Australia - South Australia/Northern Territory.
The Overland Telegraph Line
- rates.

The telegraph rates were determined separately:

Both of these rates varied frequently due to political and technical/financial reasons. A summary is provided below at various time periods:

  1. 1872 rates;
  2. 1874 rates;
  3. 1876 rates;
  4. 1900 rates.


August 1872 (in many newspapers):


The Acting-superintendent of Telegraphs at Adelaide, South Australia, and Mr J. E. Squier, Superintendent of the British Australian Telegraph Company at Port Darwin, have issued the following tariff of charges by this line : —

>Notice is hereby given that, on the opening of the above line of telegraph, the following scale of Australian rates will come into force for telegrams via Port Darwin, in addition to the subjoined tariff of the British Australia Telegraph Company :—

To or from Port Darwin
from all stations in
Twenty words or less
inclusive of Name and address
South Australia £1 0 0
Victoria £1 2 0
New South Wales £1 5 0
Queensland £1 10 0
Tasmania £1 10 0
Half of the above rates for each additional 10 words.

W. J. Cunningham, for, in the absence of, the Superintendent of Telegraphs,
Electric Telegraph Department, Adelaide, January 31, 1872.

British Australian Telegraph Company Limited.

In connection with the China Submarine Telegraph Company, Limited; British-Indian Extension Telegraph Company Limited; British-Indian Submarine Telegraph Company, Limited; Anglo Mediterranean Telegraph Company, Limited ; Marseilles, Algiers, and Malta Telegraph Company Limited : Falmouth, Gibraltar, and Malta Telegraph Company, Limited; Anglo-American and French Atlantic Telegraph Company.

Tariff: For telegrams of 20 words from Port Darwin to —

For telegrams of 20 words to:  
Aden £8 2 0
Alexandria £9 0 0
Algeria (via Marseilles cable) £8 3 6
Algeria (via Malta & Italy) £8 8 0
Baden £8 6 0
Barbary (Tripoli) £8 12 0
Barbary (Benghazi) £8 19 0
Bavaria £8 6 0
Belgium £8 6 6
Cairo and Suez £9 0 0
China (Hong Kong) £6 9 6
China (Shanghai) £7 14 6
Cochina China (Saigon) £5 6 0
Corfu £8 6 6
Denmark £8 6 0
France £8 6 6
Germany (north) £8 5 6
Gibraltar £8 9 6
Great Britain & Ireland £8 10 0
Greece £8 7 6
Hohenzolleren & Wurtemburg £8 6 0
Holland £8 6 0
India (Madras) £6 1 6
India (Bombay & stations west of Chittagong) £6 1 6
India (stations east of Chittagong and Ceylon) £6 5 6
Italy £8 4 0
Japan (Nagasaki) £8 14 0
Java (Banjoewangi) £2 15 0
Java (stations east of Samarang) £2 16 0
Java (Samarang and stations to the west) £2 18 0
London £8 9 0
Luxemburg £8 6 0
Malta £7 19 6
Norway £8 6 6
Penang £4 15 0
Portugal £8 9 6
Russia (Europe) £8 0 6
Russia (Caucasus) £8 13 0
Russia (west of Tomsk) £8 17 0
Russia (east of Tomsk) £9 3 6
Servia £8 5 0
Singapore £3 19 0
Spain £8 8 6
Sweden £8 5 6
Switzerland £8 5 0
Tunis (via Marseilles line) £8 3 6
Tunis (via Malta and Italy) £8 8 0
Turkey (Europe) £8 6 6
Turkey (Asia, seaports) £8 10 6
Turkey (inland) £8 14 0
United Principalities £8 4 0
Half these rates for each additional ten words.

Postage on messages:

to South America from Lisbon - One Shilling;
to Mauritius and Reunion from Aden, and on messages to all parts of China and Japan from Hong Kong, Shanghai or Nagasaki - One shilling and Sixpence.

in addition to the rates to those stations.

By order J. A. Squier,
Superintendent Port Darwin.

Advertiser of 22 October 1872: notice from the Agent of the British and Australia Telegraph Company, stating the charge for a message by wire between Adelaide and London is £9 6s. 6d. for the first twenty words inclusive of names and addresses, and half that amount for each additional ten words. This amount is made up of £8 6s. 6d. between Port Darwin and London and £1 between Port Darwin and Adelaide.

The cost from any Telegraph Office in Victoria was £9 8s 6d; from any Telegraph Office in Queensland £9 16s 6d.


Before the British-Australian Company amalgamated with other Indian Companies, to form "The Eastern Extension, India, Australia, and China Telegraphic Company," the officers of the former Company offered, for the payment of £30,000 per annum by the colonies as a subsidy, to reduce the charges on 20 word messages between Port Darwin and London to £5 10s., the subsidy to be reducible by £400 for every 600 messages over 22,000 passing jointly over the lines and cables.

