1910: Change of location raises cost and questions

Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 1910, p 8


Finality in regard to the spot at Pennant Hills on which tho wireless telegraph station is to be erected is expected in about a week’s time.

The Commonwealth Chief Electrical Officer inspected the locality last week and is now reporting upon it to the Postmaster-General. When the selection is confirmed negotiations will be commenced for the acquirement of the land.

There is still considerable doubt in the minds of those who are possessed of knowledge of wireless telegraphy as to the wisdom of the Federal Government action in granting an extra £2000 to the contractors.

The Prime Minister was asked in the House of Representatives last week a pointed question on the subject but his reply did not contain the reason for the additional payment. Mr Austin Chapman who was formerly Postmaster-General asked him if it was correct that the contract had been accepted before the two departments interested – the Defence Department and the Admiralty – were consulted, and that, as a consequence, the site was changed and an additional sum of £2000 had to be paid.

Mr Fisher’s answer was that both had been consulted before tenders were received, but after the tenders came in they were referred to a board, including representatives of the Defence Department and the Admiralty, and in accepting the tender of the Telefunken system the recommendations made by the board were acted upon.

This does not explain how it became necessary afterwards to remove tho station 15 miles inland after a contract had been let, at a certain price for a station on the seaboard. When the tenders were being called, it was plainly stated that the station was to be between North Head and Botany Bay.

When the officials met to inspect the sites there was according to information received from Melbourne, a deadlock, the one side wanting the coast station, the other the inland position. Finally Pennant Hills was selected and it was announced that for the alteration the price to he paid would be increased by the amount mentioned.

The tenders included the stipulation that the system should be one which would give a distinct musical note. This distinct musical note is obtained in the Telefunken system and probably in no other so that it involved the Telefunken installation and tho Australian Wireless Ltd, having contracted to supply what was required at a price very much lower than any of the other tenderers, that company’s undertaking to erect the Sydney and Fremantle stations was accepted.

Representatives of other wireless interests contend that the Government is paying too much for the change of site, consisting, as it does, of a removal of 15 miles only, even taking into account the different conditions involved and the extra expense the contractors are put to.

Another matter which has given rise to some doubt is the interchange of ethergrams between the different systems. It is officially stated, however, that as the stations in Australia will be entirely the property of tho Government there is no possibility of any difficulty occurring In that respect. The last international convention on wireless telegraphy dealt with the question and agreed upon open interchange. Great Britain secured a proviso that while agreeing to the general principle each country should have the right to exempt certain stations from the obligation of compulsory communication.