10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canberra Streets and Suburbs - Reportof Canberra National Memorials Committee in regard to naming thereof.
Ordered to he printed.
Audit Act. - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1927, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Northern Australia Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1927, No. 134.
New Guinea Act. - Ordinances of 1927 -
No. 36.- Supply (No. 4) 1927-28.
No. 37. - Stamp Duties.
No. 38. - Succession Duties.
No. 39. - Appropriation (No. 4) of 1926-27.
Norfolk Island Act. - Ordinance No. 5 of 1927 - Executive Council.
Papua Act. - Ordinance No. 10 of 1927 - Land.
– Will the Leader of the Seriate explain why the tariff schedule is not to be considered by the Senate this week?
– The Senate will have an opportunity to discuss the tariff this session.
– Are we to understand that Parliament will merely adjourn over Christmas and not be prorogued? “Will the Senate have an opportunity to discuss the tariff before Christmas or when it re-assembles after Christmas ?
– It is proposed to have the usual adjournment over Christmas. It is expected that the tariff will be before the Senate when we resume after the. adjournment.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In the event of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers being sold, is it the intention of the Government to compensate the officers and staff of that Line for loss of employment?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The matter will receive consideration.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I have received from Senator Grant an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The attitude of the Repatriation, Old-age, and Invalid Pension authorities in connexion with payments due to soldiers’ dependants.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion -
.- I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till till 11 a.m. on Monday, 19th December.
It is only after I had exhausted all the ordinary channels, and a few additional ones, that I decided to adopt this course. I should not have done so had I been able to obtainredress in any other way. I realize that the Pensions and Repatriation Departments have a number of intricate questions to solve from time to time, and that they do the best they can with the staff at their disposal. Nevertheless, in their enthusiasm they occasionally make mistakes. I desire to refer to one instance, in which, in my opinion, a grave injustice has been done. I refer to the case of Mrs. Christina McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, the mother of Sinclair McArthur, who enlisted in the early days of the war, and soon after paid the supreme penalty for his patriotism, leaving a widowed mother. In common with many thousands of others, Mrs. McArthur did not know what she was entitled to receive from the Repatriation Department. On the18th August, 1915, the department commenced to pay her a war pension of £2 a fortnight. That continued until the 26th April, 1926 - a period of nearly eleven years - when the department discovered that every fortnight Mrs. McArthur had been short-paid to the extent of 12s. 3d. The department thereupon forwarded her a cheque for £173 3s.1d. which was paid to the credit of her Savings Bank account at Annandale. About that time the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions issued the usual circular inquiring as to the financial position of pensioners. In response to that request, Mrs. McArthur supplied information revealing a substantial sum to her credit in the Savings Bank. On receipt of that information, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, in terms of the act under which the pension was granted, reduced Mrs. McArthur’s old-age pension by £1 for every complete £10 over £50 standing to her credit in the bank. Prior to the receipt of the cheque referred to, Mrs. McArthur had incurred certain liabilities which were discharged promptly on receipt of the cheque. Nevertheless, she still had in the hank a. sum sufficient to cause the Commissioner to reduce her pension. In consequence, sums totalling £11 8s. 9d. were deducted from the amounts -which otherwise would have been paid to her. I desire to emphasize that only because the amount withheld was paid to her in a lump sum was it possible for the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions to reduce her pension. Had Mrs. McArthur been paid the correct amount of pension fortnightly, there would probably not have been to her credit in the bank a sum sufficient to cause her pension to be reduced. Mrs. McArthur was left a widow some years before her son was killed at the war, and had to support a fairly large family and pay rent for the home in which they lived. I claim that she is entitled to interest on the amount wrongfully withheld from her. At the rate of 4 per cent, she is entitled to interest amounting to £44 15s. 8d. in respect of the £172 3s. Id. withheld from her. In addition, since receiving the cheque referred to, she has been deprived of £11 8s. 9d. She is, therefore, entitled to receive from the two Departments a sum of £56 4s. 5d. I have put this woman’s case before the Minister for Defence (Senator Glasgow), and following upon representations made to the Deputy-Commissioner of Pensions, the department, on 23rd September, restored the pension to the maximum rate of 40s. a fortnight as from 22nd of that month. In reply to a letter which I sent to the department I received the following from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Sydney, under date 25th October, 1927 :-
Re Christina McArthur, widowed mother of Sinclair McArthur, Ex/156, Cpl., 4th Battalion. Address: - 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales.
With reference to the representations made by you on behalf of the above named, I have to advise that the facts of this case as as follow: -
The pensioner is the widowed mother of a deceased unmarried soldier whose rate of pay in the A.I.F. was 10s. per day at the date of his death.
In accordance with column 2 of the first schedule of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1020 she is entitled to war pension of f2 12s. 3d. per fortnight. War pension at £2 per fortnight waB granted to Mrs. McArthur with effect from the 18th August, 1915, which represented the day following on the date military allowances ceased to be paid.
In April, 1920, the case was reviewed and the fact that Mrs. McArthur was a widowed mother was disclosed. The pension was underassessed at the difference between £2 and £2 128. 3d. per fortnight from the date of original grant. An increase in the rate to £2 12s. 3d. per fortnight was effected from the 18th August, 1915, and on or about the 14th May, 1926, a cheque for the amount of £172 3s. Id. was forwarded to the pensioner to cover arrears then due in the case.
I have no power to accede to the request made for interest to be allowed to Mrs. McArthur in respect of the moneys paid to her by way of war pension arrears, and compensation may not be granted on account of the reported reduction in the rate of her old-age pension.
It will be clear from the above that Mrs. McArthur has been justly treated in so far as she has received all moneys to which she is entitled under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and any representations considered necessary with regard to her old.age pension should be made direct to the deputycommissioner, Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department.
That is the view of the department I do not agree with it. On the 10th November I wrote the following letter to Sir William Glasgow, Minister for Defence-
Dear Sir. - I am enclosing herewith a letter from the Repatriation Commission dated the 25th October, 1927, in reference to the delay of the commission in paying to Mrs. Christina McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales, the war pension of £2 12s. 3d. per fortnight as due to her, by which she was deprived of the use of £172 3s. Id. for the period as set out in the letter. 1 am also enclosing a letter from the New South Wales Deputy-Commissioner of Pensions, dated the 8th November, from which you will see that as a result of the receipt’ of £172 3s. Id. in one sum the DeputyCommissioner for a time reduced her old-age pension by which she was at a loss to the amount of £11 8s. 9d. lt seems to me that Mrs. McArthur has been unjustly deprived of this money by the Oldage Pensions Department - perhaps quite legally so far as that department is concerned_ but it was through no fault of hers that the. £172 3s. Id. above referred to was placed in the bank to her credit, thereby necessitating the above reduction by the Old-age Pensions Department. It seems to be only just that the money deducted by the Pensions Department, together with interest at the rate of 4 per cent, on the money held by the Repatriation Commission, should be paid to this lady, and this would amount to -
She is certainly in equity entitled to get this money, and I shall be glad if you will give these representations early and favorable consideration.
The matter was referred to Sir Neville Howse, Minister in Charge of Repatriation, and on the 10th instant I received the following letter from him -
With reference to your letter of the 10th November, addressed to the Honorable Sir William Glasgow, regarding the case of Mrs. C. McArthur, of 306 Nelson-street, Annandale, New South Wales, I. have now had an opportunity of perusing the relevant departmental file. I regret, however, that there is no provision in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act under which interest could be paid as compensation. Neither is it possible to reimburse Mrs. McArthur in respect of the deduction which took effect in connexion with her old-age pension.
That is the final word from the Minister in charge of repatriation. The departmental view may be right, but it is not satisfactory to Mrs. McArthur, who was deprived of the use of £172 3s. Id. spread over a period of nearly eleven years. Had she placed that money in the bank and received interest at 4 per cent, on it, it would have amounted to the total I have mentioned. We have to remember also that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions department came on the scene with the result that she lost £11 8s. 9d. in pension payments properly due to her. Mrs. McArthur’s case demands sympathetic consideration. When the call came her son, upon whom she was dependent, responded and made the supreme sacrifice. When we consider the huge sums of money that are spent in a thousand and one directions it should be possible to make up to’ Mrs. McArthur what is due to her, either from moneys at the disposal of the Repatriation Department or from a special fund. There should be no trouble or delay about the matter. I have placed the facts before the Senate to the best of my ability, and I feel sure that all honorable senators understand the position. Again I ask the Government to take immediately whatever steps may be necessary to ensure the payment of this money to Mrs. -McArthur.
– Senator Grant has repeated this afternoon what he said, in effect, on the 29th November last in the debate on the Appropriation
Bill. I am sorry that the honorable senator takes the view that the department knowingly and improperly witheld payments from Mrs. McArthur. No one could come to any other conclusion from what he said. I have had a great deal to do with the Repatriation Department, and I know that many cases cannot be decided without long and .careful investigation. Sometimes years elapse before fresh evidence discloses that claimants are entitled to more than they have been receiving. Apparently that is what has happened in the case of Mrs. McArthur. Evidently the department had ascertained that being a widowed mother she was dependent to a greater extent upon her deceased son than was previously understood. For that reason the commission decided to increase her pension payment -by 12s. 3d. a fortnight. This amount, spread over a period of nearly twelve years, came to £172 3s. Id. which was duly paid to her. I understand that portion of the claim now is for interest at 4 per cent, on the difference between the original and the adjusted payments. The act does not authorize the commission to pay interest in such cases. With regard to the reductions in payments by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions department, I direct the attention of honorable senators to subsection 82 of section 24 which reads - (2). Where the pensioner has accumulated property, the amount of a pension shall be subject to the following reductions -
It will be seen, therefore, that the Com missioner of Pensions, in making deductions in the payments to Mrs. McArthur, was merely carrying out the provisions of the act. It seems to me that no fault can be found with the administration of the Repatriation Act or the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and that before any further payment could be made it would be necessary to amend one or both of those acts. I shall, however, see that the honorable senator’s remarks are brought under the notice of the’ Pensions Department and of the Minister in charge of Repatriation.
– The reply of the Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) is not altogether what I desired ; but in view of the statement he has made, and the fact that I may have further opportunity to do something in this matter, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment in this bill subject to an amendment.
Ordered - That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 8 (Management) -
Senate’s Amendment. - At the end of proposed new section 35e add the following proviso: - “Provided that, until the appointment of of the Commission -
the Savings Bank shall be managed by the Board of the Bank; and
for the purposes of this Part, and of the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927, the Governor shall have all the powers and functions of the Chief Commissioner, and the Board shall have all the powers and functions of the Commission; and
all references in this Fart (excepting in sections 35k to 35n inclusive) and in the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927 to the Chief Commissioner or to the Commission shall be read as references to the Governor or the Board as the case may be.”.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Agreed to with the following amendment: -
After “Commission” (first occurring) insert “, which shall only be appointed upon a resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament approving such appointment”.
– I move -
That the amendment of the House of Bepresentatives upon the Senate’s amendment be agreed to.
The amendment made in another place merely safeguards the position to the extent that it provides that the Savings Bank Commissioners shall not be appointed until a resolution approving their appointment has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.
