New South Wales - Colonial period: 1858 - 1900.
Telegram rates.

After the first rates for sending telegrams had been established, they were continually reviewed until Federation. After 1871, there was an occasional link between the rates and the use of stamps to prepay the telegraph costs.

The years in which the major changes occurred are:


1858 - 1870 rates:

(a) Within New South Wales.

The first rates were dependent on the distances over which the telegaphic message was sent. The following table shows the first 10 stations - no charge being made for the date, address or signature:

N.S.W. Telegraphic Charges - from 22 September 1858
Station Sydney Parramatta Liverpool Campbelltown Berrima
First 10 words Per extra words First 10 words Per extra words First 10 words Per extra words First 10 words Per extra words First 10 words Per extra words
Sydney     1s 1d 2s 2d 2s 2d 2s 6d 2d
Parramatta 1s 1d     1s 1d 2s 2d 2s 6d 2d
Liverpool 2s 2d 1s 1d     1s 1d 2s 6d 2d
Campbelltown 2s 2d 2s 2d 1s 1d     2s 2d
Berrima 2s 6d 2d 2s 6d 2d 2s 6d 2d 2s 2d    
Goulburn 3s 3d 3s 3d 3s 3d 3s 3d 2s 2d
Yass 3s 6d 3d 3s 6d 3d 3s 6d 3d 3s 6d 3d 3s 3d
Gundagai 4s 4d 4s 3d 4s 3d 4s 3d 3s 3d
Albury 4s 4d 4s 3d 4s 3d 4s 3d 4s 3d
South Head 1s 1d 2s 2d 2s 2d 3s 3d 3s 3d
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald 25 September 1858.

Other stations added soon after were:

Telegram from to Station at First 10 words Each additional word
Newcastle Albury 4/- 3d.
Armidale Deniliquin 6/- 4d.
Maitland Berrima 3/6 3d.

By 1861, there were 36 Telegraph Stations in New South Wales. Each of the 630 possible pairs had a cost. To make it easier for the Operators, a wall chart (23 × 30 cm) was prepared for display showing each pair of New South Wales Stations with the relevant basic cost and the cost for additional words. The 1861 chart - split into two sections - is shown elsewhere together with the Regulations. These charts were reprinted (possibly annally) as additional Stations were included in the network. The December 1868 chart (35 × 86 cm), for example, listed 54 NSW Stations.

See also Mr Middleton.


Maitland Mercury 20 Jan 1870.

A deputation from the Chamber of Commerce, consisting of Messrs. Montefiore, Willie, Chapman, Molyneanx, and Ebsworth, waited upon the Postmaster-General, this morning, for the purpose of representing to him the expediency of reducing the present telegraphic rates to a uniform charge. Mr. S. H. Lambton, the Under-Secretary of the Post Offioe, and Mr. Cracknell, the Superintendent of Telegraphs, were present at the interview.

Mr. Montefiore stated the object of the deputation was to urge upon the Government the necessity of reducing the telegraphic charges to the same level as the charges of other colonies. He pointed out that in Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, all messages were sent at a uniform rate of 1s. for ten words and he contended that New South Wales ought to follow the example of the sister colonies. He also stated, that in India there was a uniform charge of one rupee for each message.

Mr. Cracknell produced a statement of the revenue received from the telegraph in South Australia, during the years 1866 to 1869 inclusive, from which it appeared that since the charges had been reduced, there had not only been a decrease in the revenue, but a decrease in the number of messages transmitted. Mr. Willis pointed out that the reason of the loss was the reduction applied to messages sent within the colony alone. If the reduction were extended to intercolonial messages, there would be a great increase in the number of telegrams sent and also in the revenue derived therefrom.

