5 September 1929

11th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.

page 568


Senator THOMPSON brought up the third report of the Printing Committee and (by leave) moved -

That the report be adopted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 568


Motion (by Senator Dooley) agreed to-

That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Roe on account of ill health.

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Purchase of Material by Stacey & Co.

How long has a firm called Stacey & Co. been buying arisings from Cockatoo Island?

How were these arisings sold?

What were the quantity and nature of material bought by Stacey & Co., and the price paid forsame?

What quantity of material- bought by Stacey & Co. from the dockyard was re-sold to the authorities, and what were the prices paid ?

Is Stacey & Co. a registered company ; if so, who are the shareholders?

Whatis the present position of the dockyard, and what are prospects of future operations in relation to shipbuildings and other works ?

I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -

Since 1923.

Usually by tender or requests for quotations advertised in the public press. In some cases direct offers were made, and material sold at valuation, as is usual when private firms inquire at the dockyard for special material.

Scrap gunmetal, 104 tons; scrap brass, 2 tons; scrap mixed metal, 2¾ tons; scrap lead, 2½ tons; brass and copper borings, tons; steel plates, 68 tons; steel sections, 5½ tons; scrap steel, 97 tons; also quantities of tubes, together with funnels, winches, condensers, hulks, steam hammers, shafting, chain cable, pumps, davits, paint drums, and other mis- cellaneous items. The price paid for this material was £4,561 2s.11d.

No material was re-sold to the Cockatoo Island authorities.

Stacey & Co. is not a registered company. The names of shareholders are not known to the Cockatoo Island authorities.

The present position of the dockyard is that about 450 employees are engaged on various contracts for public works. No new ship construction is in hand, but ships are being docked and repaired. The Shipping Board considers that the present volume of work will probably be maintained for some time to come.

page 568


Alleged Purchase ofFarms out of Allowances.

Senator DUNN:

asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -

With regard to the speech of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate in introducing the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill on Friday last -

What is the number of linemen who drew the allowances referred to in respect to the purchase of farms, &c. J

Where were the farms purchased?

Who are the officers concerned?

What were the purchase prices of the farms?

What were the facts concerning the purchase of such farms that guided the Minister in his remarks?

On what did the Minister base his statement, that the money paid in’ purchasing the farms was saved from the allowances paid to the officers?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.For some time following on the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator certain members of travelling line parties in the Postmaster-General’s Department were paid travelling allowance at the rate of 12s. per diem for the first two weeks’ stay in any one place. In many instances the parties moved from job to job, not staying fourteen days in any one place. The officers concerned almost continuously drew allowances at the rate of £4 4s. per week, although it is clear from evidence obtained, and later submitted to the Arbitrator, that generally their boarding costs did not exceed 35s. per week. They were thus in the position of drawing allowances of 49s. per week over and above their living requirements, and in addition to their salaries.

While, as intimated yesterday, I am not prepared to disclose specific names or instances, the information which has been obtained in regard to the matter leaves no doubt that many of the men, quite laudably, invested, in property, the additional payments so received.

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Theatrical Employees Union

Senator DUNN:

asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -

Is he prepared to set up necessary ma- chnery to allow representatives of the Theatrical Employees Union, and also representatives of the Picture Show Industry to appear before the bar of the Senate to state their reasons why the proposed Amusement Tax should notbe applied?


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Senator CARROLL:

asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that a mergerhas been formed in England between the various companies interested in telegraphic communication ?
  2. Are negotiations in progress for the application of such a merger to Australia?
  3. Will the Government, before it becomes a party to any such merger, give Parliament an opportunity of discussing the whole question of overseas telegraphic communication?
Senator McLACHLAN:
Honorary Minister · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

– The answers are -

  1. A fusion of interests has taken place between the Eastern Telegraph and its associate companies and the Marconi Wireless Company under a new company known as the Imperial and International Communications Company. This organization has accepted the liability for the Pacific cable system, and will be responsible for its future operation,
  2. No; but negotiations are proceeding with a view to securing a co-ordination of the wireless and cable services in Australia.
  3. See answer to (2).