– Is that not of the same effect as the amendment moved by Senator Herbert Hays?
– No. Senator Herbert Hays moved an amendment, the effect of which was to keep the control of the savings bank in the hands of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. This amendment is to provide that the savings bank commissioners shall not be appointed until Parliament approves.
– I suppose the Government will be very glad when it sees the last of this bill, because on two occasions it has had to back down. In the first place, it determined that the savings bank should be separated from the general bank, but had to retrace its steps. It is now submitting a proposal under which the savings bank commissioners can not be appointed until Parliament approves. The amendment is not necessary, as I do not think the Government intends to appoint a commission. The amendment is now submitted to enable the Government to beat a dignified retreat from its unfortunate position. I support the amendment.
– When the Commonwealth Bank Savings Bank Bill was before this chamber a few days ago I moved an amendment to the effect that savings bank commissioners should not be appointed unless with the approval of the board. That amendment was opposed by the Government, which now submits a similar proposal.
– That is not so. This amendment provides that the commissioners shall not be appointed until both Houses of Parliament approve.
– The Government said that it could not accept my amendmentas it would place the responsibility upon the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. This amendment is even more drastic, as it provides that the Commissioners of the Savings Bank cannot be appointed until Parliament approves. I am prepared to support the Government’s proposal, but I again point out that it goes even further than that which I submitted, and which was opposed by the Government.
– It is not the same amendment as the honorable senator submitted.
– The principle is the same; but as I have said it goes even further.
– I do not intend to oppose the amendment, although I think the Government would have been much better advised if it had withdrawn the bill when the difficulty arose, and recast the whole measure, which in its present form is of a most contradictory character. In the first place, the bill provided for the appointment of a board of commissioners, and that board is now like Mahomet’s coffin, suspended between heaven and earth. We are now asked to support an amendment which provides that effect shall not be given to the legislationwe had passed until both Houses of Parliament approve. It would have been much better to have withdrawn all reference to the board of commissioners from the bill, and left the control in the hands of the directors. In this instance we are passing a measure containing a direct negative. Mistakes will occur at all times. This is generally recognized as a very silly blunder. It is almost unpardonable under the circumstances. This is one of the most extraordinary arrangements that has ever been made in connexion with any legislation; it is unprecedented throughout the world.
. - Senator Herbert Hays appears to think that there is no distinction in principle between the amendment which he moved and that which has been accepted by the Government. I desire to point out, as I did when the honorable senator moved the amendment, that his proposal purported to give control to the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. I then put it to the honorable senator that it would be most undesirable for any government to place in the hands of the board a power which the Parliament should exercise.
– Will the Minister submit such legislation to this Parliament in the future without consulting the directorate of the bank?
– The directors of the bank are consulted in regard to all of these matters. It is a question not of consultation, but of whether the supre macy of Parliament is not threatened. Parliament has now said the proposed commission cannot be brought into being, and shall not function, except by resolution of both Houses. That is very different from the amendment which Senator Herbert Hays wished to insert. At first sight, as I informed honorable senators at the time, it might appear attractive, but a closer examination showed that it would place in the hande of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank a power which properly is exercisable by the Government. The amendment that I now ask the committee to accept proposes to place that power in the hands of Parliament, the tribunal to which it properly belongs. I remind Senator Greene that so far from being a negation of legislation, or requiring a further enactment, the only requirement, should the necessity arise, will be a resolution of both Houses.
SenatorGreene. - That is a distinction without a difference.
– This is merely a side issue to the main features of the bill. I have already pointed out that the important principle is the separation of the two arms of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is very different from the story which the Minister told us when he introduced the measure.
– Oh, no! The story which I then told was that of the separation of the two branches of the bank. I defy any honorable senator to say that that is not the outstanding principle of the measure. It is of no consequence whether a commission or the directorate of the bank are given the administration.
– In the circumstances, I have every sympathy for the Minister.
– I can assure the honorable senator that his sympathy is entirely wasted. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) laid to his soul the flattering unction that something tremendous had been accomplished when this amendment was introduced. He practically said that there had been no separation. I ask honorable senators to read the bill to see what they have accomplished.
– The management has not been separated?
– What does it matter who is charged with the management? Under the bill as originally drafted, one of the directors of the bank would have been appointed to the commission that was to have had charge of the Commonwealth Savings Bank Consequently, there is no difference in principle. I ask the committee to accept the amendment.
– I do not intend to be placed in a false position with respect to the amendment that I moved. The Minister has said that there is a vast difference between what I proposed and what has been accepted by the Government. After the bill had passed another place arid was sent along for our consideration the Government, acting on the advice of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, brought forward an amendment, which was agreed to by this committee. I submitted a further amendment to the effect that the Government should consult with and accept the advice of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank before proceeding to separate the two branches.
– More than their advice was involved.
– Will the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan) say that the Government did not introduce the amendment at the request and on the advice of the directors of the bank?
– Quite so.
– The amendment to which the committee is now asked to agree provides that one of the salient features of the bill shall not become operative until this Parliament gives to the Government the power to deal with it. I refer to the division of the ordinary branch and the savings bank branch of the bank, and the separation of the management. If it is true that a big principle was involved in my amendment, I contend that there is a bigger one in the amendment we are now asked to accept.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 13th December, vide page 3060).
Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 (Date of payment of tax).
.- -This clause provides that land tax shall be payable 30 days after the receipt of an assessment. That is very short notice, especially as in the generality of cases the assessments’ in respect of both land and income tax are received at approximately the same time. I should like to know whether the Commissioner endeavours to avoid that clashing; and, further, ifit would not be possible to extend to 60 days the period within which payment must be made.
– As a matter of fact payment may now be made within a period of 60 days without the enforcement of a penalty; because, although it is provided that payment shall be made within 30 days, a further 30 days are allowed to elapse before a penalty is imposed. In reply to the other point which was raised by the honorable senator, I understand that the department endeavours to avoid a clashing of dates with regard to the payment of land and income tax.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 30 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th December (vide page 3034), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When we realize the rapid progress that has been made in wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony in recent years we can come to no other conclusion than that it is a subject of vital and transcendent importance to any country, and more particularly to an island continent like Australia, with vast distances between each centre of population. It is, therefore, the duty of the
Commonwealth Government to look at the development of wireless from every angle in order that the interests of the community may be safeguarded and the welfare of the country protected. I am compelled to say that the Government has failed lamentably and ognominously to do this. It is true that a little while ago it appointed a royal commission to inquire into the main aspects of wireless, but it has ignored all its recommendations but one. No one could read the recommendations of that commission without coming to the conclusion that they were of vast importance to Australia, yet the Government treated them with supreme contempt. When we are about to enter into an agreement regarding the development and control of wireless we must be extremely careful of our steps. But before dealing with the new agreement which this bill ratines it is just as well that I should give a brief resume of what has taken place in the past. Years ago the Commonwealth Government had presented to it a wireless patent system that for some years had been operated under the direction of Father Shaw.
– “ Presented to it?”
– I think there was a bit of a quid pro quo.
– At any rate it became the property of the Government. The Telefunken Company, which I believe was afterwards absorbed by the Marconi Company, subsequently brought an action against the Commonwealth Government for an infringement of its patent rights, and the Marconi Company also became involved in the matter, and was finally left to continue the fight against the Government. When the matter was referred to the High Court it decided that as it was a highly technical subject independent evidence should be obtained, and as a result one of the best experts available was brought out from Great Britain to assist the Commonwealth Government. That expert inspected the system in operation in Australia, and stated that there was no infringement of patent rights, and that it was 33 per cent, better than the Marconi system. In those circumstances one would have thought that the Government would then have let the High Court give, a decision that could result only in one way - in favour of the Government. But it did not take any steps to test the claim of the Marconi Company that its patent rights had been invaded. On the- 5th September, 1914, the Cook Government was defeated at the poll, and between that date and the 17th December, when Mr. Andrew Fisher took office, it paid the Marconi Company £5,000 and bore its own costs. I mention this in order to draw attention to the fact that an anti-Labour government gave concessions to the Marconi Company that should not have been given,, and I venture to say that thisaction was the source of a lot of our troubles of to-day. It is also strange to note that at the present timet another anti-Labour Government is continuing to give concessions to the Amalagamated Wireless Company. In 1921, Mr. Hughes, the then Prime Minister endeavoured to rush through Parliament an agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, which, while posing as an Australian concern, is in reality a branch of the Marconi Company, a foreign concern. Parliament refused to pass the bill, and the measure was referred to a Parliamentary Committee, which vitally altered the terms of the agreement. I do not propose to discuss those terms - they are set out in a booklet issued by the Government - but the agreement itself required the company to do certain things which they did not do. In 1924 Parliament ratified a fresh agreement between the Commonwealth Government and- the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, which relieved the company from many of the obligations entered into in 1922. One of the main features of the 1924 agreement was the establishment of wireless communication with Great Britain by means of the beam system. I do not profess to be an expert on wireless matters, but I gather from the writings of people who claim to be experts that the beam system was not expected to be a success. Not long ago the British naval and military experts’ maintained that it would be useless in war time. They contended that the beam could be destroyed, by a counter-beam. Whether that contention is correct or not I must leave it to experts to decide. The Royal Commission says, on page 17 of ths report that experiments are now in progress with the object of enabling the beam system to be utilized for defence purposes. It also says that the evidence establishes the fact that in the present stages of its development it is not as suitable for naval service as is the older circle system. I come now to the present agreement. Let me say here that it is my intention to oppose the bill which seeks to ratify it. “ One of my main reasons for doing so is my belief that wireless should be under the control of the Government. For the safety of the nation it is just as necessary that wireless should be controlled by the Government as it is that our telegraphic and telephonic services should be so con? trolled. I contend that long ago the Government should have assumed sole control of wireless instead .of working conjointly with a branch of a foreign company. The longer we delay that control the greater will be our danger. Speaking in another place the Prime Minister said that the Government could secure control under certain conditions. Why should we bargain about the matter at all? This Parliament should be the supreme authority in this country. There is no need for us to haggle about conditions. Wireless communication should be ranked as a service of national importance in the same way that we now regard telegraphic and telephonic communications and the carriage of our mails. The report of the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy committee of 1924 contained as its first recommendation -
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.
For years Marconi has endeavoured to secure control of wireless in Great Britain, but without success. Successive British governments have refused to allow him to control wireless in Great Britain or to enter into any agreement which would give him any portion of such control. There is an example for us to follow. If a conservative people, such as our kinsfolk in the British Isles certainly are, consider it necessary that the government should have complete control over wireless, and that private companies should be kept at bay, we should hesitate before we decide to do otherwise. Referring to the agreement now before us the Melbourne Age said -
The Government shows singularly scant respect for public opinion when it treats as with a bludgeon the idea of having wireless under the control of the post office.
Regarded, from the point of1 view of defence alone, one would have thought that government control of wireless stations was essential. That aspect of the matter was dealt with by the commission in its report in the following terms -
At the present time there is nothing to ensure that these land and coastal stations are manned by British subjects, or that the training of the personnel employed in these stations would harmonize with the training of the defence force of the Commonwealth or the Royal Navy.
