have .time, a word or two about Mr. Fisk, the representative of Amalgamated Wireless in Australia, -.will not <be out of place.
Motion (.by .Mr. Mahony) . agreed to -
That the -Standing Orders -be -suspended to enable the honorable member’s time to be extended
Mr. BRENNAN. sif I weise looking ‘for a ‘.business manager, ta company promoter, or <a ‘dividend seeker, I ‘should -probably pay con siderable attention to the application of Mr. Fisk, hut if, -on the other hand, I were -seeking a /disinterested patriot, desirous of serving ‘the best interests of Australia, Mr. Fisk would -stand quite ;a long time iia the queue before die Tronic! hear Mb name called. The truth ‘is that he :i6 .’neither -.expert nor patriot, but it is onn unpleasant .and unfortunate fact .that his influence “over the Government iu regard to this matter is only too apparent. I do not charge ‘the Government with participating in the generous -graft .of the Marconi Trust. which iis famous -‘for its graft, J do molt make any charge ‘.of thai kind ; against (the Government; 1 jam nervous about doing -.8.©., -and if .Ministers choose :to accept my words as ^suggesting bribery w corruption. I cannot .-help -jit. I -know they have the if acuity for assuming themselves (deeply -to be -wounded in regard to these -matters. 1 -do not wish to put the Prime Minister in such .a position as -he put himself in the -.other nigh when he received that very severe, -.but . swellmerited, “dressing down “ from -the hanorable member for Yarra (Mi:. .’Scullin’) . J -do not make am,y chao-ge against the Government. I .am keeping -on the - safe side. ‘But that the Government has been strongly influenced by the heated vapourings of a dividend-hunting company pilomotor in .the person .of Mr.. .Fisk, is only too apparent. The .Prime .Minister must know perfectly well that all the wellwishers of the Commonwealth are only too anxious ito keep off that “ old man of the sea,” the Marconi Trust, but by the Jack of information in .his speech, and _ by -the slurring aver -of important details -of -the case in favour of the ratification of this .agreement, he clearly suggested that be is the puppet of thi trust and of .Mr. Fisk, just ;hs the exprime .Minister .(Mr. W. M. Hughes) undoubtedly was ‘-when the returned from England, :md fruitlessly tried ito induce this Parliament ito enter into ia certain agreement that hB proposed. ©Tow that the coup de about to :be made, we see Mx. Fisk’s portrait in -the morning and evening newspapers, together with .a great deal of special pleading, (which appears sm (the if oran of news butt iis really advertising matter, for “him ;and Amalgamated Wireless Limited. Recently I .saw in it,he .Melbourne Herald what purported to be an .interview with. Mr. F.isk. land, as usual, his photograph was published. I have no desire to .indulge in personalities, and I have no animus against Mr. Fisk, but as he is running (the affairs of Amalgamated Wireless limited, just as he is sunning the Government in this matter, it becomes very necessary to say a few words about him. The Herald article related .how Mir.. Fisk had -carried on from Vaucluse, in -Sydney, wireless telephonic communications with Marconi, at Poldhu, in ^Cornwall. But when we put he acid -test on the claim which Mr. Fisk has so industriously spread throughout Australia hy means of the *Herald newspaper and other sections of the press, that Ibis communications with Signor Maaroom were the manifestations of the great revolution which is being worked -in wireless “by the -means of .the ‘beam system, w.e discover,, on no less an authority than Marconi .himself, that .the hearn .system played a very slight ,part, if .any at .all, in -the communications. Reflectors were not used, and technicists ‘know .that .that means that the principles of wireless telephony were simply applied to the wellestablished principles of wireless telegraphy. The voice is .superimposed on wave lengths which create the telephony.. ‘Telegraphy is the interpretation of the wave . itself. This is the land of ‘poisonous -propaganda that is being spread ‘through Australia to-day. Honorable -members wall recollect that Mr. *Fisk was much in evidence when Mr. Wise, then member for Gippsland and Postmaster-General in -the late Government of which the -present Prime Minister was Treasurer, was -in charge df wireless affairs Mr. Wise -felt it necessary to -speak very plainly in this chamber shout the objectionable interference and lobbying of Mr. Fisk in his efforts to cause the Commonwealth Government to .enter into an agreement with him -on he-half of his company. It is very much to the credit of Mr. Wise ‘that he -stood up against Mr. Fisk like a man, and expressed his candid opinion -of him. It is quite evident that the ‘wretched agreement, as originally presented hy Mr. Hughes, and which we are now ‘asked to ‘amend, was conceived by the .company. When Mr. ‘Fisk waB -examined some time ago >cm this matter !by a disinterested committee of honorable members of this Parliament, of whom the Prime .Minister was one; he .said that it was quite possible for his company to give Australia .a service of twenty words a minute .for twelve hours a day, but, under cross-examination, he admitted that his belief was subject to serious qualification, and that there was no evidence whatever which would justify the committee in concluding with fair certainty that it was possible. Mr. Fisk also :said that it was quite within ‘his capacity to obtain licences to 1erect high-power stations in Great Britain, .Canada, and elsewhere. He “has -not done sq, nor “can he do so. Now ‘he asks the Government to amend the agreement “to relieve him of the necessity for doing .it. He was quite sure that he could take over ‘the Commonwealth radio stations, and wireless equipment, .and ‘turn our -deficits into a profit (for (us. Uut what has happened 8 Certainly he has taken over -out plant and our stations, “but only -with a handsome subsidy as a m aIrt -.of the bargain. .’‘I cannot help ‘wondering who pays for Mr. Fisk’s ‘personal advertising ian. all (these matters. Why have we not a financial .statement ito show .us .where the CommonweaLth Government .stands :in respect of the flatting advertisements .that we see? Why -is -not a balance sheet (presented to us as evidence of -the value of this new proposal,? Not.one atom of evidence has been submitted to us. We have had a general .statement of the .Prime Minister’s hopes and beliefs in .respect of the .beam system, but w.e lack any evidence that .there is a substantial foundation for .them. Clause .7 of the .agreement reads - ©untag the period of construction said reorganization, Dr Sox .a period -of three years from the date of this .agreement, whichever is the less, the .Commonwealth shall J>ay to the company., monthly, Bdi remounts expended in carrying >on the .existing Commonwealth radio stations, and the company shall pay to the Commonwealth, -monthly, all sums received as Revenue from :the working .df those stations
To-day I am in a position to present some ‘kind of a balance-sheet on these operations, for, in reply to questions I put to ‘the Prime Minister, he stated that the payments made to the company by the ‘Commonwealth in the terms of that clause -of the agreement have totalled £139,959, -and the amounts paid to the Commonwealth by <the company have totalled .only £61,000.
– Was not the company supposed to put in £1 for £1 ?
– That provision had relation to capital ; but these figures relate to the working of the radio stations. How it happens that the Government is £88,000 out of pocket and the company has done nothing whatever for us, requires, in my opinion, a little more explanation than we have had so far. I will not trench further on the extended time which the House did me the honour to give me for the discussion of this matter, except to say that the question remaining for honorable members to decide is, whether the Government has proposed a practicable scheme. Although I do not claim to be an expert, I have given as much consideration to this subject as the next man, and in justification of my presumption in forming an opinion on the matter, I, at least, have called some witnesses, and given some evidence in support of my views, whereas the Prime Minister has given us no evidence whatever in support of his proposals. It would be of no use to appeal to honorable members opposite to vote against this measure on the ground that we should not allow this company to worm its way into the control of wireless in Australia, but should jealously guard our responsibilities in that regard for the nation’s needs. The fetish of honorable members opposite is private enterprise, and their god is personal gain. Competition and profits are the limits of their outlook on life. But I trust that they are not immune to an appeal to consider whether the Government has submitted to us a business proposition, for they pretend to have the business instinct. Is it a business proposition for the Government to covenant to pay £500,000 to this company in view of the company’s utter failure to do the things that it undertook to do ? It has not met its obligations in a single particular. In these circumstances, are we to give it a new lease of life on the same speculative grounds which governed the last agreement, to enable it to conduct its experiments at the public cost? Not long ago I read in the morning press an article in which the writer, like an illtempered fishwife, hectored and lectured the Government of Victoria, because it proposed to relieve slightly the working conditions of the primary producers on the land by reducing railways freights and fares and by other practical means. What have such critics to say of the members of this Government, who do not hesitate to risk, in easy speculation, a large amount of public money in a company in which they would not think of venturing their own private resources ? How long is this kind of thing to go on? Is the Prime Minister willing to pile up guarantee on guarantee, and after these guarantees have been dishonoured to propose something else to take their place? Where is the end of it? No justification has been shown for the proposal to vary this agreement. The whole thing is objectionable, not only from the point of view of sound business, but for the additional reason that there are no material grounds upon which we can be justly asked to conclude another agreement with the company. It is doubly objectionable, on the ground that it steals that which rightly belongs to the nation, and from the point of view that there is unanswerable evidence to show that the Government, in proposing it, has been influenced and prompted by persons whose motives are their own private profits, and not the nation’s good.
.- Time has vindicated the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in the attitude he adopted, some two years ago, in taking strong exception to the agreement then proposed with the Amalgamated Wireless Company, and the sound advice tendered by the honorable member on that occasion entitles his remarks today to the most serious consideration. When, in defiance of warnings, the Government plunged headlong into this contract with a private company there was strong public feeling that the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) and his colleagues were courting disaster. The history of the wireless negotiations shows that the fears then expressed were well founded, since we now find that the good cash of this country has been invested in an enterprise of a doubtful character. The present Government, following the procedure adopted by its predecessors, with all the audacity it is possible to summon, desires to foist on the people a revised agreement with the company. The objections to the scheme are numerous, and are based on logical grounds. The honorable member for Batmanhas rightly reminded us that in the new agreement no limit is placed upon the time to be allowed the company in which to “ deliver the goods.” In the original agreement there was a provision stipulating a definite period in which the work should be executed.
– It was as slip-shod as the pact between the Nationalists and the Country party.
– I agree entirely with the honorable member for Darling. The Government, apparently has no desire to conserve the interests of the people generally. On the other hand, it seems to be studying the interests of the wealthy sections and of “ big business,” both in Australia and overseas. More than two years have elapsed since the original agreement was signed, but the day is still far distant when Australia can expect a service in return for the capital invested. It seems to me that the public will look in vain for any adequate wireless service if the work is to be entrusted to the Amalgamated Wireless Company, which is part of the Marconi Trust. It is useless to dispute the fact that the Marconi Company has a very real interest in the Amalgamated Wireless Company, for it holds shares in it. All recent happenings in this matter prove conclusively that those who condemned the first agreement were right, and that the Government was tragically wrong; but cold comfort is afforded the taxpayers, who have seen their money squandered. The agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless Company was based on two main conditions. In the first place, the company was required to erect in Australia a high-power station capable of direct communication with the United Kingdom. Secondly, the company undertook to arrange for the erection of suitable corresponding stations in the United Kingdom. Everything else was contingent on those conditions, and the company made default. A lack of business acumen was shown by the Government in entering into such an arrangement with a company that did not give the necessary guarantee that it would carry out its part of the agreement. It now seems that there is still a deliberate desire to favour a commercial enterprise of a very doubtful character at the expense of the people of Australia.
– I call attention to the state of the House. I think that, if the taxpayers are to be plundered in broad daylight, more Government supporters should be present.
– Three Labour members calling for a quorum ! [Quorum formed.]
– Apart from the time limit placed upon the company under the original agreement, there are other provisions that entitle one to question the company’s right to continue the work. Sub-clause viii of clause 3 of the agreement states- -
The company shall not enter into or bea party to any commercial trust or combine, but shall always be and remain an independent British business.
It is known that the Amalgamated Wireless Company has on its share list the Marconi Trust, and that paragraph, I think, shows that the company hasnot acted according to the spirit and letter of the agreement. The position in Great Britain has been clouded for. some considerable time by a controversy upon the proposed establishment of wireless communication between Australia and the Old Country. But it is now reported that arrangements have been made for the Marconi Trust to erect an experimental station on the beam system. According to figures supplied by the PostmasterGeneral of Great Britain (Mr. Hartshorn), such a station would cost a maximum of £44,920, but the people of Great Britain are absolutely secured against financial responsibility, unless the tests made are according to required standards, and the Marconi Company erect a similar station in Canada.
– They are right on the spot, yet they are more sceptical than we are.
– The British Government has issued a licence to the Marconi people to erect a station at a maximum cost of £44,920, and has secured to the people of the United Kingdom full guarantees against default by the company. Why are the people of Australia to pay £100,000 for a similar station to that which is to cost the British people not more than £44,920?
– The Australian station will cost £120,000.
– I quoted the figures which 1 had seen reported, but am prepared to accept correction. The position demands some explanation. No explanation of the difference between the costs of the two stations has yet been offered by the Government, nor is any penalty or time limit provided in the agreement. Even Marconi himself admits that the beam system of wireless is still only in the experimental stage. To commit) the Commonwealth of Australia to such an expenditure, and to fail to provide adequate penalties in case of default by the company, is evidence of great remissness of duty on the part of those responsible for the signing of this agreement. I cannot understand honorable members sitting behind the Government, and raising no voice in protest when the public interest is subordinated to that of private gain and commercial advantage. Remember the advice of Marconi, who is an eminent scientist in wirelessmatters, and who states that thisbeam system is at present only experimental; but remember also, and most particurlarly, that Mr. Fisk is not a scientist, but a- salesman interested only in seeing that the shareholders ofhis company receive their dividends. The valuable advice tendered this afternoon by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in connection with this matter should be carefully considered before the Parliament confirms the agreement and the further contract with Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The same conditions and penalties that the British Government has placed upon the Marconi Trust should be incorporated in the agreement. What precautions have been taken by the Government against a station incapable of doing the work for which it was erected being left on its hands?’ The onus of proving that the station will render efficient service should rest with the company. If the venture is a failure, why should the people of Australia be called upon to foot the bill ?
– It is a fifty-fifty arrangement.
– For the especial benefit of the Minister, permit me to say that in. addition to the £112,000 share money already invested, there- is another £139,000 which we have paid for current working expenses. We have received as receipts £51,000, because of certain work which has been undertaken by the company. That leaves £88,000 which the Commonwealth has. paid, over and above the share’ capital for which it is responsible, which does not indicate that the undertaking is a very profitable business-. There is no “ fif ty-fif ty “ division with those losses.
– Thisis a matter which should be inquired into by a committee.
– The provisions of this agreement certainly should be- inquired into by a committee and a report- made to this. Mouse as- to the wisdom or otherwise ‘of entailing into a further contract with Amalgamated Wireless? Limited. What does the Government; propose to do to conserve the interests of the people of Australia in this matter.? Will it see that the company takes all the risks, as the Marconi company is. required to do in the United Kingdom ? Seeing that beam wireless is in the experimental stage only, every precaution should be taken to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. Time is not the essence of the contract in this matter. In view of the fact that the arrangements previously entered into with this company proved so unsatisfactory, the fullest inquiry should be made. While I do not profess to be a technical expert in regard to wireless communication, I have made myself familiar with certain aspects of beam wireless-. It is evident that, to secure efficient service fromthis system, darkness is required. As Australia is situated almost on the opposite side of the globe from the United Kingdom, it is impossible to get the necessary condition of darkness simultaneously in both countries-. It is very doubtful whether the beam system could operate effectively under such conditions. The people of Australia should not be required to accept all the risk under’ the new agreement, seeing that a, private company is to secure the profits and. advantages: that may accrue from this venture. India and New Zealand have both- refused at the moment to accept this system as. adequate. New Zealand, because of its geographical position, is in a more advantageous: position to receive wireless messages under the beam system than is Australia, and still she rejects this- system of wireless communication.
– That, country’s watchword! is. ‘ ‘ Beware, Marconi! ‘ ‘
– And. not; without justification. That is the watchword, of British statesmen, whose opinions and actions respecting the beam system are worthy of our serious consideration. The British Government has provided effective safeguards, applying even to the granting of a licence to erect an experimental station. This shows how essential it is that we should obtain the fullest information on this subject before committing this country to a large expense in the installation of a wireless system, that has not passed the experimental stages. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this afternoon quoted the opinions of wireless experts, and to these we should give timely heed. Before the new agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited is ratified, this House should at least appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate the merits of the beam system . If the agreement is ratified without such an inquiry being made, I feel certain that, as already stated this afternoon, this Government will soon be on its “ beam ends.” To prevent a serious loss to Australia, a speedy change of government is required, so that no benefit shall be given to a company that has already defaulted, and proved itself unworthy of further consideration. The high-powered system has proved effective, and that system should be adopted by Australia in preference to the beam system, which operates only for 5, 6, or 7 hours out of the 24. If the agreement is ratified our wireless communications will be in the hands of speculators, whose one desire is to enrich themselves at the expense of the community. I hope that the House will reject the new agreement; but if not, that it will at least appoint a committee of inquiry to report not only upon the merits of the beam system, but also upon the conduct of Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited, respecting the original agreement.
– I regret that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) did not see fit to reply to. the statements made’ by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– The Treasurer has been placed in a very awkward position.
– I do not blame the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) for not replying, because he previously spoke on this subject when introducing the bill; but the Treasurer, as holding second rank in the Ministry, should reply to speeches made by honorable members on this sideof the House. I do not pose as an expert on wireless, but as a representative of the people it is my duty to see that their interests are properly protected. Honorable members, when discussing the bill, must rely on the opinions of wireless experts. When a bill relating to wireless was introduced in this chamber three years ago, Mr. Hughes, the then Prime Minister, almost persuaded the House to adopt his proposals. According to. his statement, wireless communication with other parts of the world was to be established, and press messages were to be transmitted at a cheaper rate. Notwithstanding that Mr. Hughes had a large majority behind him- although I do not think that Dr. Earle Page, the Leader of the Country party, was a very enthusiastic supporter of the bill - the House appointed a committee of inquiry. Among its members were the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), Senator Millen and others. These men brought their own practical experience and knowledge to bear on the subject, and the result was that a new agreement was framed. Notwithstanding the precaution then taken by the House, we find, after nearly three years has elapsed, that the agreement entered into with Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited has not been fully carried out. Under the contract, high-powered stations were to be erected in Australia, Canada, Africa, and in the United Kingdom. That company has not yet erected any of these stations, although we have already contributed our quota for the work. We were told that the delay was due to the Bonar Law and Baldwin Governments refusingto allow private companies to erect and take control of wireless stations in Great Britain: The present British Government, under Ramsay MacDonald, has adopted the same attitude. Surely the Commonwealth Government should take a similar commonsense view. The British Naval requirements respecting wireless communication will not be effectively met by the beam system, and for that reason the British Admiralty has always been opposed to it.
– And the Australian naval authorities also.
– That is so.
– The Prime Minister admitted that.
– Yea. The Army authorities are also against the beam system, because of its insufficient service. The greatest objection to that system is that confidential wireless communications between the British and Commonwealth Governments would be subject to the scrutiny of a private company. There is no justification for such a proceeding, and that is the greatest stumbling block to the new agreement. I understand that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), when in London, was quite in accord with the British Government’s opposition to a private company having control of Britain’s wireless communications. Under the original agreement, highpowered stations capable of a rapid communication were to be erected. Wireless stations that had already been erected by the Commonwealth Government in the Pacific, in New Guinea, on the north coast of Queensland, and elsewhere, and also all Government wireless equipment were taken over by Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited. Every ship trading on our coast, provided with wireless, has to contribute to the revenue of that company. Although that portion of the agreement was carried out, yet the contract to erect high-powered stations here and in Great Britain has not been fulfilled, although the Commonwealth has already paid the company a large sum of money for that work. The new agreement, if ratified, will nullify the previous agreement, and the company will commence (le novo, not being held responsible for their failure to comply with the original contract. Under the new agreement there is no guarantee that the beam system will be installed within a certain time, and that it will be successful. I would be quite prepared to give the system a trial, and Mr. Fisk, who is the agent for the company in Australia, should give a demonstration before wireless experts during the hours of the day when the beam system is effective. We have had nothing more than Mr. Fisk’s opinion, and I am not aware that the Prime Minister has received a communication from the British Government. Marconi has denied that the communication about which reports were circulated was transmitted by the beam system. The Government should appoint a committee of members of this House to inquire into the matter and report upon it. It should not rely upon one expert, like Mr. Fisk, who represents only one company. Naturally he does the best he can for his company, and it is our duty to do the best we can for the people of Australia. Such an inquiry as I suggest would take only a few days. The committee would report whether the beam system was. satisfactory, and whether the ratifying of the agreement would be in the interests of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, who was a member of the committee that inquired into the last agreement, must admit that it did excellent work. We know that the Amalgamated Wireless Company has failed to carry out the agreement, which, has caused a loss of over £80,000 a year to this country. The Commonwealth is on the wrong side of the ledger in regard to it, and that is very serious. I do not like the agreement, I do not like the history of the company, and I do not like the way the company has broken its contract. I have no doubt that the House would readily adopt the report of a select committee.
– I urge the Prime Minister to “ go slow “ in this business. It is sixteen or seventeen years since wireless was first regarded as a possibility, and from that day to this everything that has been done to improve it has been experimental. The proposal to’ erect masts 800 feet high amazes me. Masts of such a height would be subjected to great wind pressure and severe stresses of various kinds. As far as I have been able to learn, the beam system cannot be a success, but the transmission of messages at higher altitudes appears to be more practicable. All we ask of the Prime Minister is that he should have an inquiry made before incurring further expenditure. I would not worry so much about the cost if I did not feel that there was a danger of a failure resulting from it. It is certain that money will have to be spent before the possibilities of wireless are exhausted. In 1 view of the confidential nature of wireless messages between governments, ships of the navy, and commercial houses, no one but the Government should be allowed to handle them. I advocate government control of wireless apart from my advocacy of the socialization of industries generally. It is necessary to have in charge persons in whom we have con- fidence. I remember when the first wireless station in Australia was erected at Epping, New South Wales. An agreement was entered into between the British Government and the Marconi Company, and a sum of £375,000 a year was spent for three years in an effort to crush the Telefunken system. That system is not affected by .climatic changes, and can be used day and night, but the Marconi system cannot.. I support the suggestion that a committee of four or five members of this House should hold an inquiry before the bill is passed.
.- One has only to read the history of wireless telegraphy in Australia and in other parts of the world to conclude that a good deal of doubt and suspicion has surrounded many of the transactions associated with it. The investigations made in Great Britain a few years ago revealed the fact that the characters of many prominent public men became more or less tainted in consequence of the financial influence of the Marconi combine. In hurriedly perusing some of the speeches delivered when the original agreement between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was before the House, I find that 60,000 shares in the company, which was supposed to be an Australian concern, were held by the original Marconi Company, and that others holding shares were apparently under the influence of the Marconi combine. In introducing the bill the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) should have disclosed some of the discussions and decisions of the Amalgamated Wireless Board, upon which the Government have a representative, and should also have given that gentleman’s opinion on the proposed agreement. It is within the recollection of honorable members that one gentleman was relieved of the chairmanship of the board owing to the manner in which he had been associated with other concerns. When a similar measure was before the House in December, 1 921, the then honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Weinholt) said that wireless transactions were comparable with the cloud that was no bigger than a man’s hand, but which was assuming such proportions that it might overshadow everything. At that time honorable mernbers on this side of the chamber strongly objected to handing over to private individuals work which should have .been conducted by the Government. With the exception, perhaps, of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is still, I believe, under the impression that even our railways should be privately owned, I do not think any honorable member would suggest that the great public utilities now under government control should be handed over to private enterprise. If it is right for letters and parcels to be carried, for telegrams to be transmitted, money orders to be issued, and our telephonic services to be conducted under governmental control, why should not wireless communications also be directly controlled by the government ?
– Nationalize everything?
– No; this is only a branch of a public service. The honorable member for Hindmarsh stated that the British, who are most sceptical, have regarded the operations of the Marconi Company with a good deal of doubt. The British Postmaster-General in the Lloyd George Government, the PostmasterGeneral under Mr. Bonar Law (Sir Worthington Evans), and the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Vernon Hartshorn), would not entertain the idea of’ their respective Governments being associated with a company controlled by the Marconi combine. Three different PostmastersGeneral under three different British Prime Ministers have, for very good reasons, resisted any association with the Marconi combine.
– They have not: that is the trouble.
– They have.
– I can show the honorable member extracts from their reports, which prove that they have not.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) quoted the latest speech delivered by Mr. Hartsborn in relation to the beam system, with which this measure deals, and showed that, as far back ac 1917, the Marconi Company endeavoured to obtain a patent for the beam system, but the authorities informed Marconi that as it was not a new system, a patent could not be granted.
– That was based on the opinion of a man whose ideas av« obsolete.
– No ; experiments have been carried out from time to time, and although the system may not have been known by the same name, the principle is the same.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– The practice is to place before honorable members the opinions of those who are conversant with concerns in which the Commonwealth is interested, when matters relating to those concerns are being considered by the House. I understand that there is a board of seven directing the operations of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, four members representing the wireless people, or the Marconi section, and the other three representing the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth appears to occupy an anomalous position. Although its proportion of the capital of the company is represented by 500,001 shares out of 1,000,000 shares, it is in a minority on the directorate.
– Amalgamated Wireless Limited has three directors, the Commonwealth Government has three directors, and there is an independent chairman.
– I am not sure that the word “ independent “ was inserted in the bill. Complaint was made at the time regarding its omission. You yourself, Mr. Speaker, complained. Unfortunately, death has overtaken one of the directors representing the Commonwealth Government, and the vacancy will have to be filled. The other two directors representing the Commonwealth Government are Sir William Vicars and Mr. W. M. Hughes.
– The representatives of the Commonwealth Government are Mr. Mason Allard and Sir William Vicars. Mr. Hughes is an independent member of the board.
– The position is a little better than I thought it was. Seeing that we have an independent chairman
– The chairman is not the independent member of the board.
– I have been depending upon honorable members opposite to supply me with certain information. Apparently I cannot rely upon them to do that.
– Let me make the matter quite clear.. There are three representatives of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, three representatives of the Commonwealth Government, and a. seventh independent director, who is Mr. Hughes. Those seven directors elect their own chairman, who may be any one of the seven.
– Mr. Mason Allard is the chairman of directors.
– I am not levelling any accusation against individual members of the board, but I am endeavouring to find out whether the Prime Minister has fortified himself with the opinion of this new agreement held by the three representatives of the Commonwealth Government. If he has, he should give the House the benefit of their views. If he has not, I think that he has neglected his duty. Those members are supposed to be au fait with all that is going on, and they ought to have some knowledge, technical or otherwise, of the business. I understand that wireless operators who desire to serve in the Australian Navy have to pass an examination, and that Amalgamated Wireless Limited makes the appointments. I believe, also, that the Navy authorities are opposed to the beam system. I presume it is not regarded as what may be termed a general broadcast- ing system. If we have ships in various parts of the Pacific there is the probability that under the beam system any message sent out will be picked up by only one of them. I am led to believe that the British Navy also is opposed to the beam system. I should like to hear the opinion of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). Is he satisfied that that system will meet the requirements of the Australian Navy? It is a fact that both India and New Zealand are not enamoured of the new system, and claim that it will not meet their requirements. The Prime Minister of New Zealand has stated emphatically that wireless should be under government control. Why is Australia rushing in where two overseas dominions fear to tread ? This matter was inquired into by a committee over which the Prime Minister presided. That committee submitted a report. Even then honorable members of the Country party at that time - Mr. Fleming (Robertson), Mr.
Hill (Echuca), Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin), Mr. Prowse (Forrest), Mr. Stewart (Wimmera), and Dr. Earle Page (Cowper) voted for an amendment, moved by an honorable member of the Opposition, against the agreement. If they had reason to vote against the agreement after that investigation, why do some of them now intend to vote for this agreement? Their attitude is most peculiar. I know from personal conversation, and from a perusal of his speech in this House, that an ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) was most emphatically opposed to any arrangement being made with Amalgamated Wireless Ltd. The postal officials, who were acquainted with the position, were also opposed to the agreement. They had made certain provisions, and they desired to carry out the work under Government control, with wireless as a department of the post office in the same way that the telephone branch is. If I remember rightly, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. F. Francis) made a “ stonewalling “ speech against the proposal. He quoted all kinds of authorities to prove different contentions. I have not scrutinized the division lists sufficiently closely to say how he voted. Mr. Wise said, in effect, that it would be wrong to allow a private company to come into this business, that it was the bounden duty of the post office to carry out this work. After he was put out of the Ministry, he stated on the floor of this House that the proposal practically meant giving away £500,000 of the people’s money. He was in the Ministry when the proposals were made, and he had carefully analysed them ; and on the advice of those who were most qualified to give an opinion he opposed the agreement. This is a far worse agreement than the previous one. I want to point out what action was taken by the present British Government with regard to this matter. I quote from Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, vol. v., No. 2, April, 1924, page 199-
There is another very important matter to which I have fallen heir - fallen heir in a rather inconvenient form, the Premier said. I refer to Imperial wireless. I believe for about the last twelve years this matter has been under consideration. On the day the late Government were defeated, a letter was written from the post office, the effect of which was to create an absolute and complete deadlock. Therefore, with my right honorable friend the Postmaster-General, we had to consider the whole matter de novo.
If the Labour Government have any ambition at all except to do sober, effective work, they have the ambition to try to do their work in a business-like way, and as soon as we were faced with that difficulty we appointed a small committee to inquire into the whole situation. That committee was appointed a week ago, and I hope that at the end of this week I am going to have a report from it which will enable us to deal with the matter effectively at last. Papers and information will be made available for the House before the House is asked to implement what we will propose as the way out of the difficulty.
There are notes to that speech. They read as follows : -
The committee, which was presided over by Mr. Robert Donald, reported on the -22nd February, and recommended -
That the state, through the post office, should own all wireless stations in Great Britain for communication with the overseas dominions, colonies, protectorates, and territories.
That the post office should operate directly, under an improved business organization, all the Empire stations in Great Britain.
That an exception be made in the ease of Canada, and that competition between the post office and private enterprise in the AngloCanadian wireless service should be continued, provided that, in any licence granted for the Anglo-Canadian service, public interests are safeguarded as regards conditions of working and terms of expropriation by the state.
That private enterprise should be given facilities to develop wireless communication with continental Europe, as with the rest of the world outside the British Empire.
The MacDonald Government, as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald stated, inherited this problem from the preceding Government. He intimated that, on the very day that the ex-Postmaster-General (the Right Honorable Sir L. Worthington-Evans) left office, his officials had sent a letter which practically created a deadlock. That was the position of Empire wireless affairs when Mr. Ramsay MacDonald took office. To place the matter on a business basis, he appointed an expert committee, and asked it to furnish a report within a fortnight, so that Parliament might be informed of the best course to pursue in the circumstances.