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In committee.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commencement).

Vice-President of the Executive Council · Western Australia · NAT

[3.10]. - It will be noted that this clause provides that this act, except sub-section 5 of section 3, shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This is necessary because considerable work will be involved in con stituting a panel of the associations, and also for the reason that on the termination of the Public Service Arbitrator’s period of service,his records must be removed to Canberra. As to the exception of subclause 5 of clause 3, which is to become operative on the date of the GovernorGeneral’s assent to the act, it is desiredthat the power to make regulations outside the matters of wages and salaries shall be availed of at the earliest moment after the bill has been passed by both Houses. The financial position is such that early steps should be taken to review the payment of allowances of various kinds in order to secure the more economical working of the departments. I ask honorable senators to observe this differentiation of treatment. The act is to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation, with the exception of sub-clause 5 of ‘clause 3, which will come into force when the Governor-General has assented to the act. This will enable action to be taken at once to rectify some of the glaring anomalies of which I gave the Senate some examples, and to secure that economy which is so much desired.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3 -

  1. The power to make regulations, contained in -

    1. section ninety-seven of the Com monwealth Public Service Act 1922-1928; and
    2. any other act which empowers the making of regulations prescribing conditions of employment in the Public Service shall extend to the making of regulations inconsistent with any portion of any such award, order, determination or interpretation (not being a portion which relates to salaries or wages in respect of ordinary hours of labour), . . .

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.12]. - I move -

That the words “ salaries or wages in respect of ordinary hours of labour “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ any matter or class of matter within the ambit of the powers conferred on the committee by section eleven of this Act.

Clause 11 of this bill provides that -

The committee shall have power to determine, subject to the provisions of this section, all matters submitted to it relating to salaries or wages in respect of ordinary hours of labour of classes of officers and employees of the Public Service:

Provided that the committee shall not determine any claim in so far as it relates to classes of officers or employees in receipt of salary or wages exceeding £600 per annum, and shall not make any determination fixing, in respect of any class of officers or employees, salary or wages at a rate exceeding that amount.

As that clause is at present drafted it would have the effect of preventing the Public Service Board from dealing with the salaries or wages of officers in receipt of over £600 per annum. It is desired, therefore, to alter the drafting in the direction I have indicated so as to make it clear that the board will have complete power in regard to the salaries or wages of officers receiving over £600 per annum.

Senator DALY:
South Australia

– The Opposition desire to voice their protest both against the clause and against the amendment.’ Honorable senators will see that the clause repeals the present form of arbitration in relation to the Commonwealth Public Service. For the reasons which we outlined in our second-reading speeches, we feel that we should make one final endeavour to persuade the Senate to retain to the Commonwealth Public Service its present form of arbitration. That system has been in operation for eighteen years and, despite the statements of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), it has worked so well that we feel justified in asking the Senate to negative the clause.

Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Pearce’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.

AYES: 25


Majority . . . . 21



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Registration Committee, which shall have the powers conferred by this section in relation to the registration of associations as organizations. (2.) The Registration Committee shall consist of three members. (3.) Of the members of the Registration Committee -

Senator DALY:
South Australia

.- I move-

That the words “ Maritime Industries Court” paragraph a, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “.

In my second-reading speech, I gave my reasons for desiring to make this amendment. There is at present no such tribunal as the Maritime Industries Court, and I submit that the Senate has no right to anticipate what might be done in another place. It is a matter of principle with the Opposition. If the Government is determined to set up a new form of arbitration, let it be presided over by a judge of a court that does actually exist.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.26]. - I cannot accept the amendment. In making this provision the Government is doing nothing unusual. It is a common practice, when amending two laws of a kindred nature, to anticipate the amendment of each. The Senate and another place are dealing with two bills which in a sense, are linked up, and the Government hopes that both will pass. It would be futile to make the amendment proposed by Senator Daly, if we then found ourselves in the position of having to repeal it, after the bill which is being considered in another place became law.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -

That the word “ failed “ sub-clause9, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ ceased “.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Public Service Arbitration Committee, which shall consist of three members.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.28] . - This clause provides for the constitution of an Arbitration Committee. It contemplates that this committee will deal with the Public Service departments which are now operating under the Public Service Act. But there are also branches of the Service, in which officers are employed, that are constituted under various authorities set up by Parliament. For instance, the officers of the Commonwealth railways do not come within the provisions of the Public Service Act. At present they have the right of access to the Public Service Arbitrator, but I do not think they have availed themselves of the privilege very frequently. There are also the officers of the Commonwealth Bank. It is possible that the board of directors of that bank might wish to avail itself of this contemplated tribunal. In addition, there are other governmental activities, such as the Developmental and Migration Commission, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the War Service Homes Commission, and others, which are not under the Public Service Act. There are also the industrial establishments of the Defence Department, such as the munition factories at Maribyrnong and the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. It is thought desirable that this tribunal should be available to deal with cases which may arise there. I therefore move -

That the following sub-clauses be added: - (10.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, in any case in which any of the officers or employees directly concerned in any matter to be determined by the Committee are employed under the authority of an Act, other than the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1928, the Minister may appoint to theCommittee an officer or employee other than a member of the Public Service Board, instead of that member. (11.) The officer or employee appointed under the last preceding sub-section shall have all the powers and functions of a member of the Committee as if he had been appointed to the Committee under sub-section (2.) of this section and shall . be entitled to receive the same remuneration under the same conditions as a member appointed from a panel under that sub-section.

The addition of those sub-clauses would leave it within the power of the Minister to appoint other than a member of the Public Service Board to act on’ any of these committees. For instance, in various bodies allied with the Public Service, such as the War Service Homes Commission, the Development and Migration Commission, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the conditions of employment are similar, to those in the Public Service, -and generally the regulations governing employment therein follow the regulations governing the Public Service. In the event of a case affecting any of those sections being referred to a committee, the Minister would probably appoint a member of the Public Service Board to act on the committee. In the Commonwealth Railways, however, it might be considered better, in some cases, to appoint on the committee a representative of the Railways Commissioner, because the conditions of employment in the Railways service are not in all respects similar to those in the Public Service. Although the clerical section of the Railways service does approximate to that of the clerical section, of the Public Service, and in dealing with claims affecting railway clerks, it might be thought desirable to appoint on the committee a representative of the Public Service Board, a different representative might be appointed in cases affecting engine-drivers and firemen. The clause has been drafted in a flexible manner, so that the Minister may take action according to the class of case concerned. It is consistent with the policy contained in the bill.

It is considered that these branches of Commonwealth activities should be dealt with by Commonwealth legislation, rather than that they should he left to the States. It might not always be desirable to have State authorities controlling the conditions of employment in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, or the Munition Factory at Maribyrnong. In the case of the Maribyrnong factory, which is a part of the Defence Department’s administrative machinery, the Minister would probably appoint to the Arbitration Committee a representative of the Munitions Board, to represent the employers. I ask the committee to adopt these two subclauses, in order that we may be able to cover practically every branch of Commonwealth activities, if thought desirable to do so. l(

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 11- (1). The Committee shall have power to determine, subject to the provisions of this section, all matters submitted to it relating to salaries or wages in respect of ordinary hours of labour of classes of officers- and employees of the Public Service:

Senator DALY:
South Australia

– I move-

That t>.e words “ in respect of ordinary hours of labour “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “or conditions of employment.”