Mr. Todd submitted a revised scale for the through rate between London and Port Darwin of £5 for messages of 20 words including name and address. The South Australian overland rate would be reduced proportionately. Mr. Todd also recommended that the Company should be urged to adopt a minimum rate for 10 words instead of 20 and a word by word tariff for all in excess of that number. The subsidy of £30,000 should be paid by the several colonies in proportions calculated on the number of messages received and dispatched by each colony, South Australia paying her fair proportion in addition to reducing the charge on the transcontinental line.

The number of messages received and transmitted by each of the Colonies from 15 December 1872 to 23 August 1873 is summarised in the following table:

  No. of messages Proportion Amount
Victoria 2,771 47.2 £14,160
New South Wales 1,851 31.5 £9,450
South Australia 657 11.2 £3,360
Queensland 236 4.0 £1,200
Tasmania 49 0.8 £240
New Zealand 298 5.1 £1,530
West Australia 14 0.2 £60
Totals 5,876 100.0 £30,000

The argument proposed other fees such as a minimum rate of £3 for ten words, including names and addresses, and five shillings for every additional word. No progress was made on the development of a new scale for some time.


We have received from the Telegraph Department the new tariff of charges which come into force on the Adelaide, Port Darwin, and London Telegraph on the 1st of January 1876.

Under the new arrangement telegrams will be sent to Europe from any station in South Australia, for 10s 6d. per word. The conditions state that the length of a word is limited to a maximum of ten letters. Only ordinary dictionary words should be used. Artificially constructed words are subject to the cypher rate. Groups of figures may be transmitted, and will be charged at the rate of five to the word, if expressing ordinary commercial quotations but if used for code purposes they will be subject to the cipher rate. Groups of letters or artificially-constructed words will be treated in the same manner as figures. Cipher telegrams must be collated, that is, repeated back in their entirety from station to station. Half rate extra is charged for collating. Any combination of code employing, in the same message, group of figures and letters is strictly prohibited, and telegrams composed in this manner cannot be accepted.

From 1900

About 1900, discussions on rates implicitly had a broader basis as they became dependent not just on the Adelaide-Port Darwin-Java- England route and on that through Broome but also on the other two cables to be built - the Pacific Cable and the Durban-Glenelg Cable becoming real considerations for negotiating and establishing overall rates.

The Adelaide Register of 14 April 1900 carried a story which demonstrated the various concerns:

The Melbourne Argus stated that the Colonial Office in its recent telegram advises that the colonies should endeavour to conclude, with the Eastern Extension Company, a new agreement on the lines of that about to expire at the end of this month, such agreement to have force until the proposed State-owned Pacific Cable is laid, and that then the whole question should be reviewed and an equitable agreement made. Unless this is done, the Colonial Office, it is said, predicts that the Pacific cable project will be delayed and probably endangered.

This reading of the message, Mr. Watts Postmaster-General of Victoria, regards as an argument in favour of his attitude as he is not sanguine that the opening of the Cape cable and the acceptance of the Company's offer, as set out in the agreement which has been submitted, will lead to any reduction in rates beyond (in the case of Victoria) the first step of 10d. per word, i.e., to a through uniform rate of 4s. per word.

Sir Charles Todd, in the course of an interview, explained that immediately on the acceptance of the Company's offer, the rates would be reduced to 4s. per word on ordinary or private messages, 3s. on Government messages, and 1s. 4d. on Press messages. The agreement provides for a further reduction to 3s. 6d., 2s. 6d., and 1s. 4d. respectively on the 1st of January, 1901 if the Company's receipts for the three years ending December 31, 1900, averages £330,000 a year. The returns up to date show that this sum will be exceeded. This being the case, the public will obtain the reduction of 3s. 6d. on 1st January next year. This means a reduction of 1s. 3d. per word to South Australia, 1s. 4d. to Victoria, 1s. 5d to New South Wales and 1s 11d. to Tasmania if those colonies accept the Company's offer.

Mr. Warren, the Australasian Manager of the Company, informs us that the Imperial Government have granted all necessary landing rights for the Cape-Australian cable, which will connect Mauritius, Rodrigues and Cocos, Fremantle and South Australia".

Another change was to the Weekend Letter rate:

In The Daily News (Perth) of 20 April 1914, The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company (announced)

the following REVISED CONDITIONS for WEEK-END LETTER TELEGRAMS come into force (from May 1:

Minimum, 20 words, 15s.
The message will be  telegraphed throughout, and only one prefix Twt used, delivery to take place on Tuesday morning.
Messages must be lodged up to midnight (at Company's Office).
Saturday Rate is 9d per word.
Further information can be obtained at the offices of the above Company, Moir's Chambers, Perth.
W. D. LAING - Superintendent.