That is indeed a serious state of affairs which warrants the immediate consideration of the government. Should war come again - I fervently hope it will not - wireless will undoubtedly play a vital part, in it. It is, therefore, just as essential that our wireless stations should be manned by Britishers as that Britishers should occupy important offices in connexion with our military, naval -or air forces. What would be sai’d if the Government had entered into an agreement with a foreign company to conduct our munition factories? The people of Australia would revolt against the idea. I contend that wireless communications are as vital to Australia as are our munition factories.
– Would the honorable senator describe Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited as a foreign company ?
– To a great extent it is a foreign company. It is true that the Government is represented on the directorate of the company, and that it possesses a majority of the shares; but it is also true that, so far as the work of the company is concerned, the Government is impotent. The commission was emphatic that land and coastal stations should be under the control of the Government. The matter is again referred to in its report in the following terms : -
In the opinion of the commission there are overwhelming reasons why the land and coastal stations should be returned to Government control and linked up with the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The commission went on to deal with the financial side of the question and then said -
Notwithstanding these facts, and notwithstanding that for some years the Commonwealth Government must face a loss on the working of these stations, the commission considers that it is vital to the interests of the Commonwealth that a Government department should resume control at the earliest possible opportunity.
For reasons best known to itself, the Government has chosen to ignore that important recommendation. The defence authorities have stated emphatically that, from a defence point of view, wireless communications should be under the control of the Commonwealth.
– The commission does not say that.
– I have already quoted from the commission’s report, in. which it says that it is of the opinion that wireless should be under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– The commission suggested that it should be put under the control of the Navy.
– I assume that the Navy is under the control of the Government. The Minister’s interjection is therefore merely a quibble. Admiral Creswell and Admiral Napier, in giving evidence before the commission, urged that the Commonwealth Government should control wireless as a public utility in the interests of the defence of this country. The opinion of those men should weigh with the Government. If I remember rightly, one of those gentlemen stated that very confidential information had found its way into the hands of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited - a foreign company. A repetition of that unsatisfactory state of affairs may occur at any time under the present system. The joint system of control which now exists makes it easy for confidential information to leak out. Dealing further with land and coastal stations, the commission stated that they are inti mately bound up with the other communication services of the Commonwealth, and that, if controlled by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, greater use could be made of them in the less populated parts of Australia, and in maintaining communication between Tasmania and the mainland. Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is not concerned with extending wireless communications in the interests of the people and the development of this country ; it is in the business only to make profits.
– The company, so far, has not been very successful in that direction.
– That is so; and according to the commission the further it proceeds in the way it has commenced the less successful it will be. Tha commission states -
The interests of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited are primarily commercial. The policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department is public service at the lowest cost.
In the face of that statement, we are entitled to ask whether the claims of the less-populated portions of Australia and pf Tasmania are likely to be considered by the company in the same way that they would be considered by a Government department. The commission went on to say that the services rendered by these coastal stations resemble in many respects the services performed by the telegraphic and telephonic branches of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That is another sound reason why joint control should be abolished and Government control substituted. The Government has refused to take over the land and coastal stations, giving as its reason that it is undesirable that the two branches of the service should be separated. I remind the Senate that a few weeks ago the Government introduced a bill to separate two important branches of the Commonwealth Bank. Honorable senators will, therefore, see how paltry is the excuse offered in this instance. I now desire to refer to the rates charged for the delivery of messages received at the main station in the Commonwealth. These charges are known as terminal charges. According to the Prime Minister, the legal advisers of the Commonwealth are of the opinion that the Commonwealth is entitled to make such charges. I understand, moreover, that the company has been requested to pay them, but that it has refused to do so. That refusal shows clearly the nature of the control exercised by the Government over the company. The Government has a majority of shares in the company, it has three representatives on its directorate; it assisted to elect the seventh director; but, notwithstanding its alleged control, the Government is unable to get that to which it is legally entitled. When the 1922 agreement was being discussed in the Senate, the manner in which the Government directors were carrying out their duties was referred to. The following is an extract from Hansard regarding the matter: -
-brockman. - That means the representatives of the Government on the board of directors have not been carrying out their job.
– That is obvious.
-brockman. - The present representatives will not do what the Government has asked them to do.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
Later in the debate Senator J. D. Millen said -
Senator Drake-Brockman is quite correct in saying that the Government representatives on th.e directorate have not been properly functioning. The position is becoming a scandal.
I wonder if the Government representatives on the directorate are to-day doing what the Government wishes them to do?
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator will take advantage of an opportunity that will present itself shortly to inform the Senate of the present position. The Government poses as a great apostle of law and order. It won the last election on this issue.
– Is that why the honorable senator usually is so silent on the subject?
– I am never silent when there is occasion- to speak. I was not silent during the last election campaign, when the Government raised a false cry of law and order. The Government is not so particular about breaches of the law in certain cases. Recently when an industrial dispute took place on the waterfront, the Ministry declared that it stood for law and order, and that the parties to the dispute should take their case before the Arbitration Court, which was waiting for them. The Government, how- °ever, did not approach the court to ascertain what were its legal rights in relation to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. The Ministry had been informed by its legal advisers that it had every justification to demand the payment of the terminal charges, but in- stead of taking the matter to court to ascertain its rights in the matter, it made certain concessions to the company, as a result of which the company agreed to pay the terminal charges. What right , had the Government to bargain with the company over the payment of these terminal charges? Ministers are the custodians of the people’s privileges, and the Government, strengthened as it was by a recommendation from its legal advisers, should have pressed its claim for the payment of the terminal charges, instead of haggling and bargaining with the company. Not only that, ‘ but we find the International Telegraph Convention and the International Radio Convention require the payment of terminal charges in circumstances similar to those which exist between the Government and Amalgamated Wireless”. On this subject the commission reported : -
The commission is of opinion that if the Government’s control of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited at the present time is not sufficient to bring this company into line with what is necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth, then that control should be made effective, and, inasmuch as a partial purchase of shares would create difficulties and do an injustice to those whose shares were not purchased, no other course than a complete acquisition seems possible.
That recommendation was completely ignored by the Government, if, indeed, it was not treated with supreme contempt. The Ministry surrendered to the company to the extent that it offered certain concessions on the understanding that the company would pay the terminal charges. Let us see what these terminal charges are worth. The Prime Minister has stated that the amount at issue is approximately £25,000. He has also said that, on a basis of 9,000,000 words per annum, which he considers a fair’ estimate of the total traffic that will be handled by the company in the immediate future, the amount payable to the company for such terminal charges will be approximately £45,000 per annum. This amount will of course increase as business develops. From this it will b» seen that, without giving away any concession, the Commonwealth is entitled to collect £45,000 from the company, which amount would’ be increased as business develops. But in order to get the company to pay this amount the Government proposes to make certain concessions to it in regard to the coastal stations that the company took over. To ascertain what these concessions are we must examine the 1922 agreement, which provided in the first place that the company was te take over the coastal stations which were valued by arbitration at £56,000. This amount was to be paid by the Amalgamated Wireless as portion of the Commonwealth’s last contribution to capital. The agreement provided further that the Government would pay all amounts expended in carrying on the Commonwealth radio stations for a period of three years - in 1924 this period was extended for a further term of one year - and that the Government would receive all the revenue collected. When the right honorable W. M- Hughes brought down his agreement with Amalgamated Wireless in 1921 he made much of the fact that the stations under the control of the Government were losing huge sums of money. The right honorable gentleman estimated the losses at approximately £60,000 per annum, although according to the present Prime Minister’s statement the average loss of these stations during the last five years under government control has been £34,300. There is a considerable disparity between the two estimates. There appears to be no doubt that Mr. Hughes considerably overestimated the losses of these stations in order to make the case against Government control of such stations appear as black as possible.
– The estimates covered different periods.
– On the other hand we must remember that the business has increased.
– If the business of the coastal stations has increased, that probably would account for the reduction in losses.
– No doubt it would be a factor. Mr. Hughes, referring to the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, said -
It is a business concern, which is run at a profit, and contrasts very favorably with our own wireless scheme, which is not a business concern run at a profit. . . .
The present business is unprofitable. . . .
Wo are buying into this profitable business at par. … - On the other hand we may secure a scheme . . which has rights over the Marconi patents, has at its command trained experts, and which is managing a profitable business in glaring contrast to that which the Commonwealth is managing.
The right honorable gentleman and his Ministerial colleagues were loud ki their praise of the financial benefit which the Commonwealth would receive by linking up with this company. He pointed out, as the quotations which I have just read prove, that the Commonwealth Government was buying into a profitable concern. In other words, he urged that the Government was making a profitable investment, and he assured the House that the stations would soon be put on s paying basis. ‘( The Commonwealth,” he said, in effect, “cannot make these stations pay, but the company will.” Let us examine the results to date. According to the Prime Minister, the average losses on these stations since the company has controlled them, has been £31,560, compared with the average losses under Government control of £34,300. In both instances, the figures relating to New Guinea are excluded. It would appear, on the face of it, that there has been a reduction in the losses of nearly £3,000 a year ; but we should take into account the fact that business has increased considerably since the company has had control of the stations. As I have already stated, the 1922 agreement provided that the Commonwealth Government should pay all working expenses for three years, and should also collect all revenue. In other words, we were to stand the losses for three years - the term afterwards was increased to four years. Why should we continue indefinitely to be responsible for these losses? If Amalgamated Wireless
Australasia Limited was the financial success that we were led to believe it was in 1922, why is it unable to show a profit on the working of these stations? The four-year period has expired, and now the Prime Minister has made an arrangement with the company whereby it will pay the terminal charges, amounting to £45,000 a year, and in return will receive a subsidy of a like amount on the understanding that it will return to the Commonwealth 30 per cent, of all revenue derived from the stations. The Prime Minister estimates that this 30 per cent, will represent £10,000. Again I ask why should we continue to be responsible for the losses, which, as I have shown, are about the same now as they were when the stations were under Government control? This is the concession on which the Government is giving to the company, so that it will pay the terminal charges for which it is legally liable. I wish now to refer to the £56,000 which is the amount to be paid by the company for coastal stations which it has taken over. This amount is not to be paid into capital by the company as portion of the Government’s contributions to capital, but is to be used as a set-off against some payment to be made by the Commonwealth to the company. That is an entirely different proposal from that originally arranged. What is the reason for this alteration? In view of the fact that Ihe method of paying the £56,500 is by deducting it from the payments due by the Commonwealth- > the company, I should like to ask if the Government will deduct the £56,000 from the subsidies until it has been paid off. I now” wish to deal with royalties. In the opening remarks of the commission’s report it states - :
The evidence discloses .that the operations of this company extend over a wide field of radio, and in almost every instance have created friction and dissatisfaction.
That is a very strong charge against the company. Further on, the commission states -
As a result of the company’s acts of omission, the company is regarded with suspicion, and its business methods are not approved throughout Australia. Its own selling agent in Western Australia said, “ I know Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is undoubtedly the worst hated firm in Australia.”
And this of a company with which the Government is associated! The report further states -
Not only has the company made demands on radio dealers which, in the opinion of the commission, are excessive, but they have sought to impose terms and conditions in their licences which are oppressive and unfair.
