41["Wireless Telegraphy in Australia", The West Australian, Monday 7 August 1911, page 4]


In the old world wireless telegraphy as a commercial undertaking has for a comparatively lengthy period been an accomplished fact. Here, in Australia, though we have become accustomed to announcements that war boats, ships of the coastal marine and the European mail boats have flashed a knowledge of their well-being from waters no longer lonely to their fellows moored in harbour, from a business aspect wireless was non-existent. There is considerable room for improvement in the facilities for the receipt and transmission of ethergraphs in the Commonwealth, but it is a distinct encouragement to a belief that Australia will not for long lag behind the rest of the civilised world in this respect to be able to record that a start has been made to furnish a press service. Primarily the country is interested in allying the new system of telegraphy to our means of defence. The sole right to establish and use stations for receiving and transmitting wireless messages within Australia was retained to the Postmaster-General under the provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1905, but the Minister is empowered to grant licences for the establishment and use of stations under certain conditions and on payment of prescribed fees. A company, the Australasian Wireless, Ltd., has been formed and in this morning's "wireless" are seen the first results of its efforts, in the transmission of messages in Western Australia, though as contractors for the erection for the Federal Government of high-power stations at Sydney and Fremantle the Company's activity has been earlier manifested. Complaint has not been wanting that, considering the supreme importance of this means of communication which has, since Marconi in 1896 first startled the world with its possibilities, by a successive series of dramatic occurrences im pressed itself upon the public imagination, sufficient energy has not been shown in Australia to facilitate the use of the invention - or series of inventions which unite in "wireless." A deputation representing the Chamber of Commerce, the Marine Underwriters' Association, and Steamship Companies, waited upon Mr. Thomas, Postmaster-General, in Melbourne a month ago to urge that stations should be more rapidly installed round the coast of Australia.

It was pointed out to the Minister that while many of the coastal boats and mail steamers were furnished with apparatus the possibility of communication from sea to shore was practically limited to the chance of a vessel also equipped being in port. The deputation urged that small stations suitable for commercial purposes should, without delay, be established at convenient spots along the coast. Mr. Thomas was sympathetic in his reply, but alleged many difficulties that the department had to face. Before sites were selected the naval and military departments had to be consulted, and quite recently a communication from the British Government with reference to wireless systems was the cause of further delay. It may be taken that the Postmaster-General's allusion to the Home Government's message bore upon the litigation in which the Marconi Co. has been engaged against the proprietors of other systems for alleged infringement of patent rights. By a judgment given last month the claims of the Marconi Co. have been established, and, in the opinion of Mr. Hughes, the Attorney General, the Parker judgment, as it is known, affected all commercial wireless systens in such a manner that the Marconi Company would have the sole use of the master patent for the four years that still remain to it of its patent rights. The Commonwealth Government has already fallen foul of the reprsentatives of Australasian Wireless, Ltd., who have expressed deep resentment because the tenders of the latter for the construction of stations at Port Moresby and Thursday Island were not accepted. It can easily be understood that, following the general desire of preference to things Australian, the people would regard favourably an extension of a certain amount of preference to the company, which, to quote from a letter addressed by the chairmain of directors, Mr. H. B. Denison, to the Acting Prime Minister, is "backed by Australian capital"; still the Government cannot afford to mix itself up in embroglios between the owners of various systems. The Australian company which operates the "Telefunken" system claims that the Parker judgment in no way interferes with it; but the Federal Attorney-General, as stated, holds a contrary view. It is urgent, however, that the Government should on the lines suggested by the deputation that waited on Mr. Thomas hasten the provision of sites for wireless stations that Australia may not be behind the rest of the world in the matter.

At such a rate are installations upon ships and on shore being increased that statistics can scarcely keep pace with them. The Marconi International Marine, a subsidiary company to Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co., alone had 250 stations on ships at the end of last year compared yith 143 at the end of 1909. By June of this year when the subsidiary company had entered the dividend paying stage with a distribution of 10,203 the number had increased to 303 vessels. The Marconi Company by the service established between Clifden. Ireland, and Glace Bay, Canada, was transmitting across the Atlantic at the end of 1910 an average of nearly 6,000 words a day a a cost equalling only half that charged by the cable companies. So numerous have been the instances where wireless telegraphy on board ship has proved of wonderful advantage that it is generally felt that legislative action is necessary to compel all sea-going vessels to be fitted with the apparatus. The foundering of the Republic and the heroic conduct of Dunn the operator speeding his electric appeal across the waste will not readily be forgotten. The sordid drama of Crippen became the subject by the aid of wireless of an acute interest that eagerly followed the daily doings of the unconscious criminal and his paramour in their trip across the Atlantic.

By the law of the United States all vessels carrying not less than fifty persons, passengers and crew, and making a voyage of 200 miles or more mast possess a wireless installation. Portable wireless apparatus is among the latest developments, and communication over a distance of 200 miles has been maintained between an electric motor car, carrying a 30ft. portable steel mast and the necessary guys and wires, and a permanent station. The doubt that exists in regard to the legality of systems other than the Marconi is the cause of hesitation on the part of the Commonwealth Government against committing itself to any particular one, and necessarily leads to delay. Mr. Hughes has expressed the hope that certain steps the Government is taking will abrogate the difficulty. As the Attorney-General remarked: "Wireless telegraphy is almost as much a necessity in these days as air and light, and before long Australia will have to get it in any circumstances." Meanwhile despite the war of systems a start has been made in Australia to bend to our use this latest handmaid of science that is well worthy of chronicling.