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At the same time, a planned British merger of cable and wireless was championed by the Australian government as an opportunity to save their cable investments. But some senators—both opposition and government—were concerned that it would instead lead to wireless overpricing.

Despite the government’s refusal to discuss its ‘delicate negotiations’ with Britain concerning the merger, these senators eventually convinced the Senate to establish a select committee in February 1929 to investigate options for cheaper overseas communication. The committee’s August report concluding that the merger would have a negative effect on wireless price reductions came too late; the merger had gone ahead in April.

The government, unwilling to accept the report’s recommendation of wireless nationalisation, quietly shelved it after three years of deferred debate. The report’s articulation of the cultural isolation and communication needs of Australia’s growing population of British immigrants is now recognised as significant and is echoed by more recent inquiries into the adoption of new technologies for Australia’s communication needs.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1927, p.15, National Library of Australia,

Government senator Josiah Thomas, a lifelong postal reformer as well as a temperance preacher, chaired the committee until his retirement from politics in June 1929.

When the Provisional Parliament House was officially opened on 9 May 1927, Thomas celebrated by organising a chess match conducted via beam wireless between teams of six Australian and six British parliamentarians.

Thomas led the Australian team (incorrectly reported by British media as state rather than federal parliamentarians). The Duke of York (the future King George VI), who had earlier opened the building, made the first move.

After a day of slow progress, the match was called a draw. It is not believed there were any further matches.

National Library of Australia, nla.obj-137037959

The first direct wireless messages from England to Australia,
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) (AWA)

National Archives of Australia, A1, 1927/6718

Letter from Senator Josiah Thomas to The Hon CW Marr, 1 November 1926

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