That is another vital portion of the commission’s report which the Government has ignored. There appears to be some doubt concerning the validity of the company’s claims in the matter of royalties, in connexion with which the commission states -
The conduct of the company in regard to patents claimed by it has caused a bona fide doubt in tlie minds of those interested as to whether the company itself regarded the patents owned by it as alid.
Even the company is not sure of its ground. The report continues1 -
Notwithstanding that traders were refusing to sign the licence form submitted by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, and that goods were being sold in every city of Australia, which were, according to the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, an infringement of patent rights held by his company, no steps were taken by the company to protect its rights until quite recently, and the litigation commenced against Melbourne and Sydney firms has been allowed to proceed in a leisurely fashion.
If this company was concerned with the validity of its claims, why did it not expedite the hearing of its claims in order to reach a decision on such an important matter? This agreement, which contains many vital provisions, should be carefully studied. The report continues -
In- the meantime, the Parliament of the Dominion of New Zealand has passed legislation which was apparently intended to invite Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, to a contest on the question of the validity of the patents used in broadcasting stations. Evidence has been given that radio dealers in New Zealand are in some instances carrying on the sale of goods, employing patents of which Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited claims to be the owner, without any attempt on the part of that company to protect its rights. If Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited were in a position to commence litigation against residents of the Commonwealth in respect to infringement of its patent rights it is difficult to understand why it was not equally prepared to defend its rights in New Zealand.
There is, as I have said, a considerable doubt as to the company’s claims in this connexion. The Prime Minister claimed that the company had made a great concession by waiving certain royalty charges. For some years the company has been levying a royalty of 5s. on every listener-in. The right honorable gentleman said that by foregoing the royalties on 250,000 listeners-in the company had sacrificed £62,000, and that in foregoing a royalty of 12s. 6d. per valve on 25,000 four-valve sets, it was sacrificing another £62,000. In addition, he said it had waived its claim on up to 25 per cent, of the revenue from “B” class stations, representing approximately £1,000, making a total of £125,000. These alleged concessions, which are to be made for only five years, are in respect of claims which the company cannot substantiate. When its royalties were allegedly being infringed, the company should have put up a real fight to defend what it terms its rights. It has not done that, possibly because it has not a proper legal standing. The commission in its report said that it considered the charge of 12s. 6d. per valve of 25,000 four valve sets, and the 5s. charge to listeners-in unjust and extortionate, and that the amounts should be reduced to 5s. and 2s. respectively. As I have already stated, the company has agreed to waive this claim for a period of five years, but the Government is to pay the company 3d. a month, or an average of 3s. per annum, in respect of every listener’s licence issue. Taking the present number of licensed listeners-in. which approximates 250,000, the company will thus receive £37,000 per annum. As the number ‘of listeners-in will probably bo doubled within a short period, the company will, to use a colloquialism, be “ on a good wicket.” It is, .as I have said, conceding something to which it has no right, and for this it is to receive from the Government £37,000 per annum - an amount that will increase as the number of subscribers becomes larger. I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill, because the agreement should not be ratified by this Parliament. The time has arrived when wo should dispense with the system of joint control, and follow the splendid example set us by the British Government. We should tell Amalgamated
Wireless Australasia Limited that they must take their hands off this undertaking, which provides an important national service. It is even more important than our telegraphic or telephonic services. It is vital to the nation in times of war, and is absolutely essential for the progress and prosperity of any country in times of peace. For the reasons I have stated, I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill.
.I listened with some pleasure to the speech of the Leader of the .Opposition (Senator Needham). He showed that he had devoted a great deal of care to the subject in order that he might express from his point of view opinions in relation to the wireless position in Australia. I am sorry that he has been misinformed in many ways, and I hope that before I sit down I shall have pointed out to him the false trails he has been following. I was considerably surprised with some portions of his speech, especially when he extolled the value of the royal commission’s’ report. Unquestionably there are one or two glimmerings of sense in that document, from which I shall quote one or two paragraphs. One paragraph reads -
Nationalization of the beam service has been suggested. This would, if practicable, be a solution of some part of the problem, but would not do justice to the persons who are jointly interested with the Commonwealth in this venture. Further, it would deprive the service of the initiative which private enterprise enjoys.
If there is anything in this world in which initiative is necessary, it is in connexion with .wireless. A further paragraph reads -
The contractual relationship between Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited and the great radio companies of other parts of the world render it more likely that the people of the Commonwealth will get the benefit of rapid modernization by a continuation of the present control of the beam service. Moreover, the information before the commission shows that private companies are in charge of the overseas means of communication in some other parts of the world, and that they are giving satisfactory service.
I could continue to pick out similar passages just as the Leader of the Opposition selected those that were in support of his argument. There is one to which I should like to refer at this stage .
The Leader of the Opposition dealt with what, in my opinion, is a grossly unfair paragraph, because it contains a statement that has been taken out of its proper setting. I refer to the following statement: - “Its own selling agent in Western Australia said that the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is the worst hated firm in Australia.” I cannot understand why the commission lifted that statement from the evidence of a witness and included it in its report. The witness referred to was Mr. Wilkes. After he had seen the report of the commission, he promptly wrote to the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited the following letter dated the 26th October, 1927 : -
I wish to direct your attention to the following passage in the report of the royal commission on wireless: - “Its own selling agent in Western Australia stated that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is the worst hated firm in Australia.” I was astonished to find this isolated sentence lifted out of the whole of my evidence and given a prominence and meaning in the commission’s report which it was never intended to have. I invite any one to read my evidence, and they will see for themselves the injustice of the commission’s action in so seriously and unjustly taking an isolated phrase out of a large amount of evidence given by a witness and using it to misrepresent both the witness and an important Australian firm. I listened to all the proceedings of the commission in Western Australia, and I gathered the impression that the chairman of the commission was trying to make the witnesses say or prove that the failure of broadcasting was due to the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited; but in my opinion the commission failed utterly to secure any evidence in Western Australia that even suggested this. The failure of broadcasting in Western Australia has been rather in spite of the efforts of Amalgamated .Wireless than because of anything that the firm has done.
– I do not think we are very much concerned with the popularity of anybody.
– I have raised this matter, not on the score of popularity, but in order to show the one-sided position which the chairman of the commission adopted when he included that statement in the report.
Senator Needham said he had been informed that the beam could easily be destroyed by a counter-beam.
– That is the statement of experts.
– It is perfectly true. But it is equally true that the cable communication between Australia and other portions of the world could easily be destroyed by severing the cable. It is easy to say that either this or that may be done with the beam, and to assert that it has proved a failure in relation to naval tactics. It was not designed for naval tactics. I should like to explain to the Senate what the beam is. In 1924 Marconi experimented with the object of concentrating the wireless wave in such a way that it would not be unduly dissipated. He constructed a parabola. Around the curve of this he hung vertical wires. Those wires were attuned to the wave-length which he intended to transmit. At a point on that curve he placed his antenna?, and from this he transmitted waves of, I think, a 92-metre amplitude. His object indoing that is obvious. He wanted to restrict the volume of power necessary, and to concentrate these . waves in the path of the beam. By so concentrating the waves he would obviously need less power than would be required in other circumstances, and he- could accomplish very much better what he set out to do.
Having a thorough appreciation of the position, Marconi informed the Australian Company that the tender which had been accepted for the erection of a high-power station should not be proceeded with. What was the result? Instead of going ahead with the station, which was to have cost something in the region of £500,000, a quotation was received of £120,000 for more effective work. It will be remembered that the capacity of the first station was about 8,500,000 words, which capacity was increased later to 26,000,000. With the beam the minimum number of words that can be sent is about 86,000,000.
It has been asserted that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, paid considerably more for its station than was paid for a similar station that was erected for a company in- England. That requires examination. The station in England was intended to transmit one wave-length to one place, and the cost on that basis was approximately £57,000. So that it might transmit to two places an additional £37,000 was paid, the total thus being approximately £94,000. The station in Australia not only is able to transmit in either a north-easterly or a southwesterly direction, but also has two means of transmission to two places. Obviously that necessitates additional provision with respect to the aerials and the feeder system. It would be a conservative estimate to place the cost of those additions at £10,000. Deducting that sum from the cost, the latter is reduced to £110,000. Mr. Fisk, who has been held up to suspicion in several places on the ground that he is more interested in the Marconi Company than in Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, went carefully into the position, and was able to secure for the Australian company a further reduction of £12,000. Comparatively, therefore, the cost of the station here is £98,000. The material had to be imported from abroad, and the services of qualified engineers had to be obtained from overseas. Those factors represented an addition to the cost. Further, a very material improvement was effected in the method of dealing with the beam which the English station did not have at that time. I say, therefore, that the Australian company obtained its station on considerably better terms than the English company obtained theirs.
A point that must not be overlooked is that the Marconi Company has patent rights affecting the English installation. I say that deliberately, in spite of all the stupid statements that are made to the contrary. The British Government is paying the Marconi Company6¼ per cent. on its gross takings over the beam at their end. I cannot for a moment conceive the possibility of the experts who are employed by the British Government being so foolish as to take that action which in a period of ten years would lead to the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money unless they were perfectly satisfied of the validity of those patents. What is the position in Australia? Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, having purchased the patents, does not have to pay the Marconi Company a single penny by way of royalty in relation to the messages that ave transmitted from this end. Its station has proved a wonderful success. Not a person in Australia, except Mr. Fisk, ever dreamed that it would be anything like the success it has been. When one considers that this station can be worked so rapidly that approximately 325 words a minute may be transmitted under good conditions, one can readily imagine the wonderful achievements of the beam.
The Leader of the Oppostiion has said that this is a foreign company, although he knows that the Govern ment holds a majority of two shares. Probably he considers that this is a foreign Government, and is desirous of a change being effected in such a way that the “ foreigners “ who now sit on the Opposition benches may re.place those who sit on the Government side.
– The Government is foreign to good business methods.
– In spite of all that I have said, the honorable senator asserts that the Government is foreign to good business methods. Another paragraph which he quoted from the report of the commission expressed a doubt as to whether these stations were manned by British subjects. I wish to tell him that the staff is not only all British, but nearly 100 per cent. Australian. A further statement of the honorable senator was that Commander Cresswell had said that confidential information belonging to the Navy was given to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited.
– I said that it was given by either Cresswell or Napier.
– At any rate the honorable senator said that confidential information had gone from some officer of the Navy to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. What was that confidential information? A letter was sent to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, stating that certain machines were wanted for certain stations, and asking for a quote. That was the confidential information referred to by the honorable senator!
Senator Needham also said that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has not troubled to give its best to the people, because it is a profit-making concern. How he can come to this deduction is astonishing. The rate for beam messages is ls. 8d. a word. We have only to hark back a little to compare that rate with the charges made by the cable companies. Their charge was formerly 3s. a word, it was then reduced to 2s. 6d., and finally 2s. a word, and they seem to find it difficult to give a service at that reduced rate. Can any one say that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, in the beam service has not, in this respect, brought about a great saving to the people of the Commonwealth? Senator Needham told us of the attitude of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited to terminal charges. He said that the company has stated its determination not to pay those charges and that the Government has declared that the advice of its legal advisers is that the company should pay them. Neither statement is absolutely correct. In 1922, when the Government entered into a contract with Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for the erection of a high-power station, part of the agreement was that the company should be given a licence free of charge to operate a wireless service in Australia,, and between there and England and Canada. After a time the Government found itself in a quandary, because, as the result of an international convention in regard to the relation of wireless to cable services, it was agreed that the terminal rates charged by the Government should be the same for both wireless messages and cablegrams, and the question immediately rose: Why should Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited be allowed to forego the payment of these terminal charges? Senator Needham has already pointed out that, when Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, the Australian coastal wireless stations were losing at the rate of about £60,000 a year. That loss has since been reduced to about £34,000. Would any one in his sane senses expect a company with private shareholders to take over an obviously non-paying proposition of such a character for nothing? It would have been extremely stupid for Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited to- suggest to the Government, “ You are losing money on the coastal stations, but for the love of the thing we shall take them over and continue making a loss on them.”
The truth of the matter is that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited always believed that it was to be free from these terminal charges; in other words, that its freedom from the payment of these charges was to be regarded as a quid pro quo for the loss it was likely to sustain on the coastal stations. And when the Commonwealth Government went into the matter it appreciated this position. It realized that it could not expect a company with private shareholders to spend money on something that could not be made to pay.
Some may ask, “Why cannot Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited make these stations pay?” The company could make them pay, but for one reason. It has to comply with an international convention in regard to the safety of life at sea. and consequently must stud the coastline of Australia with wireless stations, so that they can always be in communication with ships on all parts of the seas which wash our great coastline. The Government, upon an examination of the position, decided that something should be allowed to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for doing this service. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the terminal charges amount to about £45,000 under present conditions. The Government does not propose to hand over all the revenue to the company, but considers that in future a considerable profit may be made from these stations, and, therefore, it requires the company to pay 30 per cent, of the total revenue. At the present time this sum may be balanced with the amount accumulating from the terminal rates. So much for the terminal charges.
I listened also to the honorable senator’s remarks about royalties, and in this connexion I want to point out the astounding inconsistency of the royal commission. In one portion of its report, it seems to throw a considerable amount of doubt upon the patents held by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, and in another part it says that the company is entitled to charge 5s. per valve socket. How it arrives at this amount I do not know. It is obvious that if the company has no patents it certainly has no right to charge a royalty per valve socket, and if it has the right to make that charge, obviously it must have something on which to base it. The patents law declares that’ if a company owns a patent, it must use it or permit the public to use it at a reasonable rate. The question is : What is a reasonable rate? That is a matter which can be determined by a court, but so far those people who declare that the charge made by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited for the use of its patents is not a reasonable one have not sought to have the matter determined by a court. Senator Needham says that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has been proceeding with its litigation in a leisurely manner. Any one who has had much experience of matters affecting the patents law knows that it is utterly impossible to do anything more than proceed with litigation in a leisurely manner. We know that the arguments in the Mineral Separations suit involved months and months of delay, and that the Wifley versus Card Table case was .proceeding for years It is my experience of the patents law that you can do nothing more than proceed in a leisurely manner and that, no matter how sound your patents may be, you are always in grave doubt as to what may be the issue of your suit.
I agree with Senator Needham that wireless to-day is of great importance to the people of Australia and to the world in general. It is only a little while ago that ships at sea were in very grave difficulties when they came into a blanket of fog which obscured any lights that would guide them to a haven of safety. Modern conditions of transport require vessels to maintain their speed in all circumstances; but to do that in a blanket of fog is often extremely difficult and dangerous, because of the possibility of a collision, and also because of the inability to determine direction. Wireless has been of very material service to vessels in such circumstances. Along the British Channel a certain wireless station sends out continuous waves. The pilot on the bridge of the vessel in a fog has only to adjust his earphones and direct his antennae or frame aerial until it catches the full strength of the flashing radio message.
This he marks on a chart, and repeats the process until he gets marked on his chart points given to him from three different angles. Then the position of the vessel is known, and it can proceed in safety. The much-despised Marconi company has at South Foreland, in Kent, a special installation for sending messages to vessels at sea. It is a revolving series of radio aerials, sending out signals showing the direction in which an aerial . is pointed at a given moment. As the structure revolves, a number of plates bearing Morse characters, making contact with the transmitter, ensure the signal sent is in the direction in which the aerial is pointing. An officer having a marked chart can by picking up the middle letter of the five letters sent out indicate its position on his chart. That is a continuous service which has considerably added to the safety of life at sea, particularly in wild and foggy weather. In another instance the Borkum Reef Lightship in the North Sea, by means of a submarine broadcaster, sends out the letters B R continuously, and by means of an aerial transmitter sends out B R and then fifteen spaced dotes. Sound, as we know, travels 4,900 feet a second through water and 186,000 miles a second through the air. The exact timing of these signals and the method of their transmission is known to the approaching ship, and by counting the dots until the under-sea message is received, die officer in charge is able to determine how many miles distant his vessel is from the lightship. As vessels are also equipped with directionfinders, they can ascertain their position definitely. That is a wonderful advantage for mariners in such dangerous waters as the North Sea.
Let us now deal briefly with television.
– That is not provided for in this agreement. That is one of the difficulties confronting us.
– It is not yet provided for. Bernard Shaw in his book Bach to Methuselah gives us a prevision of what is likely to happen in the year 2300. He tells us how a Prime Minister sitting in his room with a screen at his side sees a lady in the intimacies of her toilette in the speaking likeness at his side, and is abruptly switched off from visual communication with the lady. Dc tuy friends think that they are going to get all that for nothing? I do not think we are likely to have it for some time; but even now photographs, autographed letters, and even X-ray photographs can be transmitted over distances. An X-ray photograph can he sent from some outstation to a well-known consulting surgeon asking him to advise what ought to he done in the case of some abstruse and difficult problem of surgery. In 1817 Berzelius, a well-known chemist of that day, was acting as consultant in some sulphuric acid works, and found in the acid chamber a deposit which was afterwards called selenium.
Selenium has several properties. One of those, properties is that the more intense the beam of light thrown upon a cell of selenium so its power of resistance to passing of electrical currents is varied. With its use it is possible to send a photograph 7 inches by 5 inches from the United States of America to Great Britain in about four minutes. The process is as follows : When the film is inserted in the transmitter a very small and intense beam of light shines through the film on to the selenium cell. The film is rotated at a uniform speed. The variation in the amount of light striking the sensitive surface gives rise to a current which, through the medium of a vacuum tube amplifier and modulator controls the current flowing. At the receiving end an unexposed film fs similarly rotated. A device known as a light valve collects the electric fluctuations and converts them into corresponding variations of light, in accordance with the. light and dark areas of the photograph, and thus a replica of the original is produced. Practically the same thing occurs in connexion with television.
In connexion with television there are the patents of Belin, a Frenchman. He has a box in which there is a powerful arc light, a condenser, and a photograph. He throws a beam of light through the photograph on to a revolving’ series of mirrors, which revolve 5,000 times a minute. A photo-electrical cell converts the impulses and transmits them by radio waves, which are transmitted to the receiving end, and handled by a light valve as before described. Then Jenkins came along with another camera, and transmitted the reflection of light from living persons. Baird brought down only last year a scheme for attaching to a wireless apparatus a television apparatus. Unfortunately, there was considerable, flickering of the image ; it was worse than that which took place when moving pictures were first introduced. Progress, however, in these matters is rapid.
I desire to call attention to another movement which has taken place. Professor Fiamma, an Italian professor who had been experimenting for about twelve years, carried out a series of experiments in the Gulf of Spezia, which honorable members may remember was where Shelley was drowned. These experiments consisted of controlling a small boat from a distance. Fiamma obtained a small vessel named the Orlando, about 50 feet in length. On” the shores of the gulf be had his controlling apparatus. By moving the control to a point marked “ Forward “ on the apparatus, the operator immediately caused the boat to go forward; when the indicator was opposite -the point marked, “Increased speed,” the boat moved forward more rapidly; and it stopped when the point “ Stop “ on the apparatus was reached. At another stage the siren blew at the will of the operator on the shore. Finally the vessel was brought back to the point of commencement. That remarkable feat was accomplished despite the efforts of three Italian battleships in the gulf which were doing their best to jamb the controlling wireless waves. The experiment was so successful that the naval authorities, who were watching it, said that it represented the solution of naval warfare problems. They visualized a number of boats filled with explosives being directed from the shore towards an enemy fleet, and causing its destruction.
Let us now consider another scheme. An aeroplane travelling towards the Croydon Aerodrome has in its cabin apparatus capable of being ‘controlled from a remote earth point. At a given signal the controlling pilot steps out of the cabin and relinquishes control of the machine ; but, instead of falling headlong to destruction, the machine lands safely at its destination without his assistance. In the light of these happenings, Senator
Needham is right in saying that wireless is of transcendent importance to Australia. There is also a multiplex system of wireless communication. John Hays Hammond, a celebrated mining engineer, succeeded in sending eight different messages simultaneously, and receiving them at the same time on a special receiver. He was using a wave length of 10 metres. He claims his process is practically secret. That was in October, 1926. I could continue with similar instances; but I do not want to occupy the time of the Senate. Let me now refer to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, which is in charge of wireless in Australia - I say that advisedly.
The report of the Royal Commission on Wireless deals Avith nothing but Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. That is easily understood, because wireless in Australia means Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. The success which has attended this company’s efforts has given rise to a considerable amount of jealousy. Where there is no headway, there is no jealousy; but progress and success cause jealousy. This company has practically completed the installation of wireless apparatus on over 100 ships on the coast of Australia; it has erected several stations in Australia and in the islands of the Pacific, and now it has been invited by the High Commissioner of the Western Pacific to take control of wireless in the islands of the Fiji group. Throughout Australia it has erected a number of broadcasting stations. Honorable senators who have at any time listened to the programmes broadcast by the company’s various stations in Australia will appreciate the quality of the service they give. Australia has nothing of which to be ashamed in connexion with her position in wireless matters. The service given by our broadcasting stations is equal to that of any other country. Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited has’ trained, and is still training, men in the science of wireless. In has transmitted messages by the beam system over greater distances than were at one time thought possible, even by scientists. This company has now come to the aid of the Government, and has entered into an arrangement which does not mean that the Australian people will be compelled to pay high royalties. Instead of hindering the progress of wireless in Australia, as some would have us believe, it has stimulated interest in the science. It has said to the people of Australia that, in respect of each wireless listener’s licence, it is willing to accept 3s. instead of 5s., as heretofore. That reduction in itself is a material advantage to the people of Australia.
– Who will get the benefit of that reduction - the people or the traders ?