At the same time, the statement produced by Mr. Cracknell showed that the revenue in 1869, after the reductions had been made, was considerably in excess of the revenue received from the same source in 1866. Mr. Chapman contended that a slight loss would be more than counterbalanced by the benefits the reduction would confer upon the community generally. Mr. Cracknell was of opinion that a reduction to the uniform rate of one shilling for each message of ten words would cause a considerable decrease in the revenue. He said the Government would have to put up new wires, as the circuits were now all overloaded and the clerks had to remain late in the offices to get through the business. The expense would be much greater here than in the other colonies as the lines in Victoria and South Australia were very much shorter than the lines here; the number of the messages sent from the large towns might be increased, but there would be no increase in the number of messages sent from the small towns throughout the colony. The reduction would only reduce the revenue from those places.

He pointed out that this scheme had been tried in England, and the result had been almost ruinous to small companies while the large companies had been severely injured. With regard to India, he said that country was divided into sections and the charges were different in the different sections. He thought a reduction in the present rates of telegraphic charges should be made but that we should not go to an extreme. If the charge were made as low as one shilling and it were found too low, we should never be able to raise it again. Mr. Montefiore said that when Mr. Rowland Hill introduced the penny postage, if such an argument as that of Mr. Cracknell had been considered, the system would not have been initiated. There was a loss at first but it was soon pulled up and the advantages to the community soon outbalanced the loss. He pointed out that the lines being formed here, the reduction of price, and consequent increase of work, would not lead to greater expense. Mr Cracknell said the working expenses would be increased.

Mr. Chapman said there was not one merchant in Sydney, who for one message he now sent to Melbourne, would not, if the charge were reduced, send half a dozen. He submitted also that the telegraph offices, at least in Sydney and Melbourne, should be kept open, if not all night, at any rate for a longer period than they now were. Mr. Cracknell agreed with that but said the Government could not afford to do it or they would have to increase the staff. He also stated that it would be better to increase the number of words in a message than to decrease the price. Mr Egan said he had had the expediency of doubling the number of words in a message for some time under consideration and he was exceedingly obliged to the deputation for bringing the subject so prominently under the notice of the Government. As it was, however, a matter affecting the revenue, he could not deal with it as he might deal with any mere departmental question; but he should bring the subject before the Government and as soon as the Government arrived at a proper decision, he should inform the deputation of it. His own opinion was that there should be a reduction and he should give that part of the scheme his strongest support. He was quite sure his colleagues would give the subject that fair consideration which its importance deserved.

After thanking the Minister for his courtesy, the deputation withdrew.

(b) Inter-Colonial rates.

As for the intra-Colonial rates. most inter-Colonial rates were also based on distance but with the emphasis more on regions. There was clearly a complicated formula (perhaps moderated with politics) to determine the rates which have been scanned from the same wall charts used for the intra-colonial rates and included elsewhere for Victoria and for Queensland.


8 August 1870 - 1873.

(a) Within New South Wales.

Radius of region around a station First 10 words Each additional word.
less than 35 miles 1/- 1d.
over 35 miles 2/- 1d.

(b) Inter-colonial rates.

Telegram from to Station in First 10 words Each additional word
All stations in NSW except
Albury and Deniliquin.
Victoria 2/- 3d.
All stations in NSW except
Euston and Wentworth.
South Australia 5/- 4d.
All stations in NSW. Brisbane and the southern
section of Queensland
4/- 3d.
All stations in NSW. Rockhampton and central
section of Queensland.
6/- 4d
All stations in NSW Northern section of Queensland 8/- 4d.
All stations in NSW. Tasmania
(land line only)
8/- 4d (land line only)
  Tasmania - by cable Additional 5 words or any portion of
5 words: 2/-

Source: SMH 8 August 1870 and Maitland Mercury 9 Aug 1870.


1 November 1873 - 1884.

(a) within New South Wales.

A special suburban rates was also introduced for telegrams sent within 5 miles within Sydney. On 30 September, 1873, the following announcement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:


It is hereby notified that his Excellency the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, has approved of the transmission of Telegraph Messages between any one and another of the Branch Offices at William Street, South-Head Road, Parramatta Street, Paddington, Balmain and Newtown for delivery within thc boundaries of the place in which the Branch Office is situated, or between any one of the Branch Offices and the Head Office for delivery within the limits of the City, at the following rates, viz:

Sixpence. (6d) for the first ten (10) words, and one penny (ld) for every additional word.

