Tasmania - Colonial: 1857-1900.
Comments on the operation of the Telegraph Office.

The Mercury of 3 September 1891 carried the following Letter to the Editor:



As a visitor to Hobart, I would like to make a few comments on the Post and Telegraph Departments - after reading your sub-leader of August 18 having reference to a new office. The present building is miserably poor for a General Post Office for a colony like Tasmania. As to the Telegraph Office, one look inside will suffice - a dingy little room - ventilation, there is very little.

Such an office as Hobart has would never be tolerated in Melbourne. Why, there is not accommodation for a dozen persons to write out telegrams, and a couple of persons would "block up" the counter. There is not room for more than a couple behind the counter. From a sanitary point of view it should be condemned. It is about time it was demolished and some building worthy of the name of Post and Telegraph Office erected in its place.  

It seems absurd to have the two branches separate from each other. For instance, the Money Order Office is in the Post Office building, and fully three minutes walk from the Telegraph Office. Now, supposing that a person sends a telegraphic money order from Melbourne to Hobart to a friend asking him to catch a steamer leaving the same afternoon; if the telegraphic advice  is not received by the money order officials, they will not make payment and I believe sometimes the advice is "laid aside" in the telegraph branch so as to have it "repeated" or else to have corrections made. Of course this is an exception not a rule. Well, you will see the necessity of the Money Order Office being in the same building as the Telegraph branch, as three minutes would make a difference at the closing time of the Money Order Office.

I see by your article that the Government propose making some temporary arrangement for the Telegraph Office, which appears to me a useless waste of public money. Fancy the Government "tinkering up an old courthouse and turning it into a telegraph office". Why a courthouse would be as fit for a telegraph office as the present Telegraph Office would be for a courthouse.

Again, the subject is which is the most used and needed building, a Supreme Court or a new Post and Telegraph Office?    

I will give you some reasons why a new Post and Telegraph Office should be built before a Supreme Court; and let the honourable members of both Houses give them a little consideration.

1st. All through the day and night there are offices on duty in the Telegraph Office, whereas the duties of the Supreme Court are performed at certain periods of the year.

2nd. Because the majority of the public do some business or other with the Post Office, Telegraph Office, Money Order and Savings Bank, whereas only a few do business with the Court.

3rd. Because a very large staff is employed in the Postal and Telegraph Departments, and only a small staff is employed in the Court.

4th. A telegraph office must have special apartments built, in fact, a special building erected, and permanent fixtures made for ''switch-boards," "instruments,' "lightning arresters" and many other appliances, whereas a court could be provided for in almost any sort of building.

5th. Again, it would cost almost as much for the temporary erection and removal, as it would to fix them permanently.

So you will see it is utterly useless to make a temporary arrangement. The only way is to let the present arrangements go on until the Government see their way clear   to accommodate the people with a new office. In a few years time, there is sure to be a wonderful change in the colony and a large increase in the departments. Then the office will be found to be crowded out, as it is at present I hear, and far too small for the ever increasing wants of the public.

 The result will be confusion and the public's business will be delayed. "One look at the Post and Telegraph reports for the past three years and you will be convinced of the importance and necessity of increased accommodation. If ever a new office is erected, it is to be hoped that the department will make some new arrangements for the convenience of the Hobart public.    

For instance, on Friday, June 5, whilst in Hobart, I wanted to register a packet (about 4:45 p m.), but on perusing page 21 of the official Postal Guide I read: "Articles may be registered at the General Post Office and Post Office, Launceston from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and at country offices from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.". I found I was too late.

That is rather a strange arrangement. Why do the country people have the advantage over the business people of Hobart and Launceston? Why not have a uniform time throughout the colony - say from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. - the same as in this and other colonies? The change would not affect the staff employed. For the Postal Guide tells us: "The Letter Delivery Office is open from 8.15 a.m. until 7.20 p.m." If I mistake not, both offices, are in the same department. Why not give this a fair trial, and I am sure that most of the business done in the registration branch would be between the extra two hours (4 p.m. until 6 p.m.)

There are many other defects in the systems adopted by the Postal authorities in Hobart, which I would point out if space and time permitted.    

I trust some abler pen than mine will take up this matter re new Post and  Telegraph Office.

Apologising for taking up so much of your valuable space, and thanking you in anticipation.

Yours etc ,  

Robert Palmer
Fitzroy, Victoria,
August 26, 1891.