– It will benefit those who obtain listeners’ licences. The Prime Minister in another place, said that it was proposed to reduce the broadcasting fees. That will mean a further benefit to listeners. The Australian people owe much to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. Instead of adversely criticising the company, they should appreciate the immense work it is doing. Australia has the opportunity to control wireless communications throughout the Pacific. I should “not be in order in dealing with matters of naval strategy ; but it is generally accepted that the future cockpit of naval warfare will be in the Pacific. Should war again come, Australia will have the advantage of being practically in control of wireless communication throughout the Pacific. I do not think I need say any more about royalties. I feel disposed to ask those who criticise Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited what position Australia would be in so far as wireless communications are concerned, if that company did not exist. The company possesses the Australasian rights to the Marconi patents. It would have been useless tq say that the Marconi company could not charge for those patents. Even if the Commonwealth Government felt disposed to interfere with international law, it would not dare to do so, because in that event all patents held by Australians would be valueless outside Australia. The great Radio Corporation sold to the Marconi company the whole of its patent rights in the British Empire-. Those rights, so far as they apply to Australasia, have been transferred to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. The company also possesses rights in connexion with the
Western Electric Company’s patents, as well as the Telefunken and the French patents. Australia, through Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, obtains the benefit of all those patents. Surely in that case the company has benefited the people of Australia. The agreement before us is of tremendous advantage to the people of the Commonwealth. In my opinion Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, has been extremely generous in the way it has made its patent rights available. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) [5.42”. –I desire to refer to the value of wireless in the defence of Australia. Senator Millen has truly stated that the Pacific will be the cockpit of future naval warfare. Whether that be so or not, Australia is dependent on the maintenance of communications. Some of us who have had experience of war know the meaning of the term “fog of war.” When constant and rapid communications between the different parts of an army or navy is interfered with, the situation is known as “ the fog of war.” As a trooper of mounted infantry in the South African war of 1399-1902 I had a little experience of the value of wireless in war. At that time the science was in its infancy and consequently wireless, as an aid to military operations, did not receive very great attention. Few people realised then that its development would be so rapid and so remarkable and that in a short space of time wireless would be of supreme value from a military and naval point of view. The last war gave to it a great stimulus. All the nations engaged in that titanic conflict used it extensively and most successfully. Up’ till then armies that were more or less static depended on a network of telegraph and telephone lines for the maintenance of their communications. Whenever these were destroyed by enemy action it was an exceedingly difficult as well as a dangerous task to restore them. When armies began to move the problem of maintaining communication by means of the ordinary telegraphic and telephone lines was complicated a thousandfold and indeed was almost impossible. The maintenance of communication by wireless is a much simpler matter though it is true that at times - and this happened during the last war - wireless communications may be interfered with to some extent by “jambing,” and delays are caused by the need for the deciphering of code messages. I well remember our experiences in South Africa, before much was known about wireless. On several occasions I was in charge of a patrol of a dozen or so men with instructions to repair lines of communication that had been cut by Boer farmers. As often as not, when we discovered the break, we found also a number of the enemy concealed and waiting to give us some “ hurry up “ stuff. Sometimes we found that those who had cut the lines had made a break of anything from 400 to 600 yards so that it was not always possible to restore communications quickly. This problem is not present when armies depend upon wireless for their means’ of communication. It is true that a wireless station may be destroyed by gunfire or bombing by aeroplanes, but provided there is a fair supply of spare parts the damage should be made good in a few hours. If ever we are called upon to fight on our own soil in the defence of Australia, we shall find wireless of incalculable value. The capital cities of the Commonwealth will be able to keep in touch with each other, in touch with our troops at their bases and with all naval and aircraft that may be carrying out joint operations. In a sparsely populated country like Australia it would be a comparatively simple matter for enemy agents to destroy the ordinary land lines of communication between say Melbourne and Sydney. If they cut those lines in half a dozen places, it. would take considerable time to effect repairs and it would be necessary to employ a large number of men to guard against any further interference, whereas a comparatively small number would be sufficient to protect the wireless stations in our capital cities. We have learnt a lot about wireless since the South African war. Probably honorable members will recall that in the Balkan war which preceded the last great war, Adrianople which was beseiged, maintained communication with the outside world by wireless. No doubt they will remember also that when General Townshend who was in command of British troops in Mesopotamia, was beseiged at Kut el Amara, he also was in daily communication by wireless with the British forces. Admiral Von Spee, when he was cruising in the Pacific during the earlier period of the war and up till the time when his squadron was destroyed at the Falkland Islands battle, was in constant communication by wireless with Berlin. There can he no doubt also that Australia has good reason to be grateful for .wireless. It is probable that Von Spee would have given the people of this country first-hand knowledge of what hostile warfare means by coming in and shelling some of our capital cities, but for the fact that he knew that the battle cruiser Australia, which was larger and more heavily armed than the largest of his squadron, was in Australian waters and in constant touch with the Admiralty. Senator Millen this afternoon spoke of the possibilities in connexion with the further development of this wonderful science. It is almost impossible to realize what the future has in store for us. Aircraft, which will play an important part in the defence of Australia, must be largely employed in any future warfare for fighting, for reconnaisance, for carrying supplies and the delivery of despatches. It would be absolutely essential for our aircraft squadrons during war to be in constant touch with our capital cities, with our army head quarters, and with our depots and aerodromes. Without wireless it would be impossible for .them to do really effective work. In 1918 when I was attending a school of instruction for senior officers at Aldershot, we assembled one evening in the gymnasium to listen to a wireless transmission of a gramophone selection from the House of Commons Lobbies. The majority were very sceptical as to the probable success of the experiment. I should say that about 90 per cent, of the officers believed that it would be impossible to transmit over that distance, but all were astonished at the result. That was only nine years ago. Since then extraordinary developments have taken place. During the war wireless was used for direction finding, and the guiding of aircraft by day or by night. In Great
Britain, Europe and America, regular air services were fitted with direction finding apparatus by means of which ground stations were located and communicated to air pilots their position. Zeppelins and other hostile aircraft were located frequently by wireless direction finding apparatus and the necessary defensive operations were made possible. By this means the Admiralty was advised that the German grand fleet had put to sea, hence the battle of Jutland. Battle ships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and all auxiliary aircraft in any part of the world are now in daily communication by wireless with the Admiralty.
– When the Emden reached Cocos Island to de,stroy the cable station, early in the war, the second message received came by wireless.
– I was about to mention that incident. But for the historic wireless message, which brought the Sydney on the scene, the Emden would have absolutely destroyed the Cocos Island cable station, and it is impossible to say what might have happened if that cruiser had succeeded in approaching within striking distance of that first big convoy crowded with Australian and New Zealand troops. Possibly it would have sunk many of them before it in turn was sunk by the escorting cruisers. We should control the cable routes and also the cable stations which are open to gunfire and attacks by landing parties. The crew of the German cruiser Nuremburg cut the cable at Panning Island, where the cable station also was destroyed by a landing party. It is interesting to note that during the war the Allies cut the submarine cable between Germany and the United States and connected up the eastern end with Great Britain and the western end with Canada, and that section now comprises a portion of the “ all red “ route. Even though Germany’s cable system was rendered ineffective during the war period, she was not isolated from the world; she was able to send from the big wireless station near Berlin commercial and official wireless messages, consisting of German propaganda, to all parts of the world. In the event of another international conflict, which we hope will never occur, it is absolutely essential that Australia should be assured of uninterrupted communication with Great Britain and other parts of the Empire. As Senator Millen has shown, we already have an efficient wireless organization, which, considering the service it is rendering, is costing Australia very little. As cable repairs are very difficult, if not impossible, during a period of war,, it is necessary that provision should be made for some means of communication with the outside world other than by submarine cable. A beam station can be erected in Australia for about £60,000, whereas the laying of a submarine cable between Great Britain and Australia would cost between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. We could erect in Australia twenty beam stations for less than £1,250,000, and with such a number of stations our wireless service would be practically immune from interrupton. It is suggested by some that such stations are unsuitable for assisting national defence; but I read only last night in the Army Quarterly that recent experience and experiments discredit that assertion. As Senator Millen pointed out, under the new methods of beam wireless special reflecting areas concentrate in one direction. In Australia we have two beam stations with a power of twenty kilowatts. By means of additional provision in respect to aerials and the feeder system we can transmit in either a north-easterly or south-westerly direction. With lower power and a, shorter wave-length effective communication could be maintained between Australia and any part of the world. Some time ago a Sydney station using a three-kilowatts set was able to transmit a message to a ship lying at the Tilbury docks in London, and the vessel, using a similar equipment, but of a lower power, replied direct to Sydney. The possibilities of wireless are tremendous. It is still fresh in our memory that when H.M.S. Renown visited Australia, the ship was in close touch with almost every . part of the world during the whole voyage to Australia and back to England. Modern wireless stations and -equipment and a. capable personnel, are’ absolutely essential to the defence of the Commonwealth. It’ is satisfactory to know that, through the enterprise of some of our wireless experts, we have in Australia to-day a fully efficient and up-to-date wireless organization employing about 800 Australian people in its various branches. The company has an up-to-date manufacturing plant and an efficient designing and technical staff of trained Australian engineers and technicians. We must do everything possible to build up and maintain this splendid organization. One clause in the agreement reads -
The company agrees that it will not, without the consent of the Commonwealth, appoint to or engage for its service any person who is not a natural.born British subject, and that it will use its best endeavours to induce an its present and future officers and employees to become members of the reserve branch of the Defence Force.
This will enable the company to build up an efficient personnel, which may be of incalculable value to Australia should the need arise.. Senator Millen mentioned that Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is assuming control of the wireless service of the Imperial Government in the Fiji Islands, which is to’ be brought up-to-date and connected with the Australian system. By an extension of this system we should be able to make Australia the wireless centre of the Southern Pacific. It is probable that this vast organization will prove of the greatest value to not only the Commonwealth but the whole British Empire, in peace and also in time of war, should such a calamity ever arise. I support the bill.
– Although I intend to support the second reading of- this measure, I should have been pleased if the Government had submitted a proposal to take over at par or even a little more the shares which are privately held in Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited. I do not desire it to be thought, however, that I have any fault to find with the company; as a matter of fact, I think it has done good work, and that we are fortunate in having had the services, of Mr. Fisk. If- the privately owned shares were taken over by the Government, I would not favour the suggestion made in some quarters that the service should be under the control of the Postmaster’s Department. I think that such a service should he under separate control, as our railway systems are, and that the men employed should be subject not to the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator, but to those of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If the services were under the control of the Government I believe that messages could be sent from Australia to England at cheaper rates than at present, because the Government would not expect a return of more than 6 per cent., which is not sufficient for a private company. I am glad to learn that the charges are to be reduced.