Honorable senators will remember that we were told in unmistakable language, that this new tribunal conformed to all the principles of arbitration; that the Government was not opposed to arbitration ; that indeed, it desired to set up a more effective tribunal in the interest of the Government, the Public Service and the community. In this new jurisprudence, which we know as industrial law, conditions must be prescribed by the tribunal in order that it may prescribe the wages which shall be paid. It is a contradiction to say that after the wage has been fixed, the Minister will prescribe the conditions under which that wage shall be earned. The authority which prescribes the wage should also define the conditions under which it shall be earned. Otherwise it is not arbitration. We have been told that certain anomalies have arisen as the result of the work of the Public Service Arbitrator, and that the constitution of this tribunal is an attempt on the part of the Government to prevent any such anomalies arising in the future. If it is to be an arbitral tribunal, let it be one in the truest sense of the term; let it do what every arbitration court may do - prescribe, not only the hours and wages, but also the general conditions of employment under which particular classes of employees shall work, or wages be earned.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.40]. - I ask the committee to reject the amendment. I do not propose to go over the whole ground again, because it was fully debated on the second reading. I suggest to Senator Daly that there is no parallel between a private employer and his employees and the Public Service Board and members of the Service. In the case of a private employer, the arbitration authorities prescribe the conditions of employment, because otherwise, the employer would have the right to’ determine them. In the case of the Public Service, however, Parliament has already set up an authority to stand between the employer and the employee. That authority determines the conditions of employment in the Public Service. There was a time when the determination of such conditions was left to the employer - the Minister - but to-day the Public Service Board, composed of public servants, fixes the conditions of employment. Over the Public Service Board stands Parliament to see that justice is done. In giving a picture, yesterday, of the conditions of employment in the Public Service, I think I made it clear that that service has no parallel in the Commonwealth. The Government contends that there is no necessity to interpose another arbitral authority between the authority which Parliament has already created and the public servants in so far as conditions of employment are concerned. That authority was created to remove any suspicion of political patronage which might be associated with the acts of a Minister. Parliament did that deliberately. To continue a double-barrelled system would be for Parliament to stultify itself. The amendment suggests that Parliament might stand by and allow an injustice to be done. That is unthinkable in a democracy like ours. The danger is not that Parliament might allow an injustice to be done, but that, in view of the mass vote in every electorate, Parliament might lend too willing an ear to requests for privileges to be granted to public servants which other sections of the community cannot enjoy. The amendment would take us back to where we were, and I trust that the committee will reject it. If it were agreed to, we should merely have a repetition of the anomalies of the past.

Senator DUNCAN:

. -I am afraid that the amendment moved by Senator Daly has not been prepared with that care which one generally associates with amendments moved by the honorable senator; for it asks for rather more than the Public Service organizations themselves ask. In my secondreading speech I urged the desirability of extending the powers of the committee so that in addition to determining salaries, it could deal with such matters as overtime, broken shifts, higher duties pay, and other conditions associated with ordinary conditions of labour, but not purely administrative matters such as designations and seniority. Overtime, broken shifts, and similar matters are directly concerned with the conditions of employment. Surely it is not asking too much that a tribunal which, in order to determine salaries and wages in any branch of the Public Service, must have a full knowledge of the facts, should also be empowered to decide what rates shall be paid for overtime and broken shifts. Those matters relate to salaries and wages; but they are deliberately excluded from the powers of the tribunal. Unfortunately, the clause limits us to ordinary hours of labour. If we have one authority fixing the hours of labour, and another determining the rates to be paid for overtime, the work of the tribunal will be duplicated, and there will be a risk of bringing about confusion. I think that the organizations that are asking for an extension of the powers of the tribunal in this direction are not making an unreasonable request. The Minister has not replied to this point, and I should be glad to hear why the . Government is unwilling to grant -the request. By acceding to it, it would remove many of the objections that certain organizations now . have to this clause, and I believe that a smoother working of the Service would result.

Senator DALY:
South Australia

– The words that I have asked the committee to insert have a meaning that is well known under our industrial arbitration system. I see no objection to their insertion, and Senator Duncan should have no difficulty in agreeing to the amendment. Parliament would still be the supreme appellate tribunal in the matter. My complaint is that, while the Leader of the Government avowed yesterday, that his Ministry stood four-square for arbitration, he has stated to-day that he and his Government favour the fixation of conditions that should be determined by an arbitral tribunal by the Public Service Board, which is a non-arbitral body. It is impossible for me to reconcile his statement yesterday with that made by him to-day. If honorable seantors believe in arbitration, I ask them to give to the authority to be set up the full jurisdiction that a court of arbitration should have.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 18 agreed to.

Schedule and title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

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Vice-President of Executive Council [3.53] - {By leave. · Western Australia · NAT

– I understand that Senator Herbert Hays desires to move the adoption of the report of the Select Committee that was appointed to investigate the subject of sending wireless messages from Australia to England at one penny a word. Since honorable senators generally are not desirous of proceeding with the budget debate at this juncture - I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Daly) is not anxious to resume that debate now - and, in view of the promise given that the debate on the Life Insurance Bill will not be taken up until next week, I propose to give Senator Herbert Hays an opportunity to submit the motion standing in his name. After that, I intend to move that the Senate adjourn until Wednesday next, when the Life Insurance Bill will be proceeded with. I therefore move -

That orders of the day, Nos. 2 and 3 be postponed until after consideration of Private Business, order of the day No. 2.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 574


Penny a Word Messages: Reportof Select Committee.


.- I move-

That the report from the Select Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and commercial possibility of sending messages from Australia to England over the beam wireless at a penny a word, presented to the Senate on 14th August, 1929, be adopted.

I do not intend to detain honorable senators for any considerable time, not because I regard the subject as unimportant, but because every member of this chamber had an opportunity early this year to debate the matter to which the motion refers, and copies of the report of the committee have been placed in their hands. Honorable senators will, I feel sure, join me in saying that we have to thank ex-Senator Thomas for bringing this subject prominently under our notice. A number of us, probably, would not have regarded it as of great importance, but, as the result of its ventilation in this chamber, we recognize that the ex-senator’s hopes regarding penny-a-word wireless were not a mere dream. I pay a tribute to him for the enthusiasm and industry which he showed during the inquiry. He displayed the same earnestness then as was manifested by him when he submitted the motion for the appointment of the select committee.

I confess that I was at a loss to know at that time why the Government opposed the motion, and I am at a greater loss to-day to understand why it so strenuously opposed a motion that had for its object the gathering of information that would be of benefit both to the Government and the Parliament. The principal reason advanced by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber, for the Government’s opposition to the motion, was that certain negotiations were proceeding between the cable companies and the governments of Australia and Great Britain regarding the merging of the interests controlling lines of communication, both by wireless and submarine cable, between Australia and the Mother Country, and fears were entertained that the appointment of the committee might prejudice those negotiations, and, in some unexplained way, be prejudicial to the best interests both of the negotiators and Australia. As a member of that committee, I think that I may say that it has been clearly shown those fears were groundless. I believe, Mr. President, that you stated from your seat in this chamber, prior to your elevation to the high office that you now adorn, that you saw no reason whatever why the committee should not be trusted to make the investigation, using that discretion with which each member, by virtue of his qualifications as a senator, should be endowed, in making inquiries along such lines as he thought prudent in the interests of the people. The evidence obtained by the committee showed most conclusively that there was every justification for the inquiry, as witnesses frequently stated that a cheaper means of communication between Australia and Great Britain would be of great benefit to every section of the community. During its inquiry the committee endeavoured to avoid complicating the situation, which was then developing in connexion with a proposed merger of the wireless and cable interests in Great Britain, and, in this connexion, refrained from exploring many avenues in which it could have obtained useful information. The recommendations of the committee are very brief. The first recommendation reads -

That the wireless station should be owned by the Government and that all overseas telegraphic communications should be under Government control.

The second recommendation reads -

That wireless should be developed to its fullest extent, and that its development should not be handicapped by cable considerations. A plant with a carrying capacity to enable ordinary messages to be despatched at the rate of1d. a word should be provided as soon as possible.

The third recommendation reads -

That the Government should immediately proceed to inaugurate a system of overseas post letter telegrams, similar to that in use across the Atlantic, at a charge of lid. a word with a minimum of ten words per message.

The committee further states in its report that Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing the whole subject of overseas telegraphic communications before the Commonwealth Government becomes a party to the wireless and cable merger. During the inquiry it was made abundantly clear that the ambition of ex-Senator Thomas, who was responsible for the appointment of the committee, that wireless messages should be despatched at1d. a word; was a practical proposition, provided the capacity of the station in Australia was capable of carrying the business.