The rates for Telegraph Messages to and from the Branch Offices and places beyond Sydney to be the same as those now charged between the Head Office and those places.


Each of the Offices nominated in the above were also announced on the same day for business including Telegraphic business: South-Head Road (near Crown Street); William Street, Woolloomooloo at the corner of Forbes Street; Parramatta Street near the corner of Newtown Road; Paddington at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Old South Head Road; Balmain in the present (1873) post-office premises; Newtown in the present post-office premises.

In addition, messages sent within the Colony were charged at 1/- for 10 words and 1d for each additional word.

(b) Inter-colonial rates (from 1 November 1873).

Telegram from to Station in First 10 words Each additional word
New South Wales Victoria 2/- 2d.
  South Australia (as far as Port Augusta) 2/- 2d.
  Queensland (as far as Bowen) 2/- 2d.
  Northern Queensland 8/- 4d.
  Tasmania (land charges) 7/- 3d
  Tasmania (cable charges)   2/- for every additional five words.

Source: SMH 29 Octoer 1873.

Press mesages: half of the above rates.


1884 - 1896.

(a) within New South Wales.

6d Sydney suburban rate (lesss than 15 miles)


(b) Inter-colonial rates.

At the Postal Conference held in Sydney in May 1883, it was agreed (on page 10 of the report) in relation to Intercolonial Telegraph Rates that:

The Conference having considered the subject of reduction of Intercolonial Telegraph Rates, the Colonies of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania agree to the following:

A message of ten words transmitted over the land lines of two Colonies ....... 1/-

For each additional word ................................................................................... 2d

A message of teo words transmitted by lany lines of three Colonies .............. 1/6

For each additional word ................................................................................... 3d

To be divided in equal shares between the Colonies performing the service.

Submarine cable charges additional in all cases where the cable is used.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 24 May 1884 reported that, in the Legislative Assembly the previous day, the Postmaster-General noted that "Effect has not yet been given to the proposed reduction of intercolonial telegraphic rates because ... it will be necessary to construct an additional wire between Sydney and Melbourne to meet the increased business expected. The wire has not yet been put up, but may be in two or three months time ... (the changes also include) telegraphic messages being sent by post without extra charge".

Melbourne, July 6.
South Australian Register 7 July 1885.

A return has been prepared showing the results which have followed the reduction from 2s. to 1s. for the transmission of ten word telegrams from Victoria to New South Wales. During the half-year ending June 30, 1884, the number of telegrams from Victoria to New South Wales was 58,547, while for the half-year ending June 30, 1885, the number was 76,164 - an increase of 17,617 in the number of messages or 30 per cent, but a falling off in the revenue of nearly 11 per cent. The receipts for the first half-year before being £8,212 6s. and for the first half of the current year £7,309 16s. 9d. - the decrease being £302 9s. 3d. This result is considered satisfactory and equal to expectations.

Not very dissimilar results followed the reduction in 1873 from 3s. to 2s. In that year, the number of messages was 36,844, which in 1874 increased to 48,624, while the revenue fell from £7,686 13s. 1d. to £7,024 3s. 8d. The business then increased steadily at the rate of 14 per cent, per year till in 1884, the revenue from New South Wales messages reached £16,948 15s. 1d. against £7,024 3s. 8d. in 1874.

A supplementary report on the NSW-Victoria rate reduction was contained in the 1886 Annual Report of Victoria noted:

"The reduction in the telegraph rates to New South Wales from 2/- to I/- for the first 10 words resulted in an increase of business to the extent of 39%. On the other hand, the revenue from this source decreased from £16,948 to £14,7S0, being a falling-off of 13%. A similar result was experienced on the introduction (in Victoria) of six-penny telegrams. The business increased 41% but the revenue decreased 4½%".