Sitting suspended f rom 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I expressed the intention to support the Government in this matter, but said that for certain reasons I would have preferred it to take full control of wireless. I believe that by that means we should be able to obtain cheaper rates. I am pleased that since wireless has become established the charges between Australia and the United Kingdom have been reduced; but I shall not be content until, apart from terminal rates, the charge is only Id. a word. Some people may regard as fantastic the belief that that is a possibility. The late Sir Henniker Heaton was able to introduce a large number of reforms into the British post office. Before he entered the British House of Commons he was for many years directly associated with the Sydney Evening News, and in addition to his famous advocacy of penny postage, was an advocate of penny a word cables. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) has informed honorable members of another place that the capacity of the wireless plant, which cost £120,000, is equal to that of cable plant that would cost £12,000,000. At the present time week end wireless messages can be despatched at the rate of 5d. a word. I take it that of that 2d. a word is paid in terminal charges. I am not altogether satisfied with even that rate, although it represents a very considerable advance. In the first place deferred messages must contain 20 words, of which from six to eight are used for the address. The reason I so strongly favour cheaper rates is that I believe there is at our disposal no greater Im perial agency than cheap and speedy communication between Australia and Great Britain and the other dominions. I also wish wireless to’ be of social service. In another House an eloquent plea for cheap communication was made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who laid particular stress upon press messages. He pointed out that if the cost of transmitting those messages was cheapened a greater volume of news would be sent from the Motherland to Australia, and vice versa. I understand that the rate for press messages is 3d. a word. I am not aware whether in their case there are any terminal charges. Press messages are syndicated by ten or twelve daily newspapers; consequently the cost to each would not exceed a farthing a word. Therefore the reason we are not sent a greater volume of news is not to be found in the cost, but in the fact that the London newspapers do not consider that it would prove of interest to us. When I read my newspaper to-day I found that it contained a very long account of the controversy over the revision of the Church of England Prayer Book. The reason for that was that the adherents of the Church of England in Australia represent a large section of the community, and evince a keen interest in that matter. Many years ago I said in another place that the cable should be used by not only the millionaires, but also the millions. I take that stand to-day in relation to wireless; it should be used by not merely the well-‘ to-do, the business people, and the press, but also the man in the street. I have been given ‘to understand that the capacity of the existing plant is easily 80,000,000 words annually. I should think there would be no difficulty in increasing that number to 100,000,000 words. If only 50,000,000 were sent, and the rate was Id. a word, the resultant revenue would amount to over £200,000. That is not an impossible achievement. The beam system has noi been operating for any length of time, yet we are now sending between 9,000,000 and 10,000,000 words a year. The capital cost of the station was £120,000, and the running cost amounts to approximately £1,500 a week, or less than £80,000 a year. The working expenses and the interest on the capital could thus be easily covered. At one time the telegraphic services in England were controlled by private enterprise, which charged 6s. a message. The Government assumed control and reduced the rate to ls. a message. Almost immediately the number of telegrams despatched increased fourfold. A further reduction to 6d. a message raised the increase to thirteen fold. If the rate at which wireless messages are despatched were reduced to a penny a word the business transacted would increase at least five times. I recognize that it is necessary to take into consideration terminal charges. Last evening? °y way °£ interjection, I asked the Minister in all seriousness a question relating to those charges, but he did not answer me in the way I expected. Those charges have an important bearing on the” matter. The rate is sometimes 2d., and at other times 4d. a word.
– The terminal rate to which the’ honorable senator referred is a maximum of 2d. a word. In some cases it is much less.
– In a conversation that I had with the PostmasterGeneral he was good enough to explain that the charge of 4d. related to messages from America. The rate with respect to messages from England, France, Canada and New Zealand is 2d. a word, because we are bound by an international convention. I consider that that is an exorbitant charge.
– In some of the countries to which the honorable senator has referred the terminal rate has been reduced.
– The terminal charge of 2d. a word seems exorbitant, but there is a reason for it. It is the rate charged for transmitting a wireless message over the land -lines on its receipt in Australia. I can send a telegram over all the land lines of Australia at a minimum of Id. a word. Why should it be necessary to charge 2d. a word because a wireless message has been received and has to be forwarded by land lines ? Why should we impose, this terminal charge even in cases where messages received by wireless have not to be sent over land lines? The answer is, I know, that we must adhere to an international convention. The fairest system would be to charge for the despatch of these messages over the land lines according to the rate we charge for ordinary internal telegrams. A wireless message received in Sydney which can be delivered without going through a telegraph office should not pay an extra charge. A wireless message of ordinary length forwarded over land lines from Sydney to Bathurst should not cost more than an extra ls., and for a similar message forwarded to a place outside a State the charge should not exceed ls. 4d.
– We should then be acting contrary to the decision of the international convention.
– That is so. It seems to me that no one would object to the system I propose. A man living in Sydney would get his message free of any terminal charge, and the man living in the country would get his a little cheaper than at present. I understand that international conventions must fix a flat rate. Some countries charge more than a penny a word for messages over their land lines, and some charge less; but as other countries take our messages and we take theirs, there must be a flat rate when they are interchanged in that way. If a message is sent from France, we deliver it. If we send one to France, it is delivered by the French postal authorities. But America is not in the convention, and demands a terminal rate of 4d. If we send to America, and if America sends to us, the charge is 4d. In the case of all other countries, the charge is 2d. America charges more than other countries because its telegraph system is in the hands of private enterprise. I want to know why it is necessary for us to conform to the international rate of 2d. We have only to withdraw from the international convention, as far as’ cablegrams and telegrams are concerned, to have our messages delivered in England at a terminal rate of 6d. a message. Or, if we are anxious to make the charge at both ends the same, messages could be delivered in England or Australia, as the case may be, at one penny a word. I do not think it costs as much to send a beam message to England as it does to send a telegram to Perth, taking into consideration the cost of erecting telegraph lines across Australia. Last year the Postal Department spent £237,643 in repairing and renewing aerial telegraph and telephone lines. The Postmaster-General says that for £120,000 we can erect a plant to send beam messages to England. Ifwe can send messages all over Australia for1d. a word by a plant which costs a good deal more than one which can send wireless messages, there is no reason why we should not reduce the cost of wireless messages to England to1d. a word. Nothing would bring us more closely into touch with the people of England, or bring the people of England into closer touch with us, than would a continuous stream of social messages. A little while ago a young fellow who had won a Wembley scholarship, came from England to Australia. He was a stranger to me, but just before he arrived in Sydney I received a letter from a young relative of mine telling me that this lad, who was bearing a letter of introduction to me, was on his way to Australia. I happened to be in Sydney at the time and I met him at the boat. As we came away I said to him, “I think we shall send a message to your mother by wireless, to tell her that you have safely arrived in Australia.” We did so, and it was almost pathetic to read the kind letters I received from his mother telling me how pleased she was to learn of his safe arrival six weeks before she expected to hear anything. If there was a constant stream of messages like this passing between England and Australia it would do a great deal to knit our Empire together. The Commonwealth Government has a majority of the shares in Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, and I trust that when it is arranging the charges for messages it will not fix them to suit the exigencies of cable companies. Before the Pacific Cable Board was formed all cable services were in the hands of private enterprise. The cable companies did not consider the people of Australia, or, indeed, the people of any other part of the world; they thought only of the dividends they could earn, but when the Pacific Cable Board was formed, their charges came down, and the people of Australia almost immediately began to save £200,000 a year through the reduction of cable rates. The cable companies have never considered the people of Australia. I am prepared to admit that they are now coming along cap in hand and are much more civil than they were formerly. A day or so ago I noticed that Sir Charles Bright, the chairman of one of the great cable companies, was saying that he was anxious to meet the wireless people in fair and square competition. There was no fair and square competition in the days gone by, when the attitude of the cable companies was, “ Take the charges or leave them.” I trust, therefore, that the Government will not take into consideration the exigencies of private cable companies. I am pleased to hear that some of the smaller messages do not have to pay the terminal rate.
– They do not pay the full rates.
– I am glad to hear that, because it enables us to get closer to the rate of one penny a word all round. A reductionin the rate of messages to one-penny a word might possibly affect the Pacific Cable Board, in which, in a way, Australia is financially interested; but I should not bother very much about that. If we can get our messages sent so much cheaper, we can afford to scrap the Pacific cable.
SenatorFoll. - What about the defence aspect?
– I do not know much about that. I heard Senator Sampson say that naval experts declare that the beam system may not act too well in time of war. ‘I said the other day that the late Marquis of Salisbury had advised us “ never to trust experts.” I read recently in the Life of Lord Kelvin a most remarkable thing about the British Navy. Lord Kelvin had devised a new kind of compass which he thought would be of great service to the Navy, and he sent it along to the Admiralty. The German Navy installed it on their vessels of war, but it was not until Lord Fisher became First Lord of the Admiralty that it was installed on British ships. It was discovered afterwards that when the compass was sent to the British Admiralty to be tested, the admiral in charge sought the opinion of thirty captains. Favorable reports were furnished by 22 or 23 captains, three or four said that they had not had time to take the new compass into consideration, and one man said that he did not think much of it. Our “ great “ Admiralty placed in a pigeonhole the report of the 23 who favoured the compass and accepted the opinion of the one man who reported unfavourably upon it. After reading that, I do not take much notice of experts. Even if the Pacific cable were scrapped, I do not think we should lose much money on it, because for many years past it has been paying expenses and also a good deal towards replacement. I have already shown how a reduction in the rates of cablegrams enabled the people of Australia to make an annual saving of £200,000 as soon as the Pacific Cable Board was started. If we have cheap wireless messages we can afford to scrap the Pacific cable because the saving of one penny a word on 50,000,000 words represents over £200,000 a year, and the saving of one penny a word on 10,000,000 words a year means a gain of £40,000 a year to the people of Australia. I am extremely anxious that wireless should be available to the man in the street as well as the business people. I believe that there is no other agency which is capable of so speedily moulding our great Empire into a living reality as is wireless ; but it must be made available to all classes of the community. That is why I plead for low charges for messages.
.- I congratulate Senator Thomas upon his interesting speech, in which he stated that wireless could do much to cement the bonds of Empire: The honorable senator has put forward a very good case. To some people) his ideas may appear to be somewhat Utopian ; but my experience is that schemes which are regarded as Utopian to-day are sometimes shown to be practicable to-morrow. I hope that the honorable senator will continue’ to agitate for cheap messages, because in that case the authorities may at last be persuaded to regard his suggestions as practicable. The figures quoted by the honorable senator indicate that there is something in his contention. The people of Australia owe a great deal to “William Morris Hughes for tho. stand he took in connexion with beam wireless. Despite the advice of experts, and in the face of considerable opposition, he gave orders for the work to be. proceeded with. The result is that to-day the beam system is working very effectively. Experts are all very well in their way ; but sometimes it is wise to ignore their advice. I should be prepared to go to almost any limits in order to bring the various parts of the Empire more closely together. We hear a good deal of the commercial and political ties of Empire, but we need the social tie as well. I believe in all classes of the community being brought into close association, and, therefore, I support Senator Thomas in hia desire to cheapen wireless communications. Wireless broadcasting has become a social institution. In the back country, particularly, it has become a necessity. Primary producers appreciate the broadcasting of market reports and weather forecasts, as well as the various items of entertainment. Wireless in Australia, while conferring these benefits on the community, has also been a financial success. It is, however, somewhat one-sided, because the “ A “ class stations absorb the whole of the fees obtained from listeners, with the exception of the proportion retained by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I do not say that the “ A “ class stations have not rendered excellent service to the people of Australia, but I maintain that they are not alone in that respect. The. “ B “ class stations have also done much in that direction, although they receive no proporton of the fees paid by listeners. They depend almost solely on advertisements for their revenue. The Government should consider the claims of the “ B “ class stations, and devote a proportion of the fees to them. I am interested in a “ B “ class station in Sydney known as 2GB. whose aim is to broadcast the best music and educational lectures. Good work has been accomplished by that station, but lack of funds prevents even better work from being done. Although a majority of the persons who have taken out wireless licences may not appreciate classical music, there, is a large section of the community which does appreciate it, and is interested in the lectures broadcast by 2GB. Any person or institution is at liberty to use that station for the broadcasting of lectures or music of the class I have mentioned, and many have availed themselves of the opportunity to do so. I claim that the class of programme, broadcast by 2GB tends to improve the tone of the community. It may be said that the aim of that station is Utopian, and that no Utopian scheme can pay. I reply that anything which will improve the tone of the people should be undertaken, if at all posible, even though it may not pay at the beginning. An effort is being made to limit the number of ‘’ B “ class stations and to control their wavelengths. I ask for no favors for these stations, but I say emphatically that they are supplying a need felt by large numbers of people in our midst. 2-GB has received hundreds of letters from persons living in various parts of New South “Wales and Victoria, as well as in New Zealand, expressing appreciation of its programme. It seems somewhat strange that while people living in Gippsland can hear 2-GB distinctly, and people in the North Shore district of Sydney complain that they cannot tune in to that station. I understand that that is due to what is termed “ statics “, a term familiar to wireless enthusiasts, but concerning which I confess I know very little. I do not desire to refer to details of the balancesheets of some of the broadcasting companies. It is well known that the “A” class stations are in the hands of a monopoly.