Senator McLachlan:

– Does the honorable senator include commercial messages ?


– The inquiry of the committee disclosed that commercial messages could be despatched at a much lower rate, possibly at1d. per word, if the business was regulated as the cable business is by despatching deferred messages at lower rates. It was clearly shown that cheaper rates on deferred cable messages have been fully availed of by the Australian people. In these circumstances we are justified in contending, that if the wireless rates were reduced to1d; a word; and the traffic properly regulated; the volume would be much greater than it is to-day. It is reasonable to assume that for perhaps a year or two transmission at low rates would not show a profit; but when the facilities were fully availed of by the public-, the financial returns would be satisfactory. The proper development of a system of cheap overseas wireless communications -has undoubtedly been hampered in consequence of its effect upon the business of the cable companies. Evidence tendered to the committee disclosed that there was a good deal of apprehension on the part of the cable interests concerning the opposition which they had to meet from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It was contended by some that if the wireless rates were reduced to a1d. per word, the cable companies would be practically ruined. It is the ‘duty of ‘this Parliament to give the fullest consideration to this subject regardless of the money invested by governments and others in. cable companies. The people in this portion of the empire should be able to take the fullest advantage of wireless by sending messages to the other Dominions, and to Great Britain, at the lowest possible rates. Even if the cable services must be maintained in the interests of the empire; that is no reason why the development of wireless should be hampered. When the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) asked if the committee was of the opinion that commercial messages could be transmitted at a1d. a word, I said that that was possible if the traffic was properly regulated; but I did not mean that such a rate would include terminal charges at either end. At present lettergrams are despatched between Great Britain and Canada at a1d. a word during periods when the wireless plant is not fully occupied, and this service which has been in operation for some time has been a means of extending trade and bringing the great Dominion of Canada into closer touch with the centre of the empire. If the people of Canada have all the advantages of cheap communication, why should not the people of the Commonwealth derive similar benefits? As a member of the committee; I had ample opportunity of ascertaining the wonderful work which is being undertaken by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, under the control of the Managing Director, Mr.Fiske, whose exceptional ability is largely responsible for the rapid development of wireless. The organization which should be assisted by the Government must be equal to anything of its kind in any part of the world. It will hot be long; as Mr. Fiske stated in evidence, before1d. a word messages will be a feasible proposition. I believe that is the company’s aim. Cheap wireless communication provides a means for the interchange of social messages between Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and is also an important factor in developing trade between different portions of the empire.

Senator Millen:

– How does the honorable senator suggest that such messages should be handled at the other end?


– The committee first endeavoured to ascertain whether it was possible for the plant of

Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited to handle the business at this end. If that could be done, negotiations could then be entered into with the authorities in Great Britain.

Senator Millen:

– The merger between the cable companies and the wireless interests has been accomplished.


– That is so.

Senator McLachlan:

– Does the honorable senator suggest that the cable should be jettisoned?


– That should not be necessary. It is attributed to me that I urged that the cable companies should go out of business. I suggested nothing of the kind. At the same time the absolute necessity for the maintenance of the cables, as an essential means of secret communication during

Avar time, has not been borne out by the facts.

Senator McLachlan:

– Admiral Napier was rather emphatic on the subject.


– I do not presume to offer any criticism upon the views of Admiral Napier in the matter. He is enthusiastic and capable in his duties, and we must respect his opinions. But his opinions on the subject must necessarily be biased, and those of im-partial observers, such as the manager of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, who hold a contrary opinion, are also entitled to respect. It is worthy of note that although Great Britain cut off Germany’s means of cable communication in the early stages of the Great War, Germany at no time during the duration of the conflict was unable to communicate with the outside world.

Senator McLachlan:

– Is the honorable senator aware that there was a very good strategic reason for not entirely closing the enemy’s means of communication 1


– I am, and I am also aware that Germany was just as successful as Great Britain in intercepting the messages of its enemies. Let us examine the contention of Admiral Napier that our cables should be maintained in the interests of the safety of the Empire. Assume that our fleet is at sea, and a message affecting it is despatched by cable to the Admiralty in Great Britain. The only method of conveying the information to the fleet is by wireless, which is subject to interception by the enemy. I believe that the position is exaggerated and that, while Ave should listen to the advice of naval experts like Admiral Napier, we should also give ear to other men of great capabilities whose position ensures that they are not biased.