– I agree with the honorable member. Within a fortnight that committee, presided over by Mr. Donald, sent in its report, which was adopted by the Government as the best way out of the difficulty. It recommended unhesitatingly and emphatically that the British Government should control all wireless stations within the United Kingdom that had communication -with oversea dominions. Yet we propose to adopt a different method ! We propose to enter into a coalition with a private concern, of some of the aspects of which the least said the better for that concern. There I leave the matter. I emphatically state that this House should decide that a committee shall make further inquiries and furnish additional information for the guidance of honorable members. I hope that, whatever our political opinions may be, we shall take such steps as will make us well informed and able to decide upon the best course of action to adopt in the existing exceptional circumstances.
.- I know very little about wireless, and I ask the Prime Minister to give me, when he replies, some assurance in regard to the correctness or otherwise of information which has reached me to the effect that Signor Marconi stated in England within the last three months, that the beam system is useless except during hours of darkness, and that the darkness mustbe coincidental in the countries of transmission and receipt. If that statement is correct it is obvious that the time during which the system can be operated between England and Australia is very short. On the 21st December, which is midwinter in England, darkness lasts from about 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Australian time is about ten hours ahead of English time, so that 4 p.m. in England is 2 a.m. of the previous day here. As it is daylight in Australia about 4.30 a.m. on the- 21st December, there would be only about two and a. half hours of darkness in both countries concurrently. In midsummer in England broad daylight extends from 3 a.m. till 9 p.m., the hours of darkness being from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. The Australian time corresponding to 9 p.m. in England is 7 a.m. of the previous day, so that if at that time of year a message could not be dispatched from England before 9 p.m., it could not be received in Australia, because, by our corresponding hour of 7 a.m., it would be broad daylight.
.- I shall commence my remarks with a brief resume of the recent history of wireless in Australia. In the dying hours of the session of 1921, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) endeavoured . to push through the House hurriedly an agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless
Company. Strong hostility to the proposal was manifested by members of the Country party, especially the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). Members of the Country party at that time were evincing great curiosity regarding the relations of the Government with the AngloPersian Oil Company and Amalgamated Wireless Limited. In obedience to the wish of tho House, the then Prime Minister consented to refer the wireless agreement to a committee representing both Houses, whose decision should be accepted. The then Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) was hostile to the proposal put forward by his own chief. The House adjourned on or about the 17th of December. A couple of weeks later Mr. Wise was pushed out of the Government, and the only influence in the Cabinet that was antagonistic to the proposed agreement was disposed of. In due course the committee reported, and, acting upon its recommendation, Mr. Hughes signed an amended agreement with the company. That agreement came before the House in the following June, when Mr. Wise- had an opportunity to say some of the things he did not say when he was Postmaster-General -
I did not see why the company should get the benefit of those developments with the financial strength of the Australian nation behind them. Further than that, I preferred to link up with an all-British Imperial scheme, and reap the advantage of any knowledge which the Imperial authorities acquired as a result of their operations.
For many years the Imperial Government had refused to be associated with the Marconi Company in any way. The British public had been agitated over the Marconi scandal of 1912, and, in consequence, the Imperial Government, although anti-Labour, developed a scheme by which the nation should have entire control of the wireless system, based on two fundamental principles, namely, that the system should be operated by the nation, and that it should be regarded as of vital importance in defence. Even as far back as 1909, when Mr. Deakin was Prime Minister of Australia, this Parliament resolved that wireless should be controlled by the nation in order to permit of the conveyance of news of the approach of an enemy, and to assist in saving life at sea. Those desiderata were regarded at that time as fundamental, but the scheme which the Government has now submitted to the House is notably devoid of them. The beam system will not enable ships at sea to communicate to the mainland news of the approach of hostile vessels, and it will be useless as a means of saving life at sea, because it will be direct, and, therefore, incapable of broadcasting. When Mr. Hughes was urging the adoption of the original agreement, he said that Amalgamated Wireless Limited was an allAustralian Company, and had no outside shareholders. Upon that assurance this Parliament was urged to invest Commonwealth money in the agreement, and we were, told that there would be government control concurrently with all the advantages of private enterprise. The then Prime Minister pointed out that the Commonwealth was then losing £50,000 per annum on its existing radio system. At that time we had a number of wireless stations which were doing very useful work, but, said Mr. Hughes, these by the aid of private enterprise would be completely transformed, and the Commonwealth, instead of losing £50,000 per annum, would make a profit of at least that amount. He assured us that the ratification of the . agreement was an urgent necessity, because the interests of the nation demanded that the scheme should come into immediate operation. The company, he said, could accomplish at once all that it had promised to do. Three years have elapsed, and we have no wireless system other than that which the company took over from the Commonwealth. That system, which was to be transformed by the skill and adroitness of private enterprise, and by purging it of government “go-slow” methods, has been no more successful than it was under the old regime. The Prime Minister admitted that while it had been losing £50,000 per annum under government control, it is now losing £86,000 under the control of Mr. Fisk and his associates.
– That loss is spread over two years.
– If that is so, the annual loss has been £43,000, so that we are getting little financial advantage from the company’s control. Furthermore, the company has not done any of the things which it promised to do. One of the members of the committee which reported upon the agreement was Senator
John D. Millen, who said in another place after the committee’s investigations that nobody could have participated in the inquiry without concluding that there was very much that was . suspicious in the transaction. And Senator Wilson, who is now a member of the Cabinet, interjected, “Yes; and you are not the only one who holds the opinion that the whole surroundings are smellful.” Mr. Fisk could promise nothing to the committee without communicating with his directors. It had been said that the company was purely Australian in its composition, but when Mr. Fisk wanted the opinion of his directors he had to communicate with the Marconi Company in England. Having received a cabled reply from that company, he returned to the committee and said that Amalgamated Wireless Limited could guarantee to carry out all the obligations to which the agreement would commit it. At that time the Marconi Company knew very well the attitude of the British Government, because that attitude was never changed. If its directors had acted honestly, and made inquiries in official quarters, it must have learnt that the British Government would not consent to the company carrying out what it was promising to do. Of course, the committee could only conclude, after hearing Mr. Fisk’s message from the Marconi Company, that the British authorities had been consulted and had given their consent. We know now that the company had never been in communication with the British Government, and that it knew that it had no more power then to establish high-power stations in Great Britain than it has at the present moment, because successive Imperial Governments, ever since the Marconi scandal of 1912, have been determined that the wireless system shall not be controlled by private enterprise. However, upon the assurances and promises given by Mr. Fisk, the then Commonwealth Government subscribed to the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and, in accordance with the agreement, the Commonwealth has provided £140,000 of capital; a further contribution of £40,000 appears on the Estimates this year, and another £140,000 has been paid for the upkeep of the plant which the Commonwealth handed over to the company. In ordinary business, a company is required to complete its contract or submit to the cancellation of it. The proper attitude for the Government to adopt is to say to Amalgamated Wireless Limited, “Proceed with the arrangement into which you have entered; if you cannot complete it, our duty will be to cancel it.” Mr. Wise, when he said that he pre. f erred to link up with a British Imperial scheme and reap the advantage of any knowledge which the Imperial Government acquired as a result of its operations, said further -
If we had npt been so mighty hasty about rushing into this agreement with a private company, about the Oth December, we would have been able to take advantage of this big Imperial scheme for wireless telegraphy throughout the world.
We have three more years of experience to guide us, and as the company cannot carry out its contract, and as the original scheme has been a failure, the Government should cancel the agreement and have nothing more to do with the company. If the company cannot fulfil its obligations and do what the country requires, the Commonwealth should, having regard to modern facts, link up with the British Government’s wireless scheme. When I was speaking on this subject in 1922, I said-
A ministerial majority is endeavouring to force this thing upon the country. It is fraught with disaster, failure, and fraud.
It has been fraught with disaster, it has been fraught with failure, and as to the third part of my prophecy I shall make no suggestion at the present moment. Mr. Wise went on to say, in 1922 -
If we had not entered into this agreement we could have joined in that scheme without asking to be linked up. One of the reasons why I objected to the wireless agreement was that I have no faith in the company. I say that unhesitatingly. I felt that it was going to be a big speculative scheme.
That agreement was signed on the 28th March, 1922, and so far we have obtained nothing out of it, because the company cannot fulfil its contract. It has become possessed of certain Commonwealth property and of about £250,000 of Commonwealth money, but as it cannot fulfil one item of the contract into which it entered, the Government have come down with a proposal to cancel every, obligation into which it entered. The purpose of this bill is to relieve the Marconi corporation and the gentlemen associated with it in Australia of their obligation to arrange for the operation of suitable corresponding stations in Great Britain, the fixing of rates to be charged for messages between Australia and the United Kingdom, the provision of a main trunk station in the United Kingdom, the erection and operation of stations in the United Kingdom and Canada, and the provision of a practical commercial wireless service between Australia, and stations in the United Kingdom and Canada. As a matter of fact it is to be freed from every obligation into which it entered.
– And without the payment of compensation.
– That is so. . There is to be no cancellation of the contract, which would be a business-like method of dealing with a corporation which after three years has proved a miserable failure and demonstrated its inability to do anything it agreed to do. After three years of the non-realization of promises and the demonstration of the incapacity of private enterprise to meet the immediate necessities of Australia, at this hour this company is to be permitted to enter upon a new agreement signed, as pointed out by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), by Mr. George Mason Allard, a representative of the Government, and Mr. W. T. Appleton, a representative of the Marconi people. Some time ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) and. I had some altercation as to whether it was Mr. George Mason Allard or Mr. Horace Allard who was concerned in the original agreement. Great stress is laid on the fact that the Commonwealth has three representatives and an independent chairman on the board of. directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Mr. George Mason Allard is one of the Commonwealth’s representatives on the board, but with just as much decency . his partner, Mr. Bartholomew, might have been the Commonwealth representative, because Mr. George Mason Allard is linked with Bartholomew, Allard and Company. Mr. Bartholomew represents the Marconi interests in Amalgamated Wireless, and Mr. Allard represents the Commonwealth. I do not propose to go into what is proposed in the bill. The Prime Minister himself admitted that the beam system would be absolutely useless for those fundamental purposes, defence and life saving at sea, and. that it could only be operated during hours of darkness at both ends. As it will never be dark at both ends so far as Great Britain and Australia are concerned, the system must he a miserable failure, and, of course, when that is .proved, as it must be, the Marconi people will ask for another agreement. There ought to be further investigation before this agreement is ratified, and steps should be taken to see that there are .not the same demonstrations and efforts as were witnessed in this chamber when the original agreement was ratified. Mr. Wise drew attention to the enormous amount of propaganda in progress, and spoke of the Marconi representatives living in the lobbies of Parliament. As a matter of fact they were living on the buttonholes of honorable members, trying to get their original agreement through. It is our duty to see that this absurd folly is not repeated. We ought to be guided by the past, and in order that there may be a proper investigation before we enter upon a further agreement with this company which will permit it to do things which it cannot guarantee to do, I move the following amendment: -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ in view of the fact that many experts are of opinion that a beam station would be inadequate for Australia’s requirements, and the British Government having recommended the erection of high-power stations, the hill bo referred to a select committee of this House for investigation and report.”
When the original agreement was before this Parliament the then Prime Minister said that time was the essence of the contract, but as three years have passed and nothing has been done so far, there is evidently no need for hurry, and we have plenty of time to see whether the company are now more capable of carrying out their promises than they have proved to be in the past.
.- We have listened this afternoon to a very illuminating speech from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in regard to the agreement submitted by the Government for endorsement by the House. It is another instance, shall I say, without wishing to be insulting, of fools stepping in where angels fear to tread.
– Is the honorable member one of the angels?
Mr. MARR. No, I am one of the fools.
– The honorable member said something like that three years ago.
– I said then that I was one of the fools. The more one learns about wireless the less he finds he knows about it. During the last three years it has probably made more advancement than has any other branch of science. While I should like to see a high-power station erected so that the commercial use of wireless might be thoroughly tested, I am willing to support an amended agreement for the erection of a beam station so that we may ascertain whether we can use the system commercially. This has not yet been proved, but I think it better to spend about £100,000 upon a beam station than to build a highpower station at a cost of £500,000. We have heard a good deal of talk to-day about the report of the Donald Committee appointed by the Ramsay MacDonald Government. Just as some peculiar religious sects are inclined to pick out those portions of the Scriptures which suit their own ends, honorable members of the Opposition have culled sections of the report of that committee to support their allegations. Before resuming his seat, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) said that the British Government is in favour of retaining the control of wireless communication. As a matter of fact, it has already declared that it is only in favour of exercising that control in relation to the dominions of the Empire, but to the exclusion of Canada’. Why should Canada be excluded from this control? If it be necessary for the British Government to control wireless within the Empire, how much more so is it necessary for that control to be exercised over foreign corporations that seek to erect stations within the Empire ? Why should the Marconi or any other company be permitted to erect stations in Great Britain to communicate directly with all other countries and not with Australia? Members of the British Labour Government shut their eyes to this phase of the question, but I contend that if wireless is to be controlled by the British Government it should attend to external communication before attempting to control internal communication. Honorable members opposite claim that the British Government has always acted on the one plan so far as wireless is concerned, but as a matter of fact, during the last eleven years it has stultified itself every second or third year. It has retarded the progress of wireless within the Empire. Let us examine what the Donald Committee has recommended. It has recommended first, that the Marconi Company should be permitted to communicate with foreign countries and Canada, and secondly, that the British post office should have a complete monopoly over wireless communication with the rest of the Empire. But it has advanced no reasons in support of these recommendations. Ignoring essential considerations, it has failed to explain why the approval given by the British Government iu July, 1921, to Australia to make its own .arrangements should be withdrawn, and why the pledge given by Mr. Bonar Law, as Prime Minister, in March, 1923, that licences would be granted for private communication with the dominions, should be dishonoured. As a matter of fact, it was as a result of the promise given by Mr. Bonar Law that a contract was made by the Commonwealth Government with Amalgamated Wireless Limited for the erection of a high-power station in Australia” According to the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the present agreement is to relieve Amalgamated Wireless of the obligation under the original agreement, and the honorable member says that the company has refused to proceed with the erection of a high-power station in Great Britain. The truth is that the British Government has refused to allow the company to proceed with the erection of that high-power station.
– When the contract was entered into the company said that it had the necessary authority to erectthat station.
– No. According to the agreement the company promised to endeavour to erect such a station within two years. I hold no brief for Amalgamated Wireless or for the Marconi Company, but it is not their fault that a high-power station has not been put up in Great Britain. We ought to be fair to these people. They are not able to come here to answer charges levelled against them, and whatever may be said against them, we must also recognize that they provided the only wireless communication the land forces of Great Britain had at the outbreak of war. They stuck to the British Government. The Marconi Company was the only company within the Empire which the Government could control.
– Australia had its own wireless system which this Government controlled.
– The wireless system in operation in Australia could not compare with that of the rest of the world. It was years behind in development.
– Does the honorable member claim that the Marconi Company was not aware that it could not erect a highpower station in Great Britain ?
– It was relying -on the promise made by the British Government in 1921 that licences would be granted. Let us see how consistent the British Governments have been. I do not blame the MacDonald Government for the muddle. Honorable members opposite stated- this afternoon that all the British Governments, Conservative, Liberal, and Labour, had been consistent. In July, 1913, the British Government decided that all wireless stations within the Empire should be state owned, but that licences should be granted to private companies. In December, 1914, the imperial wireless chain scheme was abandoned, and the contract with, the Marconi Company for the erection of stations was rescinded. In J une, 1920, direct wireless communication with Australia was regarded as impossible, and the relay system was favoured. That was six years after the outbreak of the war. During the war wireless stations working in Berlin and New York were heard in Australia. If messages can be dispatched from New York to Australia, I can see no reason why they cannot be dispatched from Australia and heard in New York, although I do not say that it is possible to conduct the service on a commercial basis. It is recognized that there are few countries in the world more difficult, in the summer months, for wireless work than Australia on account of our atmospheric conditions. In January, 1921, only a fewmonths after it had been decided that direct wireless communication with Australia was impossible, it was resolved that a relay service to Australia was possible provided that the relay stations were controlled by the British Post Office, but Australia must adopt the scheme, and bear her share of the responsibility. In 1922 it was decided that direct communication with Australia was possible, but that it must be controlled by the British Post Office, but in July of the same year approval was given by the then British Government to an Australian Government contract with the Marconi Company. All these conflicting decisions were made by expert committees, and I think they reveal very clearly that even the experts do not know what the position is. In March, 1923, it was resolved to issue licences to the Marconi Company and to any other private company for the purpose of erecting stations to communicate with the various Dominions. On the 16th October, 1923, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was present at a meeting of the Imperial Economic Conference, when this matter was under discussion. Sir L. Worthington Evans, who was then the British Postmaster-General, in reply to a statement by Mr. Bruce, to the effect that it was necessary for Australia to make reciprocal arrangements in England, otherwise it was useless to complete the Australian station, said-
I quite agree, and you can rely on us as Far as we are concerned, not to stand in your way in the very least in the world. On the contrary, we will hel]) you in every way we can.
In November, 1923, the British Government decided that the Marconi Company should be given a licence to provide an inter-Empire service except in respect to Canada and South Africa, but in February of this year it determined that the British Post Office must have a monopoly of wireless communications with all the Dominions except Canada. Summing up the whole position, therefore, we find that various British Governments have been most inconsistent. In 1913 a competitive service within the Empire was approved, and in 1914 it was rejected. In 1921, direct wireless communication with Australia was regarded as impossible, but in 1922 it was thought to be quite practicable. In 1923, a competitive Imperial service was again approved, and in the same year the Marconi Company was given permission to communicate with Australia, but not with Canada. In February, 1924, the Marconi Company was given permission to continue to communicate with Canada, but not to communicate with Australia. In October, 1923, the British Post Office was willing that Australia should make reciprocal arrangements for communication with Great Britain; but, in 1924, it decided that only Government-owned stations should be erected in Great Britain. I ask honorable members how that is for consistency.
– Are you trying to establish the imbecility of the British Government ?
– I am trying to show how unfounded were the claims which honorable members opposite made this afternoon respecting the consistency of the various British Governments. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that we own our post office, our telephones, and our trains. It is a pity, in my opinion, we have not a competitive telephone system, like they have in America. America has the most efficient telephone system in the world. I do not blame our telephone department for the prevailing inefficiency. The responsibility must rest upon this Parliament, as it has year after year cut down the vote for the necessary additional telephone works, and so has prevented adequate extensions from being made. It stands to my personal credit that I supported the policy of spending £9,000,000 for the purpose of overtaking arrears in constructional works.
– We all supported that.
– Then we shall take joint credit for it. Honorable members opposite have contended that the Government should have full control of all wireless arrangements. They will be saying next that the Government owns the ether through which the messages are transmitted, or that it owns the air that we breathe, and that, therefore, the people have no right to breathe it. The Acting Leader of the Opposition also said that the beam system was not as satisfactory as what he termed the broadcasting system, for the reason that by it wo would not be able to communicate with vessels at 3ea, as we can with the broadcasting system. I have not made that claim for it, but I remind the honorable member that it is not so long ago since we were told by experts that it was impossible for us to communicate by wireless with Fiji and New Zealand. It appears to me that some honorable members desire the Government to do nothing. They want it to be like Micawber, and wait for something to turn up. They are not prepared to follow the example of the German Government, which even before the war had wireless stations erected in every one of its territories. It had very fine stations at Nauru and Rabaul, and on some of the vessels that we captured there was equipment for the erection of first class wireless stations in other territories. I am npt averse to the British Post Office and the Marconi Company doing everything that they want to do. The Marconi Company assisted the Empire in its time of great need.
– Who is competing with the Marconi Company now?
– No one, so far as I know; but there is no reason why there should not be competition. It is not very difficult to ascertain why some of tire British expert committees reported unfavorably on wireless developments, for the chairman of directors of one of the big cable companies, and men with similar interests, were members of nome of them. It would conflict with their financial interests to support wireless. The British Government seems to have adopted an extraordinary attitude. It says in effect to the Marconi Company, and any other company that desires to erect stations for experimental purposes, “ Build your station, but if it is a success you will not be able to work it, for we will take it from you.”
– And quite right, too.
– The Government would pay for it.
– It seems to me to be extraordinary that, although the Government is able to use the brains of the best wireless experts in England - for it has at its call the technical officers in firms like Siemens Brothers and Thompson and Company, instrument makers, machine manufacturers - it will do nothing to assist in the development of wireless. I would like to see our own post office erect a station in Australia, as well as the Marconi Company. Let them both get to work and demonstrate to us which would render the more efficient service to the public. I do not say that the post office would be less efficient than the Marconi Company. The Donald committee, in several parts of its report, condemns the British Post Office wireless operations, both financially and technically, lt states that the Leafield high- power station, which was intended to be the British end of the proposed Empire chain, has been operated at a substantial loss, and is an antiquated station of the arc type. In paragraph 30 of the report the committee admits that the station was not constructed on the most modern lines, and recommends its enlargement at a considerable expenditure. It states that the Cairo station has been a failure, and recommends its abolition. . It also says that the Northolt station has been conducted at a loss, and it recommends the closing of the Stonehaven and Caister stations, which have also proved to be failures.
– We want a committee to make an investigation to see what we ought to do, in view of such failures a? those.
– If we begin appointing committees, we shall probably find ourselves in a worse position than Great Britain. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory. I shall support the bill for the reason that I believe it will save us £300,000. If we were to accept the tender of £487,000 for the erection of a high-power station as contemplated under the original agreement, we should probably find that it would be obsolete by the time it was ready for use. It would be far better to experiment with the cheaper scheme.
– Then the honorable member admits that it is an experiment.
– I do. It certainly has to be proved yet whether wireless is a commercial proposition.
– The honorable member is certainly candid.
– The British Government admits that. This Parliament should not refuse to take action simply because it is impossible to guarantee that the beam system can be worked for 24 hours a day. The Prime Minister did not guarantee that, but if it was possible to operate it continuously for two: hours every day I say that would be worth while. I should like to see a competition in transmitting messages by wireless and by ordinary telegraph between Melbourne and Sydney. I believe that, if private enterprise were given an opportunity, it would be able to dispatch messages in half the time now occupied, or even less. Countries like America, which give every encouragement to private enterprise, lead the world in telegraph and telephone matters. In an article in the London. Observer, of the 2nd March, 1924, Mr. Donald stated -
My committee’s recommendations are intended to leave complete scopefor private enterprise to develop its activities in all the British dominions, as well as all over the world, if it chooses to do so.
– All the better if private enterprise can persuade governments to put their cash into the venture.
– That is not what is desired. Similar remarks by Mr. Donald were reported in an interview published in the London Daily Telegraph, of the 29th February last. It is difficult to understand how Mr. Donald can reconcile these statements with the recommendations of his committee that the post office should monopolize wireless communication with the whole Empire, except Canada. The Donald committee says that the British Government should grant a licence to the Marconi Company, or any other company, to enable it to engage in wireless communication with any foreign country, but’ not with the British dominions. I claim that it is preferable by far to give a licence to a company that will operate within the Empire. The Labour party particularly has always claimed that the dominions should work out their own destiny, and that Australia should enjoy the same privileges as Canada. The Donald committee did not advance a claim on principle for the general ownership and control of wireless by the state. If it had done this, its attitude could be understood. The committee, indeed, expressly states, in paragraph 27, of its report, that it has not considered this “ ideal scheme.” Parenthetically it may be observed that it is strange, if this scheme is ideal, that the committee has given no consideration to it. In the next sentence, however, the committee states -
The . pioneer work has . been done by private enterprise, and the Marconi Company participates in long-distance and in continental wireless services under conditions which safeguard public interests.
The committee does not even advocate state control of wireless communication with foreign countries. This, in most cases, is expressly excluded, although, if the principle were sound, it is in connexion with foreign countries that state control of communication would be most desirable. Nor does the committee adopt the general principle of state control of wireless communication with the dominions, since Canada is excluded from its recommendations. Australia, Canada, South Africa, and India have all expressed their opinion of state control by making arrangements with private enterprise, and the same remark also applies to most foreign countries. Indeed, in many cases, state ownership has been abandoned after trial. It is thus obvious that no principle has guided the committee in its recommendations with regard to state ownership, which appear to be haphazard in their conception, and to afford merely an expedient without any logical, practical basis behind them. In conclusion, let me say again that I support the amended agreement because it represents a saving of money on the cost of experimenting with a highpower station. Personally I should like to see such a station established, because it would give us an opportunity of testing whether or not wireless is commercially successful over long distances. During the late war, no service, not even the aerial service, did more valuable work, than the wireless stations. One must give great credit to the Marconi Company for its investigations, for undoubtedly the advance made in wireless communication is due entirely to the Telefunken and Marconi companies.
– ‘Now they are one.
– And the Amalgamated Wireless Company is their ‘ ‘ pup. “
– No ; it is the “pup” of this Parliament. It must be recognized that 500,001 of the 1,000,000 shares in the Amalgamated Wireless Company are held by the Commonwealth. Three of the directors were appointed by the Marconi Company, and three by the Government, and I think it will be admitted that the independent chairman is a really independent man, who is likely to fill the position with credit to himself and to the Commonwealth. No honorable member, irrespective of the party to which he may belong, can but admit that the independent director is a man with a wide vision. What has been done in this matter by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) stands to his credit.
– The present Prime Minister thought his vision was too wide. He curtailed his vision, and then took his job.
– The Prime Minister is also a man of wide vision. He saw that the scheme was a good one, but he realized at the same time that great forward strides were being made in the science of wireless. I read recently that the beam system was known as long ago as 1907, but, of course, not the particular beam system now under consideration. I hope that the system will be given a trial, and that it will prove commercially successful. At the present time all we know about it is what we have read. If an opportunity is given to the Amalgamated Wireless Company to erect a station and demonstrate whether or not longdistance communication is commercially possible, the Commonwealth will be saved many hundreds of thousands of pounds. I urge the House to adopt the amended agreement.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), if he has succeeded in doing nothing else, has shown that a further investigation of the matter is necessary. It is true that he apologized for plunging into the discussion, saying that “ fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and it seems to me that the honorable member made confusion worse confounded. He read long extracts which reminded me of the publicity work of the Marconi Company.
– I take exception to that.
– Some of it sounded very stale and familiar.
– Most of what the honorable member read was from the Donald committee’s report.
– There was a good deal of the Marconi publicity “stunt” in it.
– That is not fair.
– No one has gone in for more publicity stunts than has the Marconi Company. The honorable member for Parkes states that he stands for competition ; yet, in supporting the Marconi Company, he is standing behind an organization that is reaching out for world monopoly. I know nothing of the technicalities of wireless but I know something of the operations of monopolies, and any one who has studied the subject of wireless knows that the Marconi. Company is endeavouring to reach out in all directions, and is in clanger of becoming one of- the worst monopolies in the world. In Australia, it is attempting to achieve its object with the aid of public money. It has been said that the Amalgamated Wireless Limited was a pup of the Marconi Company, and the honorable member for Parkes says that this Parliament is also a pup of the company.
– I did not say that. I said that Amalgamated Wireless Limited was the pup of this Parliament.
– This agreement, providing partly for Government control and partly for control by private enterprise, is what I would term a mongrel proposition. If the honorable mem-, ber for Parkes, and other honorable members opposite, are so keen on private enterprise they should let this private enterprise company prove what it can do, and should not rush to Parliament for £500,000 to assist it. Honorable members will remember what happened three years ago. I was not then a member of this House, but was sitting in the Speaker’s gallery when the then Prime Minister tried to rush an agreement through this House in the dying hours of that session.. He had the support of the members of the Country party, and had it not been for the threat made by the Leader of the Opposition to fight the issue, that agreement would have gone through. Because of the opposition to the agreement it was referred to a committee. The present Prime Minister was a member of that committee, whose recommendation was an absolute condemnation of the agreement. We should profit by the lesson we then learned, and cause an investigation to be made, into this matter. The success of the proposed scheme is doubtful, yet there are no guarantees provided in the agreement. Nevertheless, the honorable member for Parkes desires us to go on without any investigation or inquiry If, during the past three years, we had had any experiences of this company which were of a satisfactory nature - if we could say that in the past it had done its work well, and that we could rely upon it - I could understand the attitude adopted by the Government. But what has beenour experience of this company.? First, it approached the then Prime Minister and asked him to sign an agreement oroviding that the Government should take a. majority of the chares, but- that the company should have a majority of the direc- tors. That was too much for the committee, which recommended that the directors should number seven, three’ of whom should be appointed by the Government, and three by the company with an independent chairman to be appointed by them. The independent chairman first elected was the ex-chairman of the Amalgamated Wireless Company. That showed that the company was not prepared to give ‘us a fair deal, or to be frank and honest with” the Government of this country. At the very first sign of dealings of that nature, we should have broken our partnership with the company. It was dangerous to be associated with a company like that, particularly when the nominees of the Government, however vigilant, were not experts, but had to sit alongside the experts of the company, who were “ running the rule “ over them all the time.
– Does the honorable member consider himself to be an expert?
– I do not; nor is the honorable member an expert. None of us in this House is an expert in wireless. In view of our past experience with this company, we should be wise if we cut our first loss and had no more to do with this company. If we are to have wireless, let us obtain it by some other means. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. ‘ Brennan), who has made a close study of this matter for some years, made a scathing indictment of the Go- %’ernment in connexion with this agreement. No intelligent observer could fail to recognize the force of the remarks of the honorable member, but no answer has been forthcoming. The case he put forward demands an answer. I was struck with the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who wanted an answer, from the Prime Minister to a definite question. I should have thought that an answer would immediately have been forthcoming. Is it true that this system, which the Government asks us to adopt, can only operate, at the most, for about two and a half hours a day?
– Can the honorable member answer that question ?
– No, I cannot. I do not know anything about the beam system of wireless, out it has been stated that it could operate between Australia and England for only about two and a half hours each day. That statement was made by the honorable member for Batman, on the authority of experts, I was myself informed by an expert that this system could operate only while it is dark at each end.
– What is the standing of the expert referred to?
- His standing is better than that of the honorable member. It would have been easy for the Prime Minister to have given the honorable member for Gippsland a civil answer. He could have said either “Yes “ or “ No “ to the question when asked if it were true that the system could only operate when it was dark. We all know that it is dark at the same time in Australia and in England for only about two and a half hours in each period of twenty-four hours. Is it a fact that the beam system of wireless can only operate during that period? If so, the system is a farce. At the Imperial conference the Prime Minister stressed the importance of wireless from a defence point of view. Imagine a system of wireless for defence purposes that could operate only for two and a half hours each day! There is no answer to that question from the Prime Minister. When the original motion was before this House some years ago, the usefulness of wireless for the defence of Australia and for the saving of life at sea was emphasized. If there is one thing which would justify the expenditure of money in connexion with a wireless system, it is the fact that it may save life at sea. But this scheme will not do that, because it is a direct system. Every one knows that when a vessel is in danger at sea, its “ S.O.S.” signals are broadcast. Because of the fact that the messages go in all directions, many lives have been saved in the past. But this system will not permit of signals being sent in various directions.
– We have stations all round Australia which could receive such messages.
– We have not. I have looked at this agreement, as I did at the last one. In the previous agreement no penalties for the non-fulfilment of the contract, such as are contained in the most trifling business” arrangements were provided, nor are any penalties provided for in this agreement. Two years ago the Prime Minister assured us that he had guarantees, or guarantors, but what have they been worth? The honorable member for Parkes asked if we were to sit down and do nothing. That is what the company has been doing while handling the money of this country. What has it done to carry out even one of its many fulsome promises ? During the debate in the New Zealand Parliament in July last year on the subject of wireless, the question was raised whether the Government was to get into the clutches of the Marconi Company. The Prime Minister, Mr. Massey, replied, “ There is no danger of the Marconi Company doing business with us.” Mr. Massey spoke at the Imperial Conference, and on behalf of New . Zealand he said, “ Empire wireless should be under the control of the different countries of the Empire,” I support that view. In its dealings with us this company has put the rule over the representatives of the Commonwealth Government. One has only to take the tenders which were called for the erection of a power station in Australia to see that. Even a child could see that it was intended that one company only should tender. The conditions imposed rendered it absolutely impossible for any one but the Marconi Company to submit a tender. Let me give honorable members one illustration. Tenders were called oh the 20th February, 1923, and closed on the 30th April following - a period of ten weeks. During that short period it was absolutely impossible for many firms to get into touch with their head offices, or for prices to be prepared. When requests were made for an extension of time, they were refused on the ground that time was the essence of the contract. Notwithstanding that, however, nothing has since been done. Among the conditions of the tender was one requiring that the transmitters radiating energy were to be free from injurious harmonics. It is claimed by many experts that no transmitter is free from injurious harmonics, but the Marconi Company claimed that its valve transmitter was free from this defect. As the only company which had a patent for such a transmitter was the Marconi Company, it was evident that only one company could tender. The other people said, “Even if you admit that the Marconi Company’s transmitter is the only one which is free from injurious harmonics, why not invite separate tenders for the aerial towers, the plant, and the transmitters, and so promote competition ?” But Amalgamated Wireless Limited absolutely refused to call for three separate tenders. Instead, tenders covering all requirements were called for. It was specified that the transmitter had to be free from injurious harmonics; Under the circumstances the Marconi Company was the only tenderer, as it possessed the patent, and therefore had an absolute monopoly of that type of transmitter. Amalgamated Wireless Limited is really a pup of the Marconi Company.
– The Marconi Company was told to have its plans and specifications ready.
– Of course. It was laid down that the successful’ tenderer must provide and operate a power station in England. The consent of the British Government had to be obtained, yet only a period of ten weeks was allowed for tenders to be submitted. The Amalgamated Wireless Limited had then .been in operation for ten months, and had failed to carry out its part of the agreement. I agree with the statement made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, that ‘ wireless communication should be under the control of the different governments of the Empire. It would be exceedingly dangerous to allow private companies, and foreign companies at that, to control wireless communications throughout the Empire. For our own security, safetyand protection, whether in peace or war, whether trade war or military war, the Commonwealth Government should control the wireless system of this country. I cannot understand why the Government, if we are still in the experimental stages respecting long-distance wireless, did not enter into an arrangement with the British Government for it to build a high-powered station in England, and for this Government to build one here, in order to communicate with each other. That would have established the system on a practical basis. But instead we entered into an agreement with a private company, virtually giving a monopoly to the Marconi Company for all the necessary material and apparatus. Highpowered stations were to be built in Australia and Britain. That was too big a proposition for this country to accept, and we opposed it. I suggest that an investigation should now be made as to the best course to pursue. There is no hurry to ratify this agreement. The committee of inquiry, if appointed, could obtain expert opinion, and after weighing all the evidence placed before it, report back to this Parliament. This should be done before we attempt to renew an agreement with a company that has broken every promise it made under the original agreement. A case has been made out for further investigation, and in favour of the appointment of a select committee to obtain expert opinion and advice, and to report its conclusions to this House.
– The amendment moved by the Opposition is quite unnecessary, and cannot possibly be accepted by the Government. The whole debate, has almost exclusively circled round happenings of three years ago. Honorable members opposite have not dealt with the point at issue - whether we should erect a high-powered station to cost almost £500,000, or should substitute for it a beam station, as contemplated under the amended agreement which the Government lias brought down. The discussion was opened by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who, on the subject of wireless, never appears to be on as sound a ground as he generally is when discussing other subjects. When the parliamentary committee that was appointed three years ago considered this subject, and brought in a report to this House, the honorable member for Batman, after I, as chairman, had signed the report on behalf of the committee, unexpectedly presented a minority report, which was the first indication to the other members of the committee that he dissented in the least from them. That was the honorable gentleman’s first effort respecting wireless, and he has been singularly unfortunate ever since in connexion with this subject. To-day, in making what was intended to be a really strong attack upon the Government, he failed lamentably, and I cannot associate myself with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in complimenting him upon the convincing case that he made out. He dealt with very few matters that are really germane to the new agreement. He discussed the original agreement, and stressed very much the bad faith of the Marconi Company. He gave chapter and verse for his conten- tions, and to these I take little exception. But I do take exception to what the honorable member for Yarra said, because, as usual with him, he did nothing but fling about insinuations and innuendoes respecting . the actions , of the Amalgamated Wireless Limited. The substance of his implications was directed at the three government directors on the board of the company, of which board the independent member is the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). The honorable member for Yarra said that the directors did not hesitate to be the tools of the Marconi Company, nor to frame tenders, well knowing that they were not genuine, and were framed solely in the interests of the Marconi Company, who apparently had some mystic power over the directors, and could make them do anything it liked. I am perfectly certain that insinuations of that character will carry no weight at all with the people of this country, particularly when those insinuations come from the honorable member for Yarra. The honorable member for Batman stressed the point that when introducing the measure I appeared to have been in trouble respecting the periods I mentioned, and the attitude adopted by the British Government, because I had said that during the Imperial Conference, in 1921, the British Government had stated that it would do nothing to interfere with any scheme of wireless that Australia chose to establish, and that in March, 1923, Mr. Bonar Law reversed that policy, and said that licences would not be issued. He contended that the two statements were hopelessly irreconcilable. Any ordinary person, without a full knowledge of the facts, might generally think that that was the position, but the honorable member for Batman cannot for one moment believe that that was so. He was a member of the parliamentary committee, and he knows perfectly well that at the time the committee were sitting we communicated with the British Government, which said that Australia would be given wireless facilities. He remembers that we were in some difficulty on the subject, and called as a witness the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), who gave us his version of what had taken place at the 1921 conference, when an assurance had been given by the British Government that there would noi be the slightest trouble in getting the facilities we wanted for the erection of a station in England.
– That was well known to the honorable member for Batman, but when speaking to-day, he did not disclose those facts to the House, so that honorable members might be able to judge exactly what the position was at that time. I felt that I should clear up this point in justice’ to myself. The substance of the case now being put forward by the Opposition, is that we should go right back to the beginning, and again consider whether it would not be very much better to conduct our wireless operations through government agency in the same way as the post office is controlled. I would point out to the honorable member opposite, who may hold that view that we have made definite arrangements as to the basis upon which we should conduct these operations, and we have subscribed to the capital of this company in which we own a majority of the shares, consisting of one share more than those held by outside shareholders. Honorable members opposite have based their case to a great extent upon the bright and shining example set by the British Government. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) dispelled any idea of that character, and his speech was a complete surprise to honorable members opposite, because many of them believed that the British Government had taken a consistent attitude on wireless, treating it as a government monopoly, and allowing no one else to participate in it. Having quite genuinely believed that, honorable members opposite have led themselves into a trap which, in view of their protestations, nas placed them in a difficult position. What the British Government did was to allow licences to be issued to any one for the erection of wireless stations anywhere, except to communicate with Australia and one or two of the other Dominions. If honorable members opposite had appreciated that position, they would not have been so enthusiastic in their condemnation of this Government, and would have had something to say about the British Government showing preferential treatment in the granting of licences, to l.ho. detriment of Australia. I fought that position strenuously all the time that I was in England.
Honorable members opposite have objected to the beam system at any price. The reason they do so is that they are in opposition, and the Government has suggested the beam system. For no other reason than that they would be prepared, apparently, to proceed with the construction of a high-powered station. I have no hesitation in saying that to erect at the present time a high-powered station would be a most reckless thing to do, and no Government could undertake it in view of the developments that have taken place, and undoubtedly will take place, in wireless communication. The question at issue is whether we should construct a high-powered station or accept a contract for the erection of a beam station. The British Government has examined the facts, has come to the conclusion that a beam station is worth while, and has entered into a contract with the Marconi Company for such a station capable of communicating between Great Britain and Canada for eighteen hours a day, between Great Britain and South Africa for eleven hours a day, between Great Britain and India for twelve hours a day, and between Great Britain and Australia for seven hours a day. That period of seven hours a day has also been stipulated in the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I am not expert enough to say whether the station to be erected in Australia will be able to communicate with Great Britain for seven hours a day, but I would direct the attention of honorable members to the terms of the agreements entered into by the Commonwealth and British Governments. The company has said that it can communicate for seven hours a day, and both Governments have said, “ It is for you to show us that you can do what you claim. We are prepared to enter into a contract with you if you will accept the responsibility, and guarantee that you will give the service you undertake to give.” Beam wireless to-day has reached a stage of development similar to that reached by highpowered wireless in 1921. At that time no one could say that, with any kind of station, long distance wireless communication was possible. The Government entered into an agreement, which, after it had been revised by a committee of this Parliament, provided that guarantees should be supplied by tho contractor to the satisfaction of the directors representing the Government on the board of directors. The guarantees were to be given to the satisfaction, not of the board, but of the Government directors on the board. A majority of the members of the board could not override the Government directors. Although it was necessary to guarantee to the Commonwealth in every way possible that the service contracted for would be rendered, it was recognized within a year that the service could be given, and that long-distance wireless was a commercial proposition. To-day such an agreement could be entered into without any guarantees, if we were dealing, with a reputable firm. The British Government, in 1921, on the advice of its experts, refused to listen to any proposal for the erection of stations to communicate over a distance of from 10,000 to 12,000 miles, because they said it was quite impracticable. But the British Government’s view has gradually changed, and to-day, through the agency of the British Post Office, it is erecting stations to communicate over those distances, and no one raises any doubt about its being a practicable proposition. The Marconi Company says that it can give a certain service with a beam station, but whereas the British Government contended in 1921 that the Marconi Company could not justify its claim, it readily admits to-day that it can do so, and has signified its readiness to erect reciprocal stations in Great Britain to communicate with our stations. The Government is strongly of opinion that it should not proceed at the present time with the erection of a highpowered station at a cost of £500,000, but should enter into a contract for the construction of a beam station, with the necessary guarantees and safeguards. The contract provides for a far larger number of words to be communicated daily than could be communicated by a high-powered station operating at a rate of twenty words per minute for twelve hours daily. The Government was further influenced in its decision by the fear that in two or three years’ time, a highpowered station might become obsolete, in which event it would be useless; but on the other hand, if the beam system is not a success, and if the Government is not able to recover anything under the guarantees, we shall at least have the five masts, which will be erected so that they can be used for a high- powered station. « It appears to me that a beam station is the only practicable business proposition. The debate should have turned upon the issue of a highpowered station or a beam station. Objection has been taken that there is no period of time fixed for the erection of the station, and it has been alleged that in that respect the agreement is even worse than the dreadful one entered -into previously. The statement that no time is fixed is quite wrong, for the agreement provides for the company -
The agreement proceeds to set out the number of words per day, and the number of days during which the service shall be provided. The station has to be erected as soon as a suitable corresponding station is erected in Great Britain. As a station in Australia is useless unless there is a similar station in Great Britain, the provision that a station must be erected here as soon as one is erected in Great Britain definitely sets a term to the agreement, and it is the only term that is of any use, because we do not want a station here unless there is a reciprocal station in Great Britain. A further safeguard is that it is only after the agreement has been entered into for the erection of a station within a reasonable time that the Amalgamated Wireless Company will be released from any of the obligations under the original agreement, about which we have heard so much. No particular anxiety need bo felt regarding the period fixed. It has been alleged that the. Commonwealth Government has been pouring out money to the Amalgamated Wireless Company in respect of the stations taken ever, and that the agreement involved the Commonwealth in a tremendous loss, with corresponding benefit to the company. Under clause 7 of the original agreement the company undertook to take over the stations that the Government was then operating in Australia, and to operate them on behalf of the Government. Before the company took over the stations, the Government was losing £50,000 a year on them, but it was contemplated that when the main trunk station was erected it would be passible to so reorganize the service that our requirements could be met without a financial loss, and there were even suggestions that there would be a profit. It was quite obvious, however, that there would be no profit until the main station had been erected. It. was arranged that the sta- tions should be taken’ over immediately, but that until the main station was erected the Government would bear the cost of them and would receive the revenue from them. They were to be operated, however, by the company, as it was felt that this would be the best way to work up the organization and get the whole thing on a modern basis, so that the existing stations could connect with the main station as soon as it was ready. It was thought that when the main station was erected the Commonwealth would be relieved of the loss, even if it did not receive a profit. The honorable member for Batman asked me a question relating to the amounts paid by the Government under clause 7. I gave him some figures which have been apparently misunderstood by honorable members. I stated that the payments out were £139,000, and the payments in £51,000. The payments out were for a period of two years and two months, since the stations were taken over, but payments in were for one year and ten months. The receipts do not come to hand for some time after the expenses have been met. If the monthly amount paid out and the monthly amount received be calculated, it will be found that these stations are now costing the Commonwealth about £36,000 a year, although they have been extended somewhat, whereas prior to their being taken over by the company they were costing us over £50,000 a year. There is, therefore, a certain gain to the Commonwealth. It has also been argued that it is necessary to have a high-power station in Australia. The British Government advised us to have both, but we said that that was an extravagance that we could not contemplate. The reason given for a high-power station is that it would be more suitable for communicating with a fleet scattered about the Pacific Ocean. Honorable members opposite have suddenly developed an extraordinary tenderness for Australia’s defence, which has not been exhibited so acutely on other occasions. I can only say that the stations that we have will communicate a pertain distance. There seems to be an idea that we could not communicate at all. If Great Britain had a high-power broadcasting station, and desired to send instructions to her fleet in Australian waters, we could receive those instructions. The Commonwealth Government cannot agree that the advantages suggested are sufficient to warrant an expenditure which would certainly be £300,000 or £400,000 more than, will be necessary for the station that is contemplated. Another point that was made - and made with great poignancy - by two honorable members was in regard to the saving of life at sea. Apparently those honorable members have an idea that when a ship is in distress it receives a message. 1 suggest that what happens is that it sends a message stating that it is in distress. Our receiving stations will be quite adequate to receive any message that a ship would be capable of sending out. Honorable members need not be anxious about the safety of those at sea, whichever type of station is adopted. The suggestion has been made that there is something quite improper about this matter. I again remind honorable members that Amalgamated Wireless Limited is not identical with the Marconi Company, and is not a “ pup “ of that company. It is an Australian company. The Marconi Company holds shares in it, as everybody knows. Upon payment of a fee the snare register can be inspected and information obtained as to who holds shares in the company. The Marconi Company is only one of the shareholders. It does not hold a controlling interest, or anything approaching it. The shares are scattered among people throughout the length and breadth of Australia. A large number arc held by shipping companies in Melbourne and Sydney in particular. Therefore, the suggestion that this is the Marconi Company, or a pup of that company, and that its policy can be directed by the Marconi Company, is absolutely untrue and unfounded. The Commonwealth Government actually controls the majority of the shares in the company, and it is for that Government to determine its policy. Neither the Marconi Company nor anybody else can lay down what the policy shall be. The main point to remember is that three of the directors represent the old Amalgamated Wireless
Limited shareholders - not, ‘as has been suggested by honorable members, tlie Marconi Company. Three other directors represent the Commonwealth Government, and the seventh director is an independent one. I think it is lamentable that suggestions should continually be made that improper things are being done. “Why can we not discuss this measure, on the merits of whether it is better to go forward with a high-power station or substitute for it the beam system at a very much smaller expense, with the possibility of establishing it within a period of twelve months, and the certainty that even if it does not function to the extent anticipated, and we eventually have to erect a high-power station, we shall not be retarding the matter very greatly, but- wc shall certainly be safeguarding the Commonwealth against a loss of nearly £400,000 if the beam system proves successful. Nobody can state definitely whether this will succeed or fail. We are making an experiment. 1 have never suggested that the system has proved itself. The British Government has communicated to Australia its readiness to give a limited service. It has entered into an agreement with the Marconi Company guaranteeing a seven hours’ service to Australia. The company will have to give guarantees to the Commonwealth Government that it will provide the service laid down, and those guarantees must be acceptable to the representatives of the Government on the board. For the reasons I have stated, the Government cannot accept the suggestion that this matter should be referred to a committee. That would only involve further delay. The circumstances to-day are in no way parallel with those that existed on the previous occasion, when no agreement had been entered into with Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and the business was being started from the beginning. We now propose merely to vary the terms of an arrangement that has already been subjected to a searching examination by this House and by a committee. The only decision to which we have to come is whether a long distance high-power wireless station shall be erected; or whether we shall substitute for that a beam station, in co-operation with the British Government, which is erecting a station of the same type and on the same plan to communicate with us.
– I shall state the question, the speech of the Prime Minister having closed the debate.
– On a point of order, I understand that the right honorable the Prime Minister addressed himself to the amendment.
-The right honorable gentleman covered the whole debate.
– Has he cut out honorable members from a reply?
– I am afraid that he has.
– I congratulate him upon his ingenuity, which is greater than his veracity. It was a most dishonest way of dealing with a most dishonest business.
– I may say, for the information of honorable members generally, that in such circumstances it is quite open for an - honorable member to ascertain from the mover of the substantive motion whether he intends to close the debate. At the close of the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) the Prime Minister desired to rise, but because the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) wished to speak, he gave way, as his speech would have closed the debate. When no honorable member rose, I was bound to call the Prime Minister at the close of the speech of the honorable member for Yarra, and his speech has closed the debate.
– On a point of order, I understood that the honorable member for Yarra asked, when the Prime Minister rose, whether his speech would close the debate, and the answer was that it would not.
– No. My answer was that if the right honorable gentleman dealt with the amendment his speech would not close the debate. In order to ascertain whether the right honorable gentleman was dealing with the motion as well as the amendment, I took extensive notes of his speech, and a reference to them would show that he covered the whole debate from the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to that of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Therefore, the debate is closed.
– ;It has been closed by a trick.
– “Trick” is not a parliamentary expression.
– It was a trick.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is out of order. He must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw “ trick.”
– The honorable member was disorderly in speaking when the Speaker was on his feet.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Anstey’s amendment) - put. The house divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 15
Noes . . . . . . 24
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question - That the bill be now read . a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
, - I directed a question to the Treasurer today about the treatment of mentally affected ex-soldiers in. Western Australia. For a long time past the position of these soldiers has not been satisfactory. Early this year an improvement in their position was made by the completion of special arrangements for their treatment in a ward of the Hospital for the Insane. In February last the Treasurer, on his visit to the state, entered into an agreement with the State Government by which proper provision was to be made for the treatment of these cases. But no progress has been made in carrying out that agreement. The matter is of grave concern, and has occasioned considerable public feeling in Western Australia. On two occasions T have asked questions about it in this House, and the Treasurer has told me that no progress has yet been made to carry out the agreement entered into with the State Government. I understand that he attributes the fault to the State Government, but it is no satisfaction to the men or to their relatives and friends, who are greatly distressed, to know which Government is to blame. They are only concerned that steps should be taken to put everything on a proper footing at once. If the fault lies with the’ State Government I urge the Commonwealth Government to take active steps either to see that the state fulfils its obligation in the matter or to make adequate arrangements of its own. The inaction is becoming a scandal.
– Early this year, after long negotiations, arrangements were made with the Mitchell Government for the building of a special hospital for the treatment of ex-soldier mental cases on a well-chosen site in the grounds of the Hospital for the Insane near Perth. The site was chosen upon the advice of all the experts in Western Australia. The arrangement was that the’ cost of the building was to be equally borne by the Commonwealth and the State, and that the building was to he sufficiently large to accommodate 70 patients. For some of these the Commonwealth would be responsible; for the others, men who have become mentally afflicted in civil life, the state would be responsible. It was underStood that all the arrangements were satisfactory and that the work would, be taken in hand almost immediately, but unfortunately a legal difficulty arose between the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth and the Crown Solicitor of the state, and subsequently other obstacles were raised by the State Government. The Commonwealth Government has gone as far as it possibly could to meet the various points raised by the State Government. It is most anxious to get on with the work, and the necessary money has been provided in this year’s Estimates in the . vote for the Repatriation Department. Everything is being done from our point of view to bring about a decision so that this work may he expedited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240902_reps_9_108/>.