– The so-called monopoly depends on licences issued by the Government.
– I know that the “ A “ class stations pay high salaries to their officials, as well as large dividends to their share-holders, from their share of the fees paid for licences issued by the Government. The claims of the “ B “ class stations for a share of those fees should not be overlooked. Among the recommendations of the Wireless Commission was the following: -
That regulations should be framed restricting the advertising rights of “ A “ class stations, especially where “ B “ class stations are operating.
That recommendation should receive the earnest consideration of the Government. Another recommendation was -
That “ B “ Class stations should be limited to a transmitting power that will not seriously interfere with transmissions from “ A “ class stations and that the Australian Wireless Committee should immediately proceed to fix the maximum power for “ B “ class stations.
I trust that the Government will arrange for this to be done and that the “ B “ class stations which render good service will be treated fairly. At present, as I have stated, more consideration is being shown to the “ A “ class stations.
– It is particularly gratifying to me to know that those honorable senators who have contributed to the debate take such a wide interest in this new science. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) indicated his opposition to the agreement he was as loud in his praise of what had been accomplished in Australia as were honorable senators who favor the adoption of the agreement. Recognition of the good work done by the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited is not confined to members of this chamber. The royal commission paid a high tribute not only to the company but to its managing director and other officers. The commission stated in its i report -
Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited and its managing director and other . officers are entitled to great credit for the establishment of this system, and, although such establishment was not completed until long after the date upon which the company had contracted to have it in operation, the Commonwealth has profited by the delay in that more recently discovered improvements have been incorporated in the scheme.
The company fought against powerful opposition to its proposals, and it was largely due to the technical ability and persistence of its managing director that it ultimately prevailed, and that Australia to-day has the benefit of an up-to-date and extremely rapid means of communication with Great Britain. In addition, the public has received the benefit of reduced rates.
There were one or two matters mentioned during the debate to which I may be allows to refer. I remind Senator Reid that the matters to which he referred are not touched by the agreement which is the subject matter of this bill. The commission made certain recommendations on that subject which yet remain to be dealt with by the Government. . Senator Thomas pressed strongly for a reduction in the terminal charges. I regret that yesterday the honorable senator appeared to think that I was somewhat flippant, but I was under the impression that the honorable senator was endeavouring to probe the depths of my knowledge in view of the fact that I was handling a subject that was somewhat foreign to me. I now understand, however, he was seeking information which I endeavoured to furnish to him to-day by way of interjection while he was speaking. A certain proportion of the charges must go to the British beam service because without its assistance the Australian beam service could not function. The honorable senator visualized business representing 50,000,000 words annually and a revenue of something like £200,000. The present traffic represents about 9,000,000 words a year and costs about £1,500 a week. Any substantial increase in the business will also mean a tremendous increase in expenditure. Although I do not wish to pose as a prophet I believe that if certain experiments which are now being conducted “in Sydney are successful it will be possible to write or dictate a letter in the Hotel Canberra, and by means of the beam system, send a photographic reproduction of it to London within a few seconds. If, as is anticipated, the experiments now being carried out are successful, the beam service will be much more largely availed of for commercial purposes than it is to-day, and the increased business will possibly result in a reduction in charges. Other honorable senators have discussed the value of wireless from the point of view of defence. It is by no means certain that the expert mentioned by Senator Thomas is always right; but unquestionably there will be considerable risk of the beam service being jambed through enemy action in the event of war breaking out. Competent authorities represent, therefore, that it will be necessary to make alternative arrangements to maintain an efficient wireless service. This matter has been engaging attention for some time. I understand that very shortly a conference will be held between expert wireless authorities to consider this problem, and I have no doubt that we shall be able to evolve a scheme which will ensure- the protection of the defence interests in Australia. Senator Millen this afternoon gave the Senate some interesting information concerning recent achievements in wireless. In the course of my travels I have had convincing evidence of its value to ships at sea. On one occasion, when we were enveloped in a heavy fog off the coast of Spain, the ship was stopped suddenly much to the amazement and alarm of the passengers on board, and when the fog lifted slightly we found ourselves face to face with a gigantic rock. The captain of the ship, being unable to fix his location by the ordinary method, obtained it by wireless at a cost of 4s. or 5s. I could not help thinking at the time that the science of wireless had been developed in a most remarkable manner, and I recalled the incident this afternoon when Senator Millen was addressing the Senate. Senator Needham applauds what has been done in the development of this science; but, in his official capacity as Leader of the Opposition, he feels it to be his duty, I take it, to oppose everything that is brought forward by the Government. The honorable gentleman stated that it would be much better if the Commonwealth Government took over control of all wireless services and conducted them as part of the post office. Senator Thomas, who has had some experience as Postmaster-General in a former administration, does not approve of that course. He suggests that wireless should be conducted as a governmental activity, and be controlled in much the same way as the Commonwealth railways are managed.
– The contention of the Opposition is that wireless should be under the sole control of the Government.
– And yet in the same breath the honorable senator complains that the Government has not given effect to the findings of the commission. I direct his attention to certain paragraphs in the commission’s report, which state emphatically that Government control should be adopted only as a last resort; that the company which has been functioning so successfully as a privately controlled concern should be allowed to continue. I indicated yesterday that the commission had expressed this view, and yet my honorable friend continues to urge that the beam service should be taken over by the Government, and at the same time declares that the Government is not giving effect to tha commission’s report. I say that in this respect we are. On page 14 of its report the commission discusses several remedies that have been suggested, and states: -
Fifthly, the position of the Commonwealth as owner of patents in its relation with the various inventors in other parts of the world would be doubtful.
Another remedy suggested was that the Commonwealth should utilize the right or power referred to in clause 21 of the agreement of 28th March, 1922, between the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited and the Commonwealth of Australia, which is in the following terms : -
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to prejudice or limit in any way any right or power to the Commonwealth to acquire on just terms compulsorily or otherwise any share or interest of any person in the company.
This is a means which the Commonwealth may be ultimately driven to adopt; but should not, in our opinion, be availed of except as a last resort.
On the question of the nationalization of the beam service the commission states on page 21 of its report -
Nationalization of the beam service has been suggested. This would, if practicable, be a solution of some part of the problem, but would not do justice to the persons who are jointly interested with the Commonwealth in this venture. Further, it would deprive the service of the initiative which private enterprise enjoys. The beam service has only recently been established and there are already indications of further improvements being possible and the public should be in a position to immediately command the use of these improvements.
Let me turn now for a moment to the charge of the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government is not giving effect to the findings of the commission. One does not take these things verbatim et liberatim, and accept everything that a royal commission suggests. On page VIII. the commission makes the following recommendations: -
For the 3s. paid by each listener-in as a portion of the licence fee, persons using wireless equipment receive far more concessions than the company is receiving from the 250,000 listeners-in. The Government has, therefore, done much better than the royal commission suggested. In the matter of patent royalties, the commission recommended -
That the attitude of the company with regard to claims for royalties on separate valves should be immediately defined, and the claims against traders should be abandoned so far as transactions on or previous to the date of publication to this report, are concerned.
Effect has been given to that recommendation. The rights of the company in that respect cannot be interfered with after the expiration of the agreement. The commission further recommends that, failing compliance with four paragraphs of its report, the Commonwealth should take steps to acquire the shares privately held in the company on just terms to the private shareholders. If these conditions, to three of which I have referred, are not complied with, the commission suggests that the Commonwealth should acquire the interest of the public in the company. The conditions, however, have been complied with. I deprecate the attacks which have been made upon Amalgamated “Wireless Australasia Limited, in which the Government and the people of Australia hold 80 per cent. of the shares. We have been told by Senator Needham that it is a foreign company masquerading as an Australian concern; but there is no occasion for it to masquerade as an Australian company when 80 per cent. of the shares are held by Australians. This institution, which is really an arm of government, may prove of national, as well as commercial and social benefit to Australia, and the people should give it their support. With reference to the £56,500 due to the Government by the company for coastal stations, I may say that no moneys will be paid to the company until that amount has been settled. During the second-reading debate, Senator Payne said that he proposed to move an amendment to clause 6 of the agreement, which would have the effect of in some way limiting the ‘operation of the company in the event of some improved wireless system being discovered in the future. When the honorable senator brought this matter under my notice yesterday, I suggested that we should meet new difficulties as they arose, and that we could not depart from the terms of the agreement entered into between the company and the Commonwealth. I informed the honorable senator that I could not accept such an amendment, and I understand that it is not now his intention to move it. I am glad the bill has received such a favorable reception, and ask honorable senators to support the second reading.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Approval of agreement)
– In view of the somewhat lengthy debate on the second reading of this bill, I do not intend to prolong the discussion in committee. It is not the intention of honorable senators on this side of the chamber to support this clause, which provides for the approval of the agreement. Our main contention is that the system of joint control should now terminate, that the rights of private shareholders should be bought out, and that the Government should assume complete charge of wireless telegraphy, as it has done in connexion with kindred services.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I understand that the Chief Commissioner of the Federal Capital Commission has made the statement that the Commission has no power to make land available free of charge to any organization. The Commission has been approached by a number of women’s organizations with a view to securing land at Canberra upon which to erect a hall, and its reply is that there is neither the room nor the justification for a number of buildings of that character. The Chief Commissioner has further suggested that the arrangement of the matter might be left in the hands of the National Council of Women. If it is intended to grant land for that purpose to the National Council of Women, will similar facilities be given to the Labour Women’s organizations if they so desire?
[9.23]. - I shall see that the remarks of the honorable senator arc brought to the notioe of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), and, in view of the fact that the Senate will be adjourning to-morrow evening, I shall ask him to forward to the honorable senator personally a reply to the request which he has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at9.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 December 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271214_senate_10_117/>.