The principal recommendation of the committee is that the Government should approve of the despach of lettergrams at the rate of lid. a word. There should be no need to add terminal charges to that rate, as the message would be handed in at a post office in the usual manner, transmitted by wireless, and delivered at destination as ordinary mail matter.

Senator Lynch:

– How would the honorable senator differentiate in charges as between, say, Sydney or Melbourne and an outback town ?


- Senator Lynch knows that there is an intra as well as an interstate tariff for telegrams, and it has been demonstrated very clearly by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs that telegraphic messages can be profitably transmitted to any part of Australia at the rate of Id. a word. The Commonwealth has an amount equal to approximately £11,000,000 invested in telegraphic and telephonic means of communication. If they are segregated, it still leaves a total necessary capital of about £8,000,000 to provide telegraphic communication. On the other hand, an efficient wireless station would cost a maximum of £300,000, and honorable senators know that wireless annihilates distance. Only a few days ago Ave had an instance of that. A cadet on a British steamer which Avas approaching Australia Avas dangerously ill, and the condition of the lad was adversely affected by his lack of contact Avith his mother. Through the enterprise of Amalgamated Wireless Limited he Avas enabled to speak by wireless telephony Avith his mother in Great Britain, to their mutual advantage. That indicates the potentialities of the system.

Senator McLachlan:

– Did the committee obtain any evidence as to the relate costs of the plant necessary to transmit messages from Australia and from Canada?


– The report gives statistics as to costs, but I point out that it is very difficult to itemize costs when dealing with telegraphic or wireless communication.We accepted the practice obtaining in Commonwealth post ‘.offices. Honorable senators are aware that the cost of transmitting messages fluctuates. During the peak period, it may be necessary to pay urgent rates to expedite the delivery of a message, but if the sender is prepared to allow his message to be deferred until business slackens, he may avail himself of the cheaper rates. It is difficult to assess the cost of sending messages under the varying rates.

As to the merger, it is unlikely that any detailed information will be supplied on the subject. We know what has happened in Great Britain, where a merger took place in the interests both of the nation and of the commercial organizations concerned. The step became necessary by . reason of the merging of competing organizations outside Great Britain. It is reasonable to assume that the Government will give the matter the closest examination, and that it will protect the interests of the public. But the matter is of such great importance that Parliament should have an opportunity of knowing what has been done, what is involved, and whether the merger will in any way retard the development of wireless communication with Australia. The science has made remarkable progress during the last seven’ years and, granted proper encouragement, it is impossible to forecast its rate of development during the next seven years. The committee respected the wishes of the Government that it should not in any way prejudice the negotiations of the Government or any organization concerned in the merger. That somewhat limited the committee’s field of inquiry, and that is why I now urge that Parliament should be given more information on the subject.

I thank the Government for giving me an opportunity to move the adoption of this report. Honorable senators will now be able to debate the matter. I sincerely hope that the Government will not strenuously oppose the recommendations of the committee. The wishes of Parliament were clearly expressed when exSenator . Thomas moved for the appointment of this Select Committee. The motion was opposed by the Government, but, fortunately, the good sense of the Senate prevailed, and the committee was appointed. Ex-Senator Thomas went exhaustively into the subject and the report of the committee is in every -way unbiased ; its conclusions being arrived at after the fullest consideration, the committee always keeping in view its responsibilities and the importance of the subject. I commend its recommendations to honorable senators.

Debate (on. motion by Senator McLachlan) adjourned.

page 577


Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -

That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.

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Order of Business

Vice-President of the Executive Council · West ern Australia · NAT

[4.30]. - In . moving

That the Senate do now adjourn,

I ask honorable senators to come prepared on Wednesday next to deal with the Life Insurance Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 4.31 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 September 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.