Page 14
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908


Early Colonial Weather Reporting

The Impact of the Telegraph

Beginnings of Intercolonial Co-operation

The Intercolonial Meteorological Conferences

The Role of Clement Wragge

Towards a Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology





Contact us
Introduction (continued)

Such neglect is surprising because the long history of intercolonial collaboration in these fields was generally acknowledged at the time.[8] Regarding meteorology, it was explicitly brought to the attention of federal politicians when they debated the Meteorology Bill in mid-1906 by Senator John Keating, the honorary minister in the Deakin government who led the second reading debate. Speaking for two hours on the evening of 20 June 1906, Keating traversed the key issues in the debate in an historical context. He drew attention to the achievements of the three intercolonial meteorological conferences held in 1879, 1881 and 1888 and commented extensively on the proceedings of the most recent conference, held at Adelaide in May 1905 in anticipation of the Commonwealth's legislation.[9] The Minister for Home Affairs, Littleton Groom, argued along the same lines when introducing the second reading debate in the House of Representatives.[10]

From the debate that followed, it became clear that a smooth handing over of responsibilities from the States to the Commonwealth was not an inevitable outcome of the provisions relating to meteorology in the Constitution. Indeed, the Bill raised important questions about the nature of the federation so recently established. It also embodied a particular view of the science of meteorology that reflected the evolution of the subject as a collaborative enterprise during the previous few decades.

In this article we consider the place of meteorology in the process of federation. Stated briefly, we seek to explain why meteorology became an early focus of intercolonial collaboration, and why and how it became a federal rather than a state responsibility under the Australian Constitution. In the process, we consider the difficulties that beset collaboration in this field in the colonial period, since these help to explain some features of the new Commonwealth Bureau. More generally, by highlighting some of the scientific and technical aspects of the federation story, we hope to encourage others to look at the Australian Constitution from perspectives apart from the political, the economic and the legalistic that ordinarily receive most emphasis.

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

Home, R. W. and Livingston, K. T. 1994 'Science and Technology in the Story of Australian Federation: The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908', Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 10, no. 2, December 1994, pp. 109